Dragon*Con 2013: No Apologies

This was going to be a recap of my awesome weekend at Dragon*Con in Atlanta, but something happened that put a little damper on my enthusiasm. When I got home, I discovered that some people I know had made comments suggesting I was not being a responsible adult, that I was somehow shirking my duty to my family by going. This is not the first time I’ve heard comments like this. Usually I just shrug and say, “whatever,” but honestly I’m a little fed up. The comments I’ve heard are based on really ugly assumptions that aren’t even remotely true. Hang on. I’m going to get ranty.

The first assumption is that my interests are somehow less valid than the interests of other people. I am a geek, a nerd, whatever, but all that means is that I am passionate about the things that interest me and not afraid to show that passion. You know what? Everyone is a geek about something. Why should I have to apologize or explain my particular geekiness?

If I knew all the stats for all the quarterbacks in the NFL, I wouldn’t be expected to apologize or explain myself. If I wanted to paint myself green and go shirtless to a football game in December, I wouldn’t have to apologize or explain myself. If I went to car shows every weekend or knew all the parts to the engine of a ’64 corvette, I wouldn’t have to apologize or explain myself. I’m not going to apologize or explain myself because I like Star Wars or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Farscape or Babylon 5, or because I like to read books by Jim Butcher or Timothy Zahn, or because I like to write stories about vampires, werewolves, and other assorted monsters.

The next assumption is that I went to Atlanta to goof off all weekend. (Because, you know, it’s nerd stuff, and you can’t take that seriously.) Is Dragon*Con a big party? In some ways it is, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to having fun with my friends. (By the way, the friends I’ve made since I moved to Charlotte are some of the most incredible, genuine people I’ve ever met, and I will be forever grateful for having them in my life.) But the weekend meant more to me than that. I spent almost four days surrounded by a staggering amount of creativity. I saw amazing writers, artists, actors, costume designers, cosplayers, jewelry makers, woodworkers, t-shirt designers, leather workers, sword makers, even furniture makers. Guess what? Many of these people make a living pursuing their passions. Isn’t that the Holy Grail? To do work you love? These people inspire me.

I also went to panels. Hell, I was on a panel. I met publishers, editors, and other writers. We exchanged ideas and knowledge and contact information. In other words, I networked, just like people who don’t have anything to do with nerd stuff.

The last assumption is that pursuing my passions somehow gets in the way of being a good husband and father. This is the one that bothers me the most. I am devoted to my wife and children. I missed them while I was gone, but pursuing my passions makes me a better person, and I believe anything that makes me a better person makes me a better husband and father. I’m teaching my children that it’s okay to be themselves, no matter what others say. After all, people who conform don’t change the world.

I love my wife with all my heart, and I want to thank her for “letting” me go to Dragon*Con. (“Let” is not the right word. We don’t have that kind of marriage, even though some people think we should, but that’s a completely different rant.)

It has taken me thirty-eight years, but I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I’m comfortable with who I am. I am not going to apologize.

Also, I found Waldo.

Waldo on a unicycle

13 thoughts on “Dragon*Con 2013: No Apologies

  1. raodum September 4, 2013 / 4:42 pm

    I am also an author and I wanted to go to Dragon Con this year but I ended up going to the Decatur Book Festival. I am from GA and live about forty minutes outside of Atlanta. I love what you said about how its okay to pursue your passion and interests. I’m hoping to make a living writing books. It’s my dream. I’ve wanted to be an author since I can remember and as of January 11th of next year that dream will become a reality! Anyway, I’m glad you had fun at dragon con. It sounds amazing! Good luck with your writing!

  2. Darin Kennedy September 5, 2013 / 12:03 am

    Strong post, Matthew. Your tribe approves.

  3. jeansplace September 5, 2013 / 12:17 pm

    The Waldo you found is Gigi Edgley’s husband. He performed in the parade while she was signing autographs on the Walk of Fame….. we are all geeks!!! I love it!

  4. sherry pendell September 5, 2013 / 1:12 pm

    Your post truly hit home because I was one of those people asking “What are you doing to your family?” And now I know. This was my first year at the Con. For 6 years I have sat at home and watched my husband take the boys for a long weekend. This year I went and took our youngest 2 children. I have forever wondered what the big deal was. Why did he need to go every year? What am I going to do once I am there?
    Next year is already being planned. This wasn’t just good for my kids, it was good for the whole family dynamic. Me and the little ones took different tracks than everyone else and we found a place just for us. We ended on Monday morning with NASA engineer Sam Ortega doing a hands on event with the kids. This was so much more than “vacation”. This was a learning experience, a creative experience, and a life experience. This was exhausting and innovative fun. I hope to give this gift to my kids for years to come.

  5. LaHockey11 September 6, 2013 / 8:25 am

    Beautifully written and the perfect rant for what I consider as my best weekend of the year. I’ve met some of my closest friends sitting in lines at Dragon*Con. We all say…Embrace your uniqueness. Thank you for putting it into words.

  6. Tanya Michaels September 6, 2013 / 4:08 pm

    Great post 🙂 My kids actually go with me to DragonCon. My husband isn’t into it–just like I am not into the college football games he travels to watch in the fall. We support each other’s interests and I like to think we have a very well-rounded family!

  7. reneebernard September 6, 2013 / 4:18 pm

    YES! My heart was pounding and all I could think was, “omigod, he just articulated the pushback I’ve been getting for years for going to my industry conventions”. Pursuing my dreams as writer and making sure I’m at those critical conferences doesn’t make me a bad wife or mother. It makes me Who I Am. Thank you for saying it so eloquently and connecting all the dots. When I go to Dragon*Con, I won’t look for Waldo. I’m going to look for you and shake your hand!

  8. Christine Ashworth September 6, 2013 / 4:53 pm

    You are totally awesome. What you wrote is right on the money. I am a geek and a nerd and extremely enthusiastic about my passions. I haven’t made it to Dragon*Con yet, but it’s on my list. YAY to your wife who gets it (my husband gets it, too).

  9. Dani Wade September 6, 2013 / 6:56 pm

    Wonderful! As I pursued my writing career, I often had people ask me how I could put that in front of my family. “Abandon” them when my kids were so young. For the last 6-7 years, I’ve spent an entire day every month meeting with my closest friends for breakfast, then attending a local writers meeting, then chatting late into the afternoon. Every month. No kids. And my husband approves. I’ve gone to conferences some years, writing retreats others. Its never been a problem in our house.

    My husband was proud of me before I published, and he’s proud of me now that I am published. He listens to me gush about the things I learn, and doesn’t tune out because its not his thing (I try to do the same for his video games and golf.). I hope I’ve set an example for my children that teaches them, when they want something, work their heart out for it and it can happen. But no one is just going to hand it to you.

    When we have family time, I’m with my family. When my children talk, I listen. Having other interests doesn’t mean I ignore them. It makes me a more interesting person, a person who knows hard work and joy and rejection, a person who isn’t just telling them how to pursue their dreams but living it in front of them.

    The accusations still hurt, but I’m learning to ignore them. Because they aren’t important. My family is. My writing is. Thank you for this reminder!

  10. Dawn Montgomery September 6, 2013 / 7:34 pm

    THAT’S where Waldo went!

    My husband is a food blogger. Once or twice a year he goes to food conventions to geek out with other foodies and meet and network. I write romance so I go to romance conventions. When I was in the Air Force, I had to go to business conventions all the time.

    Let people be ranty. At the end of the day, you had fun, your family loves you, your fans are still your fans, and there will always be someone standing on a stool and pointing a stick at you to tell you everything you’re doing wrong without paying a bit of attention to themselves. Keep attending. Keep having fun and creating your happy memories.

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