So last weekend my husband and I went to Anime Matsuri. It was our first con and, honestly, a lot of fun. However, the venue AM picked was especially cramped and crowded, which made little anxious me almost implode when we first stepped into the hotel. But over the weekend I learned some really important things, and I hope they stick in my head so I can keep moving forward when it comes to my anxiety.
So what did I learn? Well…
1. Don’t hold onto a plan so tightly that you don’t recognize when to walk away
So because of the cramped-ness and this being an apparently new location, there were some major time delays in the schedule. On top of that, lines started forming for major events three or four hours ahead of time simply because the space was so limited people wanted to get a nice spot. Unfortunately, this backfired. People got impatient, and the staff was so few that they couldn’t really enforce the line. So I waited in line for hours for a pathetic seat.
THEN, during an event the next day, I figured, hey, get in line super early, deal with the wait. I did, and I was one of the first 50 people. We get in, I got super awesome seats. Except they made us move back because of maintenance and I lost my prime seating because I had John’s camera equipment with me, and it was hard to pick up and move quickly. On top of that, I was so set on watching this cosplay contest that John and I waited for three hours just for the stupid thing to start. I don’t know what we could’ve been doing in the meantime, but it would’ve been a lot more entertaining. And the contest wasn’t even that great; we could’ve snuck in at the last second and watched in the back without any real loss.
On the last day, there was the World Cosplay Summit qualifiers for the USA team final round later that evening. We didn’t wait in line for it, we didn’t really bother with it. We realized it was going on and snuck in during lunch. Since it was Sunday, there were MANY open seats, but we took a row in the back to eat our lunch in peace. We were blown away by the performances and instantly knew we’d come back later. But we weren’t going to wait in any lines — at least not for more than 10-15 minutes. And we didn’t, mostly because it was a Sunday.
What changed? Well, I went with the flow instead of sticking to what I thought would be the bestest way to go about the day. I let the day unfold instead of trying to control the events and getting stressed. And I was rewarded with one of the most amazing lineup of cosplay skits I could’ve imagined watching at my first con.
The entire event could’ve gone that way, and it would’ve been a much better experience. Which brings us to outlook in general. That is…
2. Reacting positively during a negative situation can drastically change how something feels
After all this line-waiting drama, my anxiety swelled up. This con sucks, I can’t believe I paid some solid money for this stressful bullshit, why am I even here? Can I just go home? I can’t even begin to explain how upset I was. Worse, I realized it sounded like pouting — and it was, partially, because things didn’t go the way I thought they would (AKA I wasn’t in control and that was terrifying). Recently, I realized that looking at something with a more positive lens, so to speak, can help on so many levels.
So what changed? I told myself that, despite the major issues the con had, I was learning and experiencing a LOT. If I had just decided to be a grump and go home, I would’ve puttered on the internet for the rest of the evening before going to sleep. Instead, I pushed through my negative emotions and experienced new things, saw amazing cosplay performances and outfits, as well as talked to complete and total strangers without batting an eyelash (enough times to look like I was having a seizure). But man, my anxiety was having panic attacks, I swear. Meaning…
3. Push through the worst emotions. It works with anxiety. Sometimes. But when it doesn’t, seek space, then whack at it again
See the above picture for some understanding of how CROWDED this place was. Oh my gosh. I thought I was going to die. Die twice, maybe three times, only to die again. The Artist’s Alley was on this super tiny walkway that had enough of a gap for you to peer over the table or go in the two-laned traffic of feet, wigs, and bulky cosplay costumes that shoved its way through what space was left. More than once all I could do was hold onto John’s hand and remember to breathe until we found a slightly less crowded spot. But in order to get anywhere or see anything that I wanted, I had to confront that fear and dive in headlong into what felt like a writhing mass of bodies ready and waiting to push me around until I passed out.
Which is ridiculous. After a few hours of doing this walking around thing, I noticed no one gave a crap about me, or they were just as apologetic as I was if they bumped into me. Basically, I realized people were just like me. It gave me the energy to keep going.
Until I couldn’t anymore. After a certain point my brain fuzzed up and I couldn’t process any of my fears. That’s when I sought space, not before or after. Fortunately, there was this one overlooking balcony that always had space, mostly because people were coming and going to get some air, like I was. We’d smile awkwardly, then they’d leave, or I would. On the second day I sat down in that area for forty minutes because I couldn’t handle any more after all of Friday. I wasn’t the only one.
Maybe it was because this was a con, filled with people just as socially awkward as myself, but it gave me the courage to face my anxieties about other people. I talked to total strangers on Saturday and Sunday because I took care of my emotional state, and challenged it as well. I didn’t just run away from the issue, I pushed until I couldn’t anymore, and was rewarded for it. This is something I really want to try and apply to life in general when it comes to my anxieties. There’s a lot I skip out on because it seems too scary, and I don’t want to keep doing that for the rest of my life.
So yeah, anime conventions can teach you a lot about yourself, or new experiences in general.
Shameless promotion time! My husband is a professional photographer and took pictures at Anime Matsuri. Check them out on his Facebook or on his main website — and follow him. His work is artistic and brilliant, and he deserves the support for all the hard work he does. :)
Have you ever experienced something that challenged you as a person?