When I was in college, I used to go to cons pretty often. It was mostly an excuse to walk around in a Yukata and utilize its utterly amazing sleeve pockets. Eventually, though, my attendance started to taper off. I graduated and so did my crew, which meant we were off doing our own thing; A few moved out of state, some moved just far enough that regularly hanging out wasn't possible. Either way, we grew up and grew out of that kind of thing. At least that's what I told myself when I finally stopped going. A part of me never stopped liking cons, though. I always loved watching the cosplay music videos and other great content that came from them.
This year, after a six year hiatus, I finally decided to go to a convention again. The only hitch was that I didn't really know anyone who wanted to go with me. All of my 'friends' were mostly from work, and conventions weren't really their thing. Still, I had just bought a new camera and wanted to take it for a spin, so I bit the bullet. In June 2016, I went to the Los Angeles Cosplay Convention by myself to take some pictures of cosplayers. As it turns out, that would be one of the best decisions I've made in a while.
Having The Camera Helped!
So, there I was, standing in a crowd full of unfamiliar faces. On a whim, I had just bought a fancy new camera that I didn't know how to use. I figured there was no better way to learn than by diving into the deep end and trying to take pictures of awesome cosplay. Full disclosure, I'm not fantastic with people, so going up to someone and asking to take someone's picture was a herculean task for me. If I didn't have the camera with me, I would have happily contented myself by walking around and maybe buying a few things before leaving without even so much as a wave hello to anyone there.
The thing is, my guilt about splurging on a camera somehow trumped my fear of human interaction. $450 for a camera may not seem like a lot to some, but it was to me, so the minute I threw that money down I figured I may as well get the most out of it so I don't feel like I just tossed $450 into the sun. Looking back on it now, whatever money I spent on that camera and attendance badge has been more than paid back in the awesome people I got to meet and everything I got to experience.
Re-Learning How to Be Around People
At the LA Cosplay Convention I met this group of friends who happily welcomed me to hang out with them for the rest of the night. I got to drink and eat with people I'd never met before, but I ended up talking with them as if we'd known each other for years. That feeling of being able to openly connect with people became addictive, and I wanted to keep that energy going. Whatever fears I had about going to cons alone was allayed in a single night (or so I thought), which left me wanting to go to more. So I did. One month later, I went to Anime Expo.
Anime Expo wasn't all smooth sailing. Anxiety got the best of me and I found myself sitting in a corner for a good hour trying to muster up the courage to ask someone for a picture. It was the same situation I was in at LA Cosplay Con all over again. Connecting with people, interacting, and being open was a skill I hadn't practiced in a long time and I was frozen. However, I had already spent the money on the Uber to the convention center and I had to make it count (guilting myself into action is my specialty, as you can probably tell). Eventually, I forced myself to talk to someone. I snapped a picture of a humanized Charizard and just kept taking more pictures from there.
While learning how to be around people again, I learned something else about myself — I really like taking pictures. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I love it. I was determined to get better at it, and figured going to more cons would be great practice. I still didn't have a set crew, so I was riding solo for while - but that wouldn't last for very long.
After Anime Expo was Nerd-Bot Con, where I would meet some of the best people imaginable.
I Started to Find My People!
At Nerd-Bot Con, I met a Saitama cosplayer who I would come to learn lived in my neighborhood. We ended up grabbing a late night dinner together after a raucous after party. He invited me to a first year convention all the way in Santa Clarita. It was a last minute decision that cost us both $30 each and gas. The convention was a bust, except for the couple we met that were cosplaying as Predators. Those two became friends of ours immediately (and are now in the process of getting me my own set of NCR Ranger Armor from Fallout New Vegas!). So, the drive was worth it. I now had three people that I could go to conventions with. That was three more than when I started, so everything was coming up Julius, as far as I was concerned.
At Stan Lee's Los Angeles Comic Con, I ran into a Spider-Man cosplayer I'd previously met at a different convention. As it turns out, the same people turn up to these things. Who knew, right? He introduced me to another Spider-Man cosplayer who then introduced me to an entire Spider-Verse. This spiraled into a bevy of photoshoots, gatherings, taco runs, and the occasional case of trespassing. Needless to say, now I had way more people to roll with than when I started and man, it was an amazing feeling.
I honestly don't know if I would still be going to these things if I hadn't met these people. Then again, I wouldn't have met any of them at all if I hadn't forced myself to go alone to a convention in the first place. It's funny how things work out.
An Unexpected Result
I just tried to sum up an entire year of going to conventions and taking pictures into as few words as possible. I'm not sure how well I did, but if you're still reading then I must be doing alright. The fact of the matter is that none of that stuff would have happened, had I not decided to brave going to a convention alone back in June. That was what started this entire chain of events, which ends with me gaining a group of wonderful friends to roll with and photograph.
Since meeting them, my pictures have gotten better (I think) and for the most part, I'm just generally happier. All of this is thanks to stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something I was sure was going to be terrifying at best, and a disaster at worst.
It's Worth The Effort
The thing is, and this is the cliché part, life is too short to be scared to try something. Whether it's going to cons alone or any other event. There was no way I could have predicted how going to conventions alone would have turned out, but if someone had told me earlier this year that buying that badge was going to end with where I am now, I'd have waved it off without a thought.
What I learned is that going alone opens you up to more opportunities than you might think. It puts you in a spot where you can make the most out of something and meet some great people along the way. So, if there's something you've always wanted to do but find yourself being hesitant, just give it a try. Who knows, it might take you on an adventure you could never have predicted.