At one point I had to break the empathic connection. Or at least try to. I was becoming too sensitive. The volunteers were restless and I refused to allow the negativity produced by it to affect me, though of course they had plenty of things go awry while the event proceeded. The bathrooms were clogging, some ones ring went missing, some attendees tried too hard to be volunteers, and over all the coffee situation was a mess about to become a riot. Still, I did my best to remind people that nothing was unsolvable and the situations were not permanent.
Needless to say, the attendees were happy. That equates success in my book. The volunteers aren’t there to have fun, even though we try.
This year was obviously smaller than last year, which was kind of nice for me because it meant not feeling so drained. It also meant cleanup took less time, which left lots of room for visiting friends and scoping out the lectures and events of the day…even participating. Which bothered some volunteers, but worked out just fine for me. Mostly I spent my time taking over for first time volunteers who desperately wanted to do to talks and workshops. I figured that was worth letting them, and why not give them the full experience?
I did a lot of learning this year. Not just from our speakers, but from my friends mostly. What I learned was to empathize with the frustrations of being a minority in a creative field, and the brutally honest struggle between creatives who are minorities wanting to educate and offer grace to the ignorant, but also being angry that they even have to. Which as a female I can understand to a degree, having experienced that myself.
Another thing I learned was the importance of making and respecting space for minorities and disabilities in creative spaces. Because there are so many people within these circumstances who are able and willing to be creative, but do so differently than others. Having that representation in a creative community is important to encourage others of that circumstance to engage and become part of the creative community and in turn will help develop better creative spaces for everyone. Which, I kind of knew was important, but I began to fully understand the degree to which it was important because of the diversity of my creative friends and the need for more diversity in my creative friend group.
I also found myself compelled and conflicted with how to integrate what I’ve learned into my life. Because I do not live in an area with a lot of creatives or diversity. I live in an area populated by a mostly German heritage and a lot of very Anglo Saxon looking people who mostly farm. How do I participate in building spaces that accept those opinions? How do I bring more diversity into my friend groups? How do I make sure I am being part of the solution instead of perpetuating or ignoring the problem?
All these things presented themselves to me and I find myself very much enthralled and convicted to find solutions.