Holy cherry frosted poptarts, how is it always March in this magical city? I swear it was December like five minutes ago. Alas, the time is coming friends, for our dearly beloved annual smash and grab, the badge wielding corporate trash blanket we call SXSW. For the 30th year in a row, in fact. It’s our drunk uncle who just won’t die, but who also gives us lots of money because he is very rich and knows smart people.
So every year, I end up writing something about how much I love this horrible, wonderful festival in spite of how much I also fear it. It’s like running an event laden booze-fueled marathon in day and night appropriate rock and roll outfits. As any still-SXSW-braving Austinite or longtime attendee knows, you have your good years and your bad years. Sometimes there’s a bit of both, but generally it’s either a shitshow of epic proportion or the best week of your life. SXSW does not take prisoners, it either rains down glory upon you or makes you wish you were dead. No amount of free food and booze can save you if it’s your turn for a stinker. You just hold on and put things in your face, remain upright and try not to die. If all else fails, get the fuck out and stay out. FOMO is not real and you’ll be better off. No one cares about Kanye West anymore anyway. The 5am hangar party out by the airport will never happen again. Your sofa is amazing, free, and there’s never a line. Don’t ever forget that.
And yet…I’m putting all my money on a banner year in 2016. Glory rain. Fancy socks. Handing out 200 business cards. Meeting all the people who want to help me figure out what the fuck I’m doing. Love in the streets. International reunions and face melting musical bliss. I can’t wait to see every single one of you.
By this time, I generally have done a decent bit of research on the music and films and general ephemera so I can give you a semblance of guidance on how to see or hear or eat something of worth. Apologies. This year, I was busy starting a web design company and redesigning this blog, because I am going to this thing as an actual registrant for the first time ever. I’ve been fortunate (insane) enough to get to participate many, many times in lots of capacities over the past 16 years, as a volunteer, an international housing host, and a civilian attachment to someone important, but this time, I get to be one of the tech nerds doing professionaling like some kind of badass ladywizard. This is a big deal.
I still don’t know how I did this. Last year, like many in the past, I ended the festival in intense turmoil over all kinds of personal drama and extremely bad decisions and fresh heartaches and disappointments. But on top of all that malarkey, professionally I was just lost. One of the hard things about being involved in this conference as a non-industry participant, is that it can be very intimidating to come to the end with this heart full of inspiration and motivation and not know where to even begin to do anything about it. It can be the most enlightening week ever and then throw you into a pit of hopeless despair because how am I ever going to do all the things I need to do to get where I want to be?
Well, that’s the thing about doing things. You just have to fucking do them. You have to do a little thing, and then another thing, and repeat that like many, many times. Then, with a foundation of things under your belt, you make a plan and a list of things and do all those things. Then you have to change course, and then you have to do some other things instead. You may have to do lots of things twice. Sixteen times. You just keep going and doing and if you don’t know how to do something, you learn. You can do this formally or informally, but you have to learn and open up and ask for help all the time. You have to practice. Every day. You have to practice and be bad at stuff and make eleven million mistakes. You have to put things into the world that are not perfect. You have to accept criticism and not take it personally, but use it to improve.
Everyone started from the beginning. Every person you admire, every artist or craftsperson, every expert. They all did one thing one day and that’s how they started. You can do that too. I don’t care how old you are or what you think your potential for change is, anyone can change if they decide to. You can change careers or partners or bodies or whatever you need to change. If you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, lost, desperate, sad, lonely when you’re not alone, not in love with your life and the people in it…do something about it. Take action. I know this is possible, because last year I was just a sad, heartbroken girl with a free badge, and this year, I’m a web designer who owns a Limited Liability Company registered in the State of Texas. If Texas tells you you’re a business, then you are. Fact.
Be kind to your sad, heartbroken self. That’s the one who does all the hard stuff and helps show you where you need to go. You may feel like you’re falling, like everything is slipping out from under you, and all that comfort disappears and you have to trust yourself. Invest in yourself and the world will open up to you.
“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”