“The best things in life are free” is an overused and only half true saying. For me I believe that the best things in life are often nearly impossible to describe accurately and to their full justice. Which is why it’s no surprise to me that in the week I’ve been home I have no found the words to perfectly portray my thoughts, feelings, and experience at LeakyCon. So therefore you’re going to get mostly an unfiltered rant about my experience as it comes to me.
Let’s start with a simple question; “Why Leaky? Why now?”
I’ve known about LeakyCon since their 2011 con in Orlando. Since I’ve watched people I follow on Twitter and Tumblr document their experiences I’ve known I always wanted to go. Leaky always seemed to me like a much friendlier and less overwhelming version of ComicCon, especially as the con grew over the years. It’s roots in Harry Potter where a perfect fit for me and that only became more clear as they expanded their focus and became a multi-fandom celebration. This just felt like a place I should be.
2014 became my year to dive in when I realized I was stuck in a negative rut and indulging in something I knew would bring me joy seemed to be a way to get out. I was stick of dreaming of going and just my general mopey like state over my life situation at the time. So when the registration opened in November 2013 I bought myself a ticket for General and Lit and let the excitement slowly, slowly, build for the next eight months.
Of course there were times over that eight months where I worried about it not being everything I had hoped it would be, that it would be scary going alone, that I would somehow manage to have a bad time. I can at times psych myself out over things I am really looking forward to because I just seem to think that I don’t deserve to have them work out in that ideal happy way. And while my start to the trip started on the “terrible, horrible, no good” way (I would linger on that but I am done with it and refuse to give it more of my time) it quickly refocused and got on a exponentially growing trajectory.
LeakyCon was, as I’ve been telling the people in my life, one of the most incredible and amazing experiences of my life thus far. Each day was a new ride of positive and unique events that attached themselves to me and stayed with me throughout just enhancing each and every thing I did the rest of the time I was there. The panels I attended were diverse, interesting, and always welcoming to each individual that came through the door. I started with “How do you LeakyCon?” which was fantastic for anyone attending for the first time like myself. The panelist where helpful in their advise and enthusiastic in their past stories and praise for LeakyCon as a whole.
I won’t list all the ones I attended because that’s just excessive, but some big ones that stood out to me and have a vast impact on me where ones like, “How is Fandom Changing the World?” where the impact of being a fan and participating in movements that better the world was discussed. It gave a life and stronger representation to fandom outside of this thing we do on the internet. Another was the Body Positive panel led by Jackie Emerson, Devin Lytle, and Dominic Barnes. I expected it to be like any other discussion on the state of body image in our culture; how it’s hurtful and unrealistic and needs to be stopped but what we got was a whole lot more. First we started with a little dancing to Beyonce which is always a stellar way to start anything, but then they opened up the floor to anyone who had a question regarding issues that were plaguing people in the room and then Jackie, Devin, Dominic, and others in the room lent their thoughts and supports. It was a really moving panel that I hadn’t prepared myself for but felt really lucky to be a part of that, to share in that moment with those there.
Not to mention all the fantastic programming I went to for the LitTrack as well. Getting to see authors I look up to and admire speak on the process of writing and creating characters who are beloved was some of the best few hours I spent at the whole con. A stand out panel though was “I Love Trash” where authors Lev Grossman, Amber Benson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, and Lauren Myracle discussed the concept of “trashy” things that we aren’t supposed to love but do anyways and how they got their labels and possibly why they have them. It was a fun and fascinating look into how such things (like Harlequin novels) are universally considered “less than” as far as literature goes but there isn’t a totally valid reason why. It felt very befitting of the event we were at where a lot of us have faced some sort of mocking for being so passionate about “nerdy” or “geeky” things that we devote a chunk of our lives to just loving those things…usually on the internet with total strangers.
And those are just panels! There are Opening/Closing Ceremonies, Quidditch games, the Marketplace, Wizard Rock Concerts, and Charity Balls to talk about too! I like the ceremonies because they are a time during the con where there is a chance nearly everyone attending is in one place to experience something at the same time. That sort of unity just makes me smile. Then there is the fact we get completely entertained by sketches and announcements. The Qudditch match was just plain fun, I have never gotten to see a live one played and it was fitting I finally got to it while at LeakyCon. I dabble in the sport liking field so it was fun to get wrapped up in the action and feel the excitement. The Marketplace was a whole new world of incredible. I had not even began to think too in depth about what could be there but once I was there and got to travel up and down the vendor booths and artist set ups I was just floored at the creativity and talent. I probably spent at least a quarter of my time up there wandering and wandering again up and down the small aisles looking at all the gorgeous merchandise, and I definitely spent more money that I had planned (but it was all worth it).
Wrock Concerts are a thing everyone should experience. I’ve listened to some for a few years now and it’s awesome but to actually go to a concert and hear the songs live is super fun. I only went to one night of the concerts to try and not overexert myself but it was tons of fun. I got to see The Whomping Willows who have always been a favorite as far as Wrock goes. Also Meghan Tonjes was a Muggle musician that night and she killed it, I was so impressed with her set. The Esther Earl Charity Ball was special. Not only because we got to ring in Esther Day together but again because of the “together” feeling it inspires. You dance with people you don’t know because you are all there to dance and have a good time. I’ll admit I didn’t know an exceptional amount about Esther before I attended LeakyCon but what I learned that night and just from taking in the presence of her at the ball left an impact.
This is getting long and all I’ve done is talk about things; events, panels, shows, people, merchandise, things. Things that can for the most part be described and properly expressed in a way that a stranger listening could understand. However there is an…air or a aura if you will about LeakyCon that isn’t quiet tangible. You just have to be there to experience it, to dance in its presence almost. There is a common agreement that when those of us that attend LeakyCon leave and go “home” that we’re not really going home. And yes while that sounds over dramatic and cheesy, it’s a thing. In the unique case of LeakyCon home isn’t a place necessarily but rather a state mind. It’s where you feel so incredibly yourself, where you don’t feel a ever present tug to shield certain feelings or things about you. Ashamed or scared aren’t really existent concepts at Leaky because you never feel not normal or accepted or like you’re being judged. At least these are all things I felt when I was there.
I am pretty lucky that I have friends and family who let me be the dork I am in terms of my connection and passion for fictional characters. They don’t mock me, they’ve accepted it as a part of me and a part that is never going to change. But not all people are that lucky and even still when I go out into public for things I will at times tamper down my enthusiasm for shows or books or movies I truly nerd out about. I won’t talk at the length I probably could about some things because for some reason in our society being over enthusiastic about certain things is no as okay or “normal”. But at LeakyCon all of that is expected and encouraged. Everyone is aware everyone else is a nerd and we bring that out in each other as often as we can. We start conversations with those who happen to sit next to us at a panel or who surround us in a long line for a big event. We know technically we are all sort of strangers but not really because we know we are all here for the same thing. Like LeakyCon is rooted in Harry Potter, Harry Potter is rooted in the emotion of love and it’s power and that’s represented by us at LeakyCon because we know it’s strength.
Somewhere, somehow, I am leaving stuff out I just know it. I barely talked about being a volunteer which was awesome and such a good thing I choose to do because it showed me a little about the hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm that goes into putting the whole she-bang on as well as the extent of how phenomenal some attendees are in their volunteer efforts. I didn’t talk about my actual trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to see the new Diagon Alley part of the park because that in and of itself could be a whole post and mostly it would just be incoherent squealing and blabbering about its beauty and magic. Long story short on that aspect; just go, go to that damn park and experience it. I didn’t talk about how the fact that while there were special guests you never felt intimidated by them because most of them just walked around enjoying the con as much as you did. I especially didn’t talk about meeting Rainbow Rowell because that’s another fangirl moment that might come out all gibberish and slight squakes (really though it was a highlight of the whole trip and I just could not stop grinning before/during/after meeting her because it was fantastical). I didn’t talk about my great roommates who I didn’t know before this experience and maybe didn’t see all that much of because we all had our own agendas but still really enjoyed. I didn’t talk about how I never wanted to leave the bubble of LeakyCon because well frankly if you’ve made it this far you have probably figured that out on your own.
But I did talk about about LeakyCon was the best. How it was inspiring and welcoming and the place I’ve been searching for for a long time. How it just appears to be made of all the most incredibly awesome things in this world. And while I don’t think I did it at all very eloquently or did I truly capture the essence I made a valiant effort. One that I think can at least sample to the outsider how truly special LeakyCon (now GeekyCon [which is also I think I left out but I figure since this was my first I don’t much opinion on the matter, and I am open to the change]) is.
I know better parts of who I am now and how important they are to me and my core. I know that I want to go back next year and will make a very dedicated effort to make it happen. I know that even if I don’t make it back I’ll be changed for the better have experienced it at least once. The decision to finally go was a bit of a rash one but it was also an important one that I don’t regret even in the slightest.