Six or so years ago I started reading a video game based web comic called Penny Arcade. I instantly fell in love with the characters and over a few months became a super fan. Imagine my excitement upon finding out that they have a convention dedicated to the comic every year in September. And then my sadness when I found out it’s all the way in Seattle. But I had a handful of friends that made the trip every year and, after much agonizing, in 2009 I decided to join them.
I don’t make new friends easily, I don’t go new places and I generally avoid everything. I’ve suffered through severe anxiety since I was ten years old and every new thing is a huge trial for me. I want to be very clear about those facts so that the next one will hit harder. PAX was easy for me from the very second I walked through the doors at the convention center in Seattle. I went places by myself and I talked to strangers. I smiled and laughed the whole time. Every second was a joy.
My happiness increased tenfold when I became an Enforcer (in short, a volunteer for PAX). I didn’t get the job I wanted and I groused about that because complaining is something at which I excel. But the moment I walked on shift with my Enforcer shirt on everything changed. My customary PAX joy snapped back into place and I carved my own little niche in Console Freeplay (my station, wherein my job was sanitizing controllers). By the end of the night, I had six new friends. And an enemy.
Now every year, crossing the bridge from Portland into Washington I feel a lightness in my chest. I feel a warmth that fills my veins and thrills me. It’s the best part of every year. A feeling like coming home.