The sun shone down on Bristol as I arrived, and the sky wept as I left. I arrived at the Radisson Blu and checked in without any problems (incredibly gratefully, since I was scared that I didn't have the money after all), and the room and the facilities promised to be awesome, as they always are, and of course, they were.
The venue was lovely and all the sessions I visited - whether helpful, fun, useful, insightful or scary (most are a mix) - were incredbly well-run. I didn't mind the slightly shorter running times; everything was well-organised and Ru was at the top of her game. Eroticon looked to be awesome, as it always is, and of course, it was.
So why did I feel so uncomfortable for the whole first day?
It's my fault. From the very start, when I emerged from the lift to grace the pre-conference drinks, I was surrounded by people I know - to varying degrees and in various capacities, to be fair, but nonetheless, I know them, and by and large I love them all. I remember being, given how I usually am, about as open and friendly as is possible at Eroticon 2013 and 2014, and given that some (realistically, most) of my old crowd weren't going to be around, I was all ready to re-connect with those I do know, and also with those I know anyway, but hadn't met yet (for that is the beauty of blogging).
And I didn't. At least, I sort of did. But I didn't do so in my usual way. I suddenly began to doubt myself. I didn't talk much to anyone, and then so briefly, and I realised that I was thinking of myself as a bad friend, someone there because they are, not because they are wanted or anything.
And I had gradually increasing amounts of self-doubt throughout the entire first day. I acted and chatted, guardedly, with a lot of people - practically everyone - feeling more like a nuisance than a genuine presence. I shared smiles and waves with people I didn't even think wanted to be acknowledged by me in more ways than a sideways glance or a cursory nod. At breaktimes, when I used to interact as much as possible, I stood in the corner and ate my sandwiches on my own.
All while enjoying the sessions. I adored Ru's welcoming speech. I was reasonably chatty throughout the writers' panel. I laughed and applauded with everyone else at GOTN's talk (which was actually the best session of the weekend). I learned lots at the critique session, had some dangerous ideas in the self-publishing workshop, and was actually genuinely fascinated at the kinkbooth in the evening, despite it not being my thing: I genuinely couldn't look away.
So I still wasn't sure about how I felt by the time the cocktail party rolled around. I was enjoying myself but feeling morose, and I was looking forward to socialising, but since you can't hear anyone doing anything at all at Revolution on a Saturday night (our young raver's 21st, alo at Revolution, was largely the same affair) I didn't end up doing much of that either. It looked like it was going to be a miserable evening for me...
...heading back to the Radisson was genius.
And, suddenly, everything slid into place like a flat Tetrad completing a row of four. In the same area surrounded by the same people, but this time, I was ready for it. And I sat and I talked and I drank and I chattered and I even apologised profusely to someone (you know who you are!) who, as it turned out, I genuinely didn't need to apologise to at all, despite the fact that I'd spent a day and a half feeling like I needed to. And by the time midnight came, and after an inordinate amount of gossip, snacks and a seemingly endless line of drink, I went back to my room... feeling like I belonged for the first time.
The second day went like a dream. Dirty Talk had me getting my inner actor on; Michael and Molly's blogging workshops were useful, informative and terrifying; Zac's erotica slam talk reminded me of how much I like erotica slams; I even sat in on the first five minnues of Ru's newsletters session before I remembered I'd promised to be elsewhere (but what little I saw seemed good!). The readings were the best we've ever had at Eroticon and I ended up having sex that night, so yeah, that's good too.
And feeling much more comfortable on that day just made it all seem better.
I talked at a session earlier on in the summer about how stories always have a beginning, a middle and an end. For whatever reason, Eroticon was both bookended and bisected by drinks at the Radisson Blu. For me, the beginning was difficult but expectant, the middle was relaxing and recumbent, and the end was sitting in a small circle bantering with Jilly and Exhibit A and GOTN and Horny Geek Girl.
And do you know what? That's what it's all about, really. That's right. That's okay.