I usually take time to write a review of my annual pilgrimage to Charlotte for ConCarolinas. With the introduction of Leo 2.0, this was indeed a very special con for me. But, in talking to Erica after the convention, it became clear to me that there are a few things I needed to point out concerning my journey with this convention over the years and how I owe you all a huge debt of gratitude.
This revelation centered around our discussion of the happenings in Saturday night's "Attending Conventions while Disabled" panel (if you were there, you know the drama and I don't intend to discuss it further). Anyway, while minor by comparison, I am one of those who has a few silent/invisible disabilities. I have bouts with social anxiety/awkwardness, depression and some physical limitations due to a heart condition. What my conversation with Erica reminded me of is the progress I have made in the 11 years I have attended this convention. Most telling was when I told her that, the 1st and 2nd years I attended this convention (the last 2 years at the Marriot, BTW), NO ONE knew who I was out of my fursuit...and I preferred it that way. I did still wear my badge and tail, so there were some who knew I was "the guy in the lion suit" and it was a way to get a conversation going, but opening up to complete strangers was still very difficult and awkward for me. I had completely forgotten about this.
Another thing that was, well impossible, was singing in public. I thought that, if socializing in fursuit was easier, this was another thing I could knock out. I did, but not without difficulty and what, to most, appeared to be a horrific setback in my 1st attempt. That occurred at Mephit FurMeet 2008 where my 1st attempt at karaoke resulted in an outright panic attack (you can't tell because I'm in suit) and saw me completely bail out one verse in. My friend had recorded the attempt and I insisted he go ahead and post it on YouTube (links below). My next attempt would be at Klingon Karaoke the following year at ConCarolinas, not only was that a success, but because I overheated between songs, I had to come out of costume...the 1st time many of you saw me do that. And from there, I have progressed even further, socializing became easier, I would start participating in/running panels and even, at times, debated very difficult and contentious subjects in the science track. And yes...from a physical perspective, I am now 80 lbs lighter than my 1st ConCarolinas and about to drop all but two of my medications!
Of course, this con only occurs once a year, and there are others in my life who have also contributed to my growth and progression, but the influence of this convention in my life is substantial and noteworthy! Without this progress, I would not be able to survive in the new roles that have been forced on me at work.