Content Warning: personal anecdote, feels, discussing depression
Last week I was at DjangoCon Europe, where I gave a full-length talk, a lightning talk, watched three days of other talks, did two days of sprints, and travelled about the place, including a night-train across Europe, which was all in all fantastic.
But right now, I’m sitting at home, back in Australia, after having about 12 hours sleep to try and recover, and I’m feeling extremely down.
I’m not going to say I’m depressed - “post conference depression” uses the word ‘depression’ at the end is, I feel, false attribution. Depression is your brain being broken. This isn’t. This is just a change of pace.
What I’m going through now is ‘post conf blues’ – it’s a thing that a few of my friends who are serial and casual conference attendees have described to me, and now in this less-bright time, and in the interest of sharing – as was a major theme of DjangoCon – I’m going to try and describe how I’m feeling.
This morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. I have a job where I can work-from-home occasionally if required, so I could sleep in to get over jetlag. But I didn’t want to face that. For the last week I’ve been getting up at a reasonable time, going to an increasily familiar venue in a strange city, sitting and listening to amazing people talk about things they are passionate in, getting meals and snacks provided for me, and being able to find someone to hangout out with without much more effort than asking ‘what are your plans for tonight?’
At home, I have a job, I have a mortgage, I have responsibilities, I have to go out and find food for myself, and I have to put in a lot of effort. Sure, I mean as a speaker I put quite a lot of effort on top of my regular routine working on my next conference talk, but I have the ability to work on that when I feel I can. Everything else takes spoons.
And after a conference, that sudden shift in dynamic is hard. Really hard.
It’s really important to remember, and even just to remind myself, that these feels are completely valid.
It’s ok to feel down after a conference. The environment that a conf brings is supposed to be energetic and entertaining. Just being in that high-energy environment can get overwhelming, but if it wasn’t, then it would be a dry experience which no-one would enjoy.
However your conf experience, coming back out of it to the mundane can be a shock.
I don’t have a lot of answers to the ‘post conference care’ question, but I mostly titled this because it is totally a thing – taking care of yourself after a conference is just as important as during.
Your newly met friends may be half a world away, but they’re still about on social media, email, and the like.
Local people are still people, even if you met them at a conference or elsewhere. If you’re feeling lonely, chat to someone. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought that I can’t just strike up a conversation with someone just because I wanted to. Often I feel I have to be asking a question, or giving them something in return.
And of course, finding more conferences to attend is totally a stopgap, but tread lightly. Yes, serial conference goers are a thing – developer relations people who bounce around the world like a human pingpong – but there comes a time where you need to stop and recount and see if you want to be doing this kind of thing forever.
I absolutely love meeting new people, and having people ask me about things I know about is the best feeling, but I have already had a few breaking points. I’ve left conferences early, I’ve not been able to give talks, and it’s only because of the friends around me that I’ve left like I’ve been able to finish out an event and not take an early flight home.
I know that speaking is a commitment, and I can stop any time, but right now – this is the time when I’m having the twin-feelings of ‘why can’t I be at conferences every day?’ and ‘why do I keep putting myself through this?’.
Right now, this is my state of mind. I may end up removing this post later if I feel I can’t stand by what I’ve written, and that’s completely valid. Talking about these kinds of things is hard.
But just writing this down is good for me. If I end up taking out bits of this post, then that’s my own self-censorship. I hope that something in this helps someone else, at the very least.
If you want to reach out to someone, why not send them a happiness packet? They could probably do with a nice message to say thank you.
Also: I’m nearly always around on twitter @glasnt if you want to say hi.