Guys, I love Dragon Con. I also have generalized anxiety disorder, so, even within the sparkly, candy-coated joy that is Con, sometimes I want to run away into the deepest bowels of the Hyatt and wait for death to claim me. Dragon Con is loud and intense and sweaty and magical, and that can be kind of overwhelming and terrifying. So, from one very sensitive Hufflepuff to any other nervous folks out there, here are some little tips and tricks I’ve collected over the years that help my nervous, marshmallow heart deal with all the madness. I believe in you! ❤
- Don’t let FOMO control you. Leave Con if you need! There’s so many happy, sunshine-y Atlanta things to do on Labor Day weekend. Walk down to the aquarium to say “hello” to the otters, take MARTA to the Decatur Book Festival, etc., go see a play or a comedy show one night! Atlanta’s not just the best city for nerds because of Con. If the crowds at Con are stealing your sparkle, get up to something else for a few hours.
- Bring a book or a game for lines. Yeah, the long lines can absolutely be sweaty, claustrophobic hell. My partner is a big board game nerd, so he always has a small game (think Hive or Hanabi) in his pocket to bust out if we know we’re going to be sitting for a while. If you’re flying solo, take the opportunity to read! I recommend bringing an old favorite; it’s a source of comfort, plus you’ll be able to easily peel your eyes away to check out passing, awesome cosplays.
- If it works for you, consider not drinking on Sundays. Personally, I’m already bummed out on Sunday that Con is almost over. With alcohol being a depressant, I’ve found that Sunday night booze sends me on a bit of a doom and gloom spiral. I’ve started getting in my adult beverages early in the Con, and then setting aside Sunday as an ice cream or King of Pops day.
- Work up the courage to tell a celebrity how much they’ve meant to you. So, the Walk of Fame terrifies me. I usually go every year just to walk around, and admire nerd celebs at a safe distance. Two years ago, I walked into the WoF following the parade, and it was pretty quiet down there. I was there to do my usual thing: “Oh, look! Felicia Day! Cool. Moving right along…” But I turned a corner, and there he was. Big Bird himself, Mr. Carroll Spinney.
I’m very awkward about talking to strangers, and I’m extra afraid of meeting famous people. Upon recognizing Mr. Spinney and seeing that there was no line to meet him, tears filled my eyes immediately and my breath got a lot faster. There wasn’t really anywhere for me to go in my panicked state, so I just bolted to the center of the walkway, keeping my back to his table, embarrassed at my reaction. Big Bird means a lot to me. When else was I going to get the opportunity to thank the person responsible for bringing such an amazing presence into my life?
I sucked it up, and got into the now-short line. Guys, I tried really hard to keep it together, but it just wasn’t happening. Carroll Spinney was so nice and gracious as he signed the autograph for me, and I wobbled as best I could through the interaction. I generally think of myself as an eloquent person, and I could only stammer out, “Thank you” and “Okay, bye.”
Every now and then, a stranger approaches me to tell me that they’ve seen me in a play and that they enjoyed my work. And, man, those comments mean the world to me. I just don’t think that people get tired of knowing that their work has made a positive impact on someone’s life. If there’s someone attending Con this year who really touched your life, go tell them! You get a cool picture and story out of the interaction, and you were able to give a little something back to someone who’s made you happy. My Big Bird autograph hangs in a frame above my desk, and looking at it always makes me feel a little better.
- Breaks are your friend. Refill your water bottle, charge your phone, take a seat by a pillar, and breathe. Ideally, find a pillar down in the Hyatt Concourse, and maybe discover an awesome band during your break. There’s so much going on at Con at any given time that I’ve found I don’t necessarily miss out on the overall experience while I’m sitting down and letting the Con wash over me.
Awesome Friend Thoughts:
I Facebook-solicited some extra advice from my amazing Con-going pals! Soliciting your friends for help when you’re feeling overwhelmed is another Dragon Con tip, by the way. Here are a few of their great suggestions.
- To quote Jonathan, “Ducking into a room or alcove that is slightly apart from all the hullabaloo is a must.” Lots of folks seconded this suggestion. Rachel and Katie offered a particularly fantastic anecdote: “We had one break in a hallway last year on the second floor of America’s Mart that I think saved our lives.” “We owe that hallway a soul-debt.”
- For the cosplayers in the audience, I loved Lindsay’s advice: “I change costumes and characters as often as I do (10-14 over the course of the weekend) because it lets me put on a different mask and persona. It lets me borrow the character’s strengths.”
- Courtesy of Julie: “I think the biggest thing for me at cons is accepting that I may not be able to do All The Things and may just have to leave and be alone/relax and chill with friends a little bit instead of relentlessly pursuing my schedule for the day.”
- Carman, Blake, and Tamil all had awesome and specific recommendations for places to go to beat the heat and the massive-est crowds: Art Show, Video Track, Writers’ Track.
- I know there are so many wonderful drinks to consume at Con, but, per Kathryn and Tejas: HYDRATE. “Carry that H2O bottle and refill often!!!”
Favorite Con snacks:
If you’re a Puff like me, snack breaks might be one of your best Dragon Con friends. Here are my five favorite Con treats.
- Pies from Panbury’s Pie Cafe in the Peachtree Center Food Court. I like to pretend that Mrs. Weasley made them for me.
- Themed Caribou Coffee treats from the PCFC. Oh my God, nothing makes me happier than ordering something called a “BB-8 Cooler.” They have different themed coffee concoctions every year, and I like to try to work my way through the menu over the course of the weekend.
- “Secret Pizza.” Two years ago, I got a little tipsy and started shouting “I see you, Secret Pizza!” at the Papa John’s tents. This is forevermore how I will refer to said-pizza. I’ve found that Secret Pizza slices make a good “on-my-way-to-a-panel-and-I-don’t-want-to-stop” option.
- A Thursday night Mai Tai. If you give a Dani a Trader Vic’s Mai Tai, chances are she’s going to want some Secret Pizza to go with it.
- Post-Blood Drive Goldfish crackers! Giving blood is my favorite way to start Con. I like getting it out of the way early so that I can avoid the longest lines, and it makes me feel good about helping out someone else. Just remember, if you’re able to give, to take care of yourself afterwards! I know you want to rush right away to a panel, but stop and take advantage of the snacks and drinks made available to you by the awesome Drive folks. Goldfish crackers are my personal fave.
That’s what I’ve got, friends! To sum it all up: be kind, be open, take lots of snack breaks, and have tons of fun. See you there!!