A near week in New Orleans at Dad 2.0 Summit brought me into a space I never thought I could touch with a ten-foot pole, let alone be welcomed so openly and hugged so warmly.
I’d made the decision before booking flights that I needed time separate from the conference to explore the city. My conference MO in the past has always been to find the time to break away during a session I had less interest in, or forego a provided meal to do some damage in the host city. A quick once-over of this conference’s programming and, well, that wasn’t happening this time.
Lizz and I touched down in The Big Easy around dinner time on Wednesday and the place was an eerie ghost town of sorts. Not quite the New Orleans you hear hazy stories of or watched on The Real World back in the day. Some people were trapped in the city because of the inclement weather, but we were just getting started. I found the calmness an interesting juxtaposition to the bounty that was about to fill each corner of the town.
Naturally we opted for a Bourbon Street experience so we ventured out, with the help of our good friend Yelp and the hotel concierge, only to have something remarkably unexpected occur. While sitting at our first bar of choice, we found a man at the end of the bar, a regular, a new father of two months, interested in writing a ‘fatherhood handbook he wished they sent him home from the hospital with’. Stop one: a dad.
A notification on Lizz’s phone from Twitter:
@Lizz_Porter Boondock's a local favorite! Hope to see you at Pat O's tonight (just across the street)!
— Pat O'Brien's (@PatOBriensBar) January 30, 2014
Finishing up at stop one, we made it to what would soon become our second and final stop for the evening. There at Pat O’Brien’s, we met Scott, the Operations Manager, and father with a keen, quick-witted sense of humor and a knack for social media. Stop two: another dad.
It wasn’t long before I was practically shoving my business card and peer pressure down the poor man’s throat to get. on. line. because the ideas that were coming out of his face were beyond brilliant and I was not going to stand for so much good going to waste. That and their hurricanes and cheesy popcorn were delicious, you guys. (Fast forward to Tuesday and I had an email in my inbox from Scott with his new blog: Big Easy Dad. I highly recommend that you follow this man.)
As the night came to a close, and we made our way back to the hotel, a couple things occupied my mind. Smart, innovative dads with a willingness to share their experience of fatherhood are everywhere and now the anticipation for Thursday and the arrival of the rest of the attendees made me giddy. It took me back to the day I finally got Contra on NES and smelled really bad for a week or two after just playing the thing over and over and over and taking breaks to blow on the back of the game and into the gaming system because it started acting weird and when did this become a trip down geeky gaming memory lane?
Refreshed as ever, Lizz and I sat hopefully, amassing the dings and bloops of our phones, letting us know that more of our friends were descending on Crescent City. To pass the time before the official opening of the conference, we ventured out with a group on a photo walk through the city. Complete with a spicy tour guide I fondly dubbed, “Spitfire Mary”. Unfortunately for me, and I’m kind of blaming Lizz on this one if we’re being honest, we had to scurry out of our hotel room so quickly because housekeeping was there to sniff my underpants (or clean up all the Biscoff wrappers strewn about) when we ran up to get our cameras, I had no memory card and no battery in my big, fat, heavy camera so I didn’t get any good shots. To make it up to me, Lizz is now forced to share all of her amazing snapshots with me. So there. At least I looked the part though…
Now, I could continue to document every single detail of my experience in this post, but I’m of the impression you probably have ‘things to do’ today, so I’ll control myself. I will say that I met some of the most amazing men, that I’d only ever caught in passing on the internet before this weekend or made silly banter with about poop or created animated GIFs of their dashed ideas of sexual prowess after becoming published authors (never enough time Mike). I had the opportunity to be smart and honest. I was able to engage with the supporting brands who hold paralleled visions and goals. I got to work and I got to play. And still, I’m wondering if I had the same impact for even one other person.
See, I almost didn’t go.
You almost wouldn’t be reading this had I allowed myself to cower.
I came very close to a decision that would have left me far less fulfilled, motivated, enriched, and, above all else, inspired beyond comprehension had that decision been to stay home. To stay safe.
Leaving my boys is never an easy choice. If it were up to me, the three of us would be super glued to each other for the rest of our days, but I know that would prove itself to be painful and selfish and dear god how embarrassing to have to listen to my butt puns every second of the day with no sight of refuge.
But I did that thing where you place your super glue back on the shelf and you go, hoping to only come back with the ‘worth its’ and the ‘better for its’. And, lucky me, I got those two things and more.
I may have seemed cool and calm, quirky at precisely the right times and profound at others, but on the inside, well I was excited and unequivocally terrified.
For a handful I had the chance to share this with face to face, you’ve heard this before so I hope you don’t get too bored hearing it again. For the rest of you I didn’t because our paths never crossed or circumstance kept us apart, I flew across the country to surround myself with a group of men who, being 1/3 of that very personification in my own home, I feel a duty and responsibility to support and flourish among. I’m a mom among dads, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by and let that be all I am in the equation.
It’s a scary thing to make “Ally Yourself with The Dads” a line item near the tippy top of your priority list because of the strength of brotherhood you know exists and your lack of, well, maleness. I threw caution to the wind, strapped my swimming cap on, and dove in head first.
Lucky for me, none of them grimaced and left me to drown.
I also picked my own name out of an ice bucket to win a Microsoft Surface 2. Because I’m a wizard. Surprise.