This is probably going to be a bit of a sappy post. And a really, really long post. But it’s my blog, and YOU’RE NOT MY MOM.
(Unless you are. Hi, Mom!)
This post is a long one. And there is a point where it will sort of break off, because the rest of it needs to be saved for later. I thought about just not posting any of it yet, but there are some positive things, some beautiful things here, so the part of it’s that mine, I’ll tell you now.
UPDATE: Kelly’s told me I can tell her part of the story, so I’ve added it in where it would have gone.
I turned 30 on Tuesday this week. It’s been a while since I blogged. It’s been a while because frankly, I was going with the whole “if you don’t have anything nice to say” deal and just not saying anything at all because this year has been rough. Really rough.
Rough doesn’t actually even begin to cover it. Dreams won and then shattered.* Family dragged through some unimaginable horrors. Loss. Struggle. Fatigue. Fear. Until 2014, 2008 was the worst year of my life. It sounds really maudlin and melodramatic to say something like that. I mean, 2008 was a pretty damn shitty year. I was dealing with a family members with mental problems and her suicide attempt. A roommate who got into drugs and trashed our friendship and my finances. An abuser who turned into a rapist. Yeah, it was bad.
2014 has been…right up there with it. Thankfully not on that last count. The difference between 2008 and now is that in 2014, I have this incredible support system. And amazingly, most of that support system came about through the internet.
In 2011 I met a fellow blogger named Kristin McFarland. Late that year, just after my cousin’s 30th birthday, Nate was killed in a car accident. I still can’t type those words without tears in my eyes, even after three years. We’re coming up on the anniversary of his death, which has somehow also become the anniversary of one of my best and most precious friendships. Because Kristin emailed me just after that tragedy because she had experienced a similar loss. Since then, for three years we’ve talked almost every day, if not every single day. We met George R.R. Martin together. We DIDN’T meet Fabio together. We have written books, experienced setbacks, celebrated triumphs, and become family in a way that I’ve been all too fortunate to experience with a few others as well. (Waves to Julia and Jordan across the seas and continents!)
That was also the year I really got into Twitter, without which none of the rest of this story would ever have happened.
I don’t think I would have met my agent without it. Sold my first books. Made countless, countless friends — including the friends I’m about to talk about.
I first heard about GISHWHES last year in 2013 and didn’t have time to join. This year, I teamed up with a big group of people (Summer, Jessie, Laura, Connie, Spike, Lani, Calyn, Jodie, Megan, Carey, Emma, Lucifer, Mei-Lu, and Kellin), and we formed one of the larger acronyms I’ve ever seen. WAWDGISHWHESTFQ, which I still can’t read without saying that in a Strong Bad voice. Wine and Winchesters Does GISHWHES: Team Free Quill. (We never promised brevity.)
We had an insane week. I covered myself in syrup; Calyn covered her brother in chicken soup with a leaf blower. Lani became a matryoshka doll, and Spike read Huck Finn by the light of fireflies. Summer arm wrestled someone for movie tickets, and Jessie’s grandmas wrestled in the mud. Laura power washed a television. We all did crazy things in the name of GISHWHES.
During that week, one of our teammates was given the wrong medication by her doctor and literally had a heart attack. She’s recovered (and we are SO GLAD because DUH), but…well. In the past few months, our team has been through hell. Hell. Foreclosures. Medical emergencies. Loss and grief. A lot of pain. Both emotional and physical pain.
Through it all, we’ve spoken every day. We have a Facebook group where we know at some point in the afternoon, Spike or Lani will pop up and say good morning from Australia. We’ve raised money to try and help one of our members keep her home.
GISHWHES made us friends, but afterward we’ve become family.
So I want to talk a little bit more about that today, because I’ve just come back from BurCon in California, which was my 30th birthday present to myself.
So. BurCon. What does this have to do with anything?
BurCon, for those unaware, is the Burbank Supernatural Convention, put on by Creation Entertainment to celebrate the CW’s television series Supernatural, which is now in its tenth season. At their conventions, the cast of the show (and sometimes the creators!) show up for the weekend to interact with fans, take pictures, sign things, and throw a raucous karaoke party. Last year when I went it was three days of this glut of a sugar high. This year felt different from the outset.
A few days before the con, my friend (also who I met on Twitter, that blessed beast of technology) asked if she could crash with me during the con. I said yes, and we both squeed a whole hell of a lot because we’d been talking for months and were FINALLY going to get to meet. The first day was amazing — we went to panels, ran around and took photo ops, ate a ginormous breakfast, and just generally became immediate buddies. This has, in my experience, been the magic of Twitter. These people I’ve met after interacting on Twitter for months (or years!) have just sort of slipped into my life with a sense of, “Oh, of course you belong here.”
We spent a lot of time talking on Friday. About Tim Omundson’s glory, about some very unfortunate shared life experiences, about life in general, and about our dreams for the future. She told me about her move out to LA and how much she loved her dad. I told her about my books and this year and how BurCon was my light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
On Friday, karaoke was amazing. We were in the front row and got to see everything from that vantage point. She got to meet several of the actors, all of whom seemed delighted with her, because…well, she’s just bloody delightful.
Saturday I woke up feeling upset for no real apparent reason. As I mentioned, this year has been really tough, and I realized Saturday morning as I stood in the con corridor snuffling into a tissue and aiming myself toward the window so as to be unobtrusive about my crying that that was the first time I HAD cried. I hadn’t cried when my career took a huge, massive setback. I hadn’t cried over the immensely painful family things. I hadn’t cried. At all. And my face was just leaking all over the place. Not sobs; just quiet weeping. I made myself go into Osric and Gil’s panel, because I didn’t want to miss it. I took my seat quietly and kept my tissues handy, and as everyone around me cheered and laughed, my inner monologue was something like, “Keep it together, Emmie. You got it. Hold yourself together. Keep it together, Emmie. Keep it together.”
I am…so glad that panel was Osric and Gil. It’s not that anyone else would have been unwelcome; far from it. But about two thirds of the way through the panel, Osric started telling fart jokes. Yeah. Fart jokes. And I just…started giggling. My tissue was soaked with my own tears and balled up in my fist, but I just started giggling as he described how he and his dad used to eat peanuts and compete with their farts. It’s funny how just a tiny moment of human connection can become a lifeline; my family was like that too. Earthy, giggly…gassy.
I mean, my sister can burp the entire alphabet.
But I was sitting there, my hand wet from clutching a soggy chunk of teary tissue, and I giggled. Being me, I tweeted about it. I said that I’d woken up feeling really despondent and heavy from the year’s woes and that Osric had gotten me to giggle with fart jokes. And someone responded — first a person who’d been following my karaoke tweets from the night before…then Osric himself. At that point, I didn’t have a photo op planned with him, though I’d had one with him and Lauren Tom the day before. I pretty much BOLTED from the auditorium to the photo op ticketing counter and bought one on the spot, because it was right about to start. Then I hustled right over and ended up being about the fifth person in line, so I happened to be there right when Osric came in a minute later.
He made eye contact with me when he walked in, and I said, “Hi, I’m Emmie –” and that’s about all I got out before he wrapped me in a hug.
Guys. You guys. These are the type of people who make this show.
We took the photo, and just as I was about to skitter away (they push those lines through pretty quick), he pulled me back in for another hug. Kindness. Dude is a kind person.
Those moments of kindness he showed me bolstered my mood for the entire day. It’s amazing sometimes, just the power that happens when you show another human being that they are seen and valued.
Later on, I had a photo op with Misha, and — in a moment of panic (told you those lines move quickly) — ended up asking him for the same tango pose I’d done with Osric. Even later on, it was Misha autograph time.
Misha is the guy who dreamed up GISHWHES, guys. I already related to him for a lot of reasons — he grew up in a car, I grew up in a barn. Acts of kindness shaped his life, just as they have shaped mine. He tells the story of the woman who gave his mother a hundred dollars so she could buy him and his family Christmas presents one year. I tell the story of the time I wrote a letter to Santa and asked him to fix the roof that dripped on my bed — it got read on the news, and someone fixed the roof AND sent me every Polly Pocket I’d ever wanted. His charity, Random Acts, is founded on that exact idea. That kindness has ripples, that it changes people, and that it has immense power.
So when I knew I was going to see Misha face to face, in the context of this year and GISHWHES and the struggles and trials of my beautiful team, I KNEW I was going to be a mess. Sure enough, I got up there and started telling him the story of our team, and I started to cry. Misha listened, horror lighting up his face when I mentioned our teammate’s heart attack, and his eyes full of compassion and actual tears. I told him just how much GISHWHES has come to mean to me, because of this family we made in its wake. He leaped up from behind the autograph table and threw his arms around me. He told me to send my team his love. He hugged me like he wished he could fix EVERYTHING, and knowing Misha even a little bit, he probably did.
These people. These are the type of people who make this show.
Kindness, kindness, kindness.
Saturday night my roommate and I had a rollicking time with another friend. We went to bed late (again), bemoaning a lack of sleep from the nights before as well.
And Sunday morning at 7:30, the phone rang in our room. As many of you can probably guess, it wasn’t good news on the line. The rest of that story belongs to someone else, and I’ll tell it later if she gives her permission. For now, please, kind people, send whatever love you have in the direction of Cincinnati. There is a strong, brave, intelligent, warm-hearted young woman there who is facing a very difficult time.
I heard the phone through a fog, because at that point I was running on about six hours of sleep in two days. It rang and stopped twice before I pried my head off the pillow and told her to answer it.
It was bad news on the line. Her dad, the man she’d spent the weekend raving about for his love, his generosity, and his goodness…had had a stroke.
At that moment, my heart broke a little bit more. This young woman is a delightful human being — she’s smart and brave, driven and compassionate. I’ve been through tragedy. I know those first horrific moments. All I can say is that I’m glad she was there, in that room, crashing with me instead of alone at her apartment in Hollywood.
Sunday was rough. A while later, I was in a panel, and a friend came and got me because my roommate was outside and had gotten more bad news. I ran out to her, and we sat outside the con, both crying. Someone nearby asked what was wrong, and we told her.
“Are you going home? When are you flying home?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t afford a plane ticket,” my friend said.
“I’ll buy you a plane ticket!” the woman said. Someone else stopped and asked what was wrong, and we told her too.
“I’ll buy you a plane ticket!” the newcomer said immediately.
This happened. Just like that. Two complete strangers within two minutes. Another friend also offered. The second woman took us to the business center and bought my roommate a plane ticket home, just like that. Poof. One ticket home to be with her dad.
These people. These are the type of people who love this show.
If you don’t already know, last year Rob Benedict (who plays Chuck/Carver Edlund on Supernatural and whose band, Louden Swain, is the convention band) had a stroke at TorCon. When I saw him last year at BurCon, he was in the very, very early stages of recovery. He still had trouble speaking. He was quiet and nervous and so, so, so full of love.
This year at BurCon, he was running around, sprinting down the aisle, and back to himself 100%. When Sunday happened, I really hoped my roommate would have a chance to talk to him, but he was on stage most of the day. Until Louden Swain had an autograph slot, and she and I went to stand in line. She asked me to start the conversation with him, so I did, and Rob, like Osric and Misha had been with me, was immediately tuned into her. I could see the pain in his face, the genuine care. He hugged her and took her hands and told her it was going to be okay, that her dad would get better, and that he was going to make it through this.
Do I even have to say it?
These people. These are the type of people who make this show.
My roommate asked me to take her poster down to get Jared and Jensen to sign it, because she was emotionally exhausted. I stood in line with my item and hers, and when I got to the front, I told Jared what had happened. Earlier that day, a fan in his panel had apologized for being “that fan” and sharing a personal story. His response? “First of all, never, ever apologize for being that fan. You are why we come here. We want to hear your stories. You are why we do this, because we love you, and we love this chance to see your faces.”
My roommate had been in that panel, thankfully. She had heard those words. They had meant something to her.
And Jared? When I told him her story, when I told him about the two strangers who had offered to buy her a plane ticket home (who HAD bought her that ticket), his face said it all. He was blown away. He told me to pass on his love and hugs. He personalized her poster for her, which isn’t something Jared and Jensen really do in those lines. I could see the pride on his face that his fandom, our fandom, was taking care of its own with such love and care. A bit later, when I got to Jensen, it was the same thing. “These people,” he said, “this is our fandom. We are a family.”
These people, guys. These are the type of people who make this show.
Our fandom. Our family. We are. We really are.
Last year, BurCon was a bunch of little highs and some swells of emotion, mostly relief to see Rob Benedict recovering, even in the early stages.
This year, BurCon was home. BurCon this year was full of love. So much love. Such real and raw and intense love. BurCon was the one right after the 200th episode aired, an episode which was, woven into its every movement and line, a love letter to the people who love the show. BurCon felt like the very same.
It’s a powerful thing, fandom. Yes, it’s got its wank and its issues. We’re not immune to the failings of humanity, but when I look at what this weekend brought to me and my roommate, I’m truly blown away. Creation Entertainment puts these things on, and yes, they’re not accessible to everyone. I wish they were; if I could make a scholarship to buy fans tickets to these events and make those dreams come true, I would. (There’s an idea.) But they are a family reunion of sorts. A space where, for just a few days at a time, that wall between artist and fan gets a bit thinner, and where those moments of connection — real, human connection — are strengthened and galvanized.
When I think about this year, about the tough times and the pain myself and my loved ones have faced and are facing, it’s tied inextricably to this knowledge of family, a family we built. Together.
See you next year, California.
*More on that at a later date as well.
***This is the part I was waiting for permission to share. Send Kelly your love.
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