I'm speaking at a conference tomorrow, the long-running Orlando Code Camp. I've done it every years since I moved here, which is to say 6 years, before the pandemic. It has been dark for four years, so it's great to be back. I can't fully explain why I enjoy speaking gigs so much, despite having done it at over a dozen different events, and despite my social atypicalness (is that even a word?) and ASD.
Tonight was the speaker party in Lake Mary, near the event which takes place at Seminole State College. There I was able to catch up with a Jacksonville-based friend of mine that I met through this event years ago, who works for Stack Overflow (if you're a software developer, you know). I also got to briefly catch up with some of the folks that run the local user group that runs this free conference. We're really lucky to have this kind of ecosystem here where all of this is sponsored and free. And one of the guys that I worked for at SeaWorld Entertainment now works at the college, which helps to run the event, so it's very circle-of-life. The community is large but small, if that makes sense.
This annual thing was always fun, because it was an unusual one night a year where I could meet up with other nerds, have drinks without having to drive anywhere (I always get a hotel in walking distance), and have the kind of casual yet slightly inebriated interactions that one takes for granted when they work in a colocated manner with their colleagues. Don't get me wrong, I love working remotely, but even for me it's nice to have that social connection now and then. The friend from Jax, we go years in between and just pick up where we left off. I even met his wife once.
After the meetup and drinks, where the food was again not ideal for a non-beef/pork eater, I went across the road in one of these "town square" retail developments here in Lake Mary, to an Asian restaurant that was oddly only open until 10. Had some solid sesame chicken, and had a nice conversation with one of the bartenders about rum, which is timely given my documentarian efforts. It was a solid cap to the night before returning to the room to polish my deck before my talk tomorrow morning. And I wrote this post.
If all of this sounds non-remarkable, that's kind of the point. Three years ago, the event was cancelled at the last minute because of Covid, and honestly I was crushed. With my autism diagnosis coming after that, I realize now how there are certain circumstances where I thrive, and derive some amount of self-value, and conferences where I share stuff are high on that list. While I now acknowledge how exhausting many social situations are to me, the situations where I can confidently lead a discussion are like gold.
I have to get to sleep. Gotta get up at 6 to be there at 7 because one of my quirks is that I have to get dibs on the best doughnuts. Even two years ago I wouldn't have recognized that, let alone said it out loud.
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