September 17, 2016
On the Monday after last year’s festival I flew straight home leaving no time to process the weekend I just had and I quickly fell back into my old routine.
This year I decided to stay a few extra days to reflect. I was excited to spend Monday thinking about the new projects I wanted to work on, but instead I found myself floating around southeast Portland, emotionally and physically exhausted. Not thinking about work, not thinking about anything, really.
A lot happened this weekend. As of writing this it’s Tuesday, I’m sitting in Heart Coffee Roasters and I’m still trying to take it all in. The speakers at XOXO tell stories above everything else. They’re transparent about their lives and their work and they force you to search for answers in the stories they tell.
The term ‘imposter syndrome’ creeps up all too often when you attend something like XOXO. It crossed my mind many times over the course of the weekend as I talked to people working on really interesting projects. If you’ve ever felt the same way at a conference or festival, consider this: Being present is validation enough that you belong there. You didn’t happen upon this by accident, you sought out this community and you’re part of it now.
Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten that it’s OK to take dumb shit seriously. I’ve been so focused on trying to make something useful that I’ve forgotten that it’s OK to have fun, too. In fact, the definition in my head for “something useful” has become somewhat clouded recently. Sometimes good things can come out of obscure projects, as Simone Giertz reminded everyone when she talked about the possibility of her toothbrush robot helping people with mobility issues.
The best thing about XOXO is the community. As the festival drew to a close on Sunday the Slack channel began to pick up steam again. People starting sharing plans for new projects, plans to quit their jobs and finally work on the projects they’d been putting off. Of course, this community of independent artists and creators isn’t limited to XOXO. These communities exist all over the web—sharing their stories and supporting each other—you just have to find them.