Two years in a row I’ve been lucky enough to venture into a different world for a day to get a glimpse of the inner workings of geekdom. Having always been a geek at heart this year’s event was pre-empted by months of excitement. The Calgary Comic Expo, in it’s 11th year, takes place at the Calgary Stampede grounds and last year cleared over 100,000 attendees. Remarkable for something that only a few years ago was a counter culture. A counter culture I grew up in always feeling like an outsider. Even telling people this year that I was taking a day off work to head down drew smirks and raised a few questions about what I was getting dressed up as? What is the societal norm that doesn’t allow this type of expression to flourish. It sometimes feels as though society is too grown up for it’s own good. Too scared to share in our childhood fantasies or relive what at 12 years old would have been the best experience of our lives.
Two years in I haven’t gotten dressed up yet but it’s not to say I wouldn’t; three years ago probably not. Three-years ago Sean was self conscious. Unwilling to share anything and sadly caught up in a storyline that was destructive; not creative. That brings me to the realization that exists in a comic expo or convention. It brings together thousands of like minded individuals that get to be themselves, if only for a weekend, out in public. To share their own inner creativity and passions with others and inspire the next generation. The number of kids dressed up in amazing costumes was incredible. Social media in today’s day and age has helped people be more comfortable, but this weekend everyone comes out and it’s amazing. The energy at the Calgary Expo this year was filled with good vibes and people showing interest in the things they love. I’m a geek at heart and love video games, superheroes, comics, and everything else in between. Since I started going last year I’ve now been collecting some amazing art that exists and now adorns the walls of my home. If someone came over now it’s on display for all to see. In fact there is even a piece up in my office at work.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
The energy is based on the idea that people are allowed to be themselves. Allowed to be comfortable being themselves without the judgments that come along with it. There is power in that. People act differently when they can be themselves, even if it’s in a costume, and see appreciation in other people’s eyes. Although not dressed up, I appreciated all of the effort that so many others went too to get dressed up and put together the most amazing costumes. Every superhero was present, plus every anime character, cartoon, and movie character imaginable. It’s unapologetically a good time for those interested; and that’s a lot of people.
So next year, Tasia and I hope to get dressed up. We talked about it this year but didn’t get around too it. Why not? It’s a collection of people being themselves and an opportunity to share in that celebration. Not to mention the thought process and creativity that goes into putting a costume together.
It got me thinking about our social norms and the challenges we face everyday just trying to be ourselves. Trying to fit in with what we perceive as expectations placed on us. Does this blog about mindfulness, lifestyle, and creativity fit the stereotype of a powerlifting finance professional. Probably not. It didn’t fit my own stereotypes that I had accepted about what a masculine man should be; that has since changed. Does dressing up in a costume, outside of the standard Halloween, fit social norms? Well it comes down to your own definition of social norms and whether you feel the need to compare yourself to others and compare yourself to the expectations that you perceive others to have. The Comic Expo, for a weekend, breaks those barriers and perceptions down and creates a safe social environment for people to congregate and that’s empowering. A reminder to our inner child to not be afraid. To not be scared to be itself and show off. I’ve learned through this whole process that people generally don’t care too much. Those who are interested will follow along, people may criticize based on their own insecurities, and the rest won’t care. The rest is a big number.
So here are a couple of asks for you as a reader and fellow creative type:
- Make a list of the top 3-5 things you enjoy but perhaps are unwilling to share with anyone. For a long time I sabotaged my own self and never wrote or shared any photography. I’m not a talented artist but I enjoy sketching and have been practicing drawing characters of all things. It started as a way to be a little more creative with the books I was reading!
- Beside that list write down a few reasons why to this point you’ve been unwilling to share and consider what those reasons mean to you. Is it fear of what others may think? Fear of being recognized as someone without any talent? Look at me here doing this! Both of those fears on my list.
- Consider the list and what type of creative outlet may come of it? Do you have a passion for comics for example? What draws you too them? The artwork, the story lines, etc. Have you tried drawing one? Writing out your own storylines? When I was younger, with my amassed collection of G.I. Joe figurines I could spend countless hours building huge battles between Cobra and G.I. Joe. Picking my favourite characters who would form the backdrop for the story and always, unbelievably as it may be, come out on top. I haven’t yet revisited my passion for G.I. Joe’s but as an interesting twist of fate, I met one of the cover artists for the G.I. Joe comic series Mike Zeck while at the Expo. He signed a cover print that is now framed and ready to go up. How cool is that?
- If you have something on that list, consider reaching out to others who share your passion. This has been a slow process for me and yet every time I do it I feel even more inspired. Fear melts away to bravery that gives way to inspiration and growth. Often it’s those moments we overcome fear and do something that the world pays us back and if it hasn’t happened yet well know that even small rewards are rewards to be recognized.
It’s a simple list and many creative types already follow this. The Comic Expo inspired me to keep practicing my drawing if for no other reason than I enjoy it. Every once and a while I look at one and go.. that looks like it could be the semblance of character. Consider the work done by Josh Kaufman, famous for his Personal MBA website, who looked for the optimal number of hours to become reasonably good at something. A mere 20 hours.
So 20 hours is now committed over the next couple of months to drawing if for no other reason that I get to be myself and enjoy it. 20 Hours is not a lot of time over 2 – 3 months. 10 hours a month as an example. One to two hours a week just taking some time and practicing and learning something you enjoy.
One last point to add to the list above.
Be yourself. If for no other reason it opens up our own lives to a world of adventure and interesting new things. Shakti Gawain puts it best when she said: “We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other peoples’ models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.” There is no expectation that my artwork is going anywhere but into a sketchbook but at least I can tell myself I tried if for no other reason than for myself. I was being myself. There is no expectation that this will go anywhere but I get to be myself and that is power.