This week I’ve been at Codemash in Sandusky, OH. It’s a conference I had heard of but never attended. In 2016, I decided I was going to start submitting to different conferences, ones slightly outside of my region, and Codemash fit that bill. It has been a great experience.
Last night, I talked to a few other speakers, one of whom encouraged me to submit to NDC London. It’s not the first time he’s suggested I do that. I asked him, “Why?” I got several answers, including it opens you up to an entirely different group (and class) of speakers. I didn’t ask the next question to come to mind, which was, “Why do I care about another class of speakers?” At the time, it felt like a “You speak at conferences so you can speak at bigger conferences. You speak at bigger conferences, so you can speak at EVEN BIGGER conferences.” As if it was a self-perpetuating task, always striving for more.
Eventually, the other speaker said one reason he likes to speak internationally is because it allows him to go overseas for free (or very cheap.) As I talked to my wife last night, we talked about that. I told her I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do that. I mean seeing some ancient ruins would be cool, but there would be a lot of stress involved as well.
For example, to make this trip we had to line up two separate pet sitters (we have a zoo), and spend a half-day getting here. Granted, a half-day isn’t bad, but international would take a lot more. Plus I have general food anxiety (not an actual term.) I have celiac, which means I can’t have wheat, barley, or rye (and also that I can’t really have oats or malt due to cross contamination.) I also have to be careful getting gluten-free food. For example, Domino’s gluten-free pizza isn’t really safe for me to eat. I know restaurants that I can eat in the US, but I’m unsure of international restaurants. Also, at US conferences, I tend to bring some of my own food so that I know that I can eat.
My wife said that I could just go by myself, and that would reduce stress, because I wouldn’t need to entertain them, and think of what they were doing while I’m there. I told her that wouldn’t help. When I spoke at Des Moines this year, a mere 2 hours away, I had anxiety before I left. Once I got there, I was ok, but there’s anxiety in leaving my family.
Essentially none of my anxiety is about the act of talking, or even really the conference. It’s about other things.
If you would have overheard the conversation last night, you might have wondered why I even speak.
But then today, I had my session. It was basically a full room, maybe 75-100 people. And afterwards, people came up and asked questions and we had conversations about the topic. As I got back to my room about 30 minutes later, I thought that is why I talk. I got to share topics important to me and have conversations about that. In a small way, I got to influence the community. There are 75 people, if even a couple of them start thinking about making markup more readable, then I will have succeeded.
Along those same lines, as I was waiting to speak today, I listened to a great sermon by John Piper called “Don’t Waste Your Life“. In that sermon, he says
So if you ask me tonight, All right, tell us then, what is the unwasted life? What does it look like? What is the essence of the unwasted life? I just mentioned it: A life that puts the infinite value of Christ on display for the world to see. The passion of the unwasted life is to joyfully display the supreme excellence of Christ by the way we live. Life is given to us so that we can use it to make much of Christ. Possessions are given to us so that by the way we use them, we can show that they are not our treasure, but Christ is our treasure. Money is given to us so that we will use it in a way that shows money is not treasure, but Christ is our treasure.
And as I thought about that, it made me start to think about why do I speak. It’s a conference session, it’s not sermons like I used to preach. But in some way, I need to make sure that what I’m treasuring is not speaking, or writing code, or making money, or building friends. Those aren’t bad, but they can’t be ultimate.
And so, I still don’t have an answer to my question “Why should I submit to overseas conferences?” And the truth is, I think it’s an answer I have to discover, it can’t be something someone tells me.