Wednesday morning, July 18, 2018. I'm all packed and ready to go. All kinds of emotions started kicking in. Anxiety, nervousness, fear, and excitement. I also felt a little sick to my stomach. You see, most of my adult life, I've avoided anything and everything that involved crowds and chaos, lines and waiting, and did I mention, more lines and waiting? I know I missed out on some amazing events just because I couldn't deal with the traffic and the crowds. Yup, I'm that dude that goes grocery shopping either early in the morning or late at night to avoid potential masses of people and shitty parking. I'm also the bad husband that will leave his wife behind in a crowd just get away from it as quickly as possible. Don't make me out to be the bad guy, I still make sure she's safe, I just do so from a distance. Did I mention crowds of people make me uneasy? I felt that if I could survive San Diego Comic Con through Thursday (day 2), the rest could be easy peasy.
But why would I even put myself through this torture in the first place? Well, Bluefin and Bandai's Tamashii Nations asked if I wanted to have some of my Marvel related work displayed at their booth along with signing some photos to give away during the event. Being a HUGE fan of the SH Figuarts line, this was a no-brainer. Not to mention, having thousands of geek culture fans looking at your art work would be mind-blowing as well. I wasn't sure how I felt about signing and giving out photos, but it sounded cool, so why the hell not, right?
Is all of this potential awesomeness a good trade off for feeling like i'm naked in an elevator? I'm sure most of you who share my uncomfortableness with crowds would have said yes to the same opportunity if it were given to you. You're probably asking yourself, "How did he move forward and break through these emotional barriers?" Easy. I thought of my 3 amazing dogs and practiced what I "preached" to them.
Starting from the time my dogs were wee little puppies, Lora (my wife) and I spent countless hours training them. While a lot of their training was spent on learning cool tricks to show off to our friends, most of their training consisted of conditioning their brains to do things or to be in certain environments that, at one time, made them feel uncomfortable. So every time we introduced our dogs to new, potentially uncomfortable things (like meeting a stranger or trying on a new harness), we had treats to give them so that their experience became a positive one.
How would I apply this technique to myself? It was quite simple actually. Although I am very food driven, nobody was there to feed me treats the moment I started feeling crowd anxiety. So instead of treats, I fed myself positive thoughts.
I had to remind myself why I chose to come to Comic Con in the first place. Below are a list of my "treats" that I fed myself.
- My photography was being displayed at the Bluefin/Tamashii Nations Booth where thousands of people are going to see my work.
- I get to sign some of my photos and give them to fans of geek culture and Marvel.
- I get to chat with these same people and talk about Toy Photography.
- I get to meetup with some old friends and eat good food.
- I get to meet new friends who I connected with on social media and eat good food.
These items were my fuel AND my survival kit to get through the Con. I let all five of these things become the focus and by the time Friday came along (Day 3), the crowds, chaos, and traffic were just a drop in the bucket. I'm already looking forward to next year, with all that Comic Con fear in the dust.
Are you ready to conquer your fears? Just find your dog treat. Easy peasy.