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Why Mixed Emotions are OK


Last week I had the pleasure of attending WordCamp US 2023. And a week away – no matter how amazing – can elicit mixed emotions. Mixed emotions are OK.

As someone with limited mobility and chronic illness, these events are HARD. It’s hard on my body, even when the accessibility is top notch (which all the flagship events were this year).

As someone who loves this community, I always return home from WordCamps excited and empowered to keep contributing to the future of WordPress. There seems to be a sense of “onward and upward” that is exciting and contagious. I think a lot of us feel that way when we return home.

But the good emotions can also be mixed with feelings of sadness. Some of us return home from having spent time with thousands of others to a place of solitude where we live alone. Or to home situations that are less than positive. For those people, coming home can be an even steeper descent from the mountain top that is a large WordCamp. (For more on that I wrote a post a few years back on dealing with post WordCamp emotions.)

I’m Happy

Spending time with so many WordPressers in one place always makes me happy. To see people I haven’t seen in years because of the pandemic shutdown of events fills my heart with joy. It truly does. Whether we nodded, hugged, fist bumped, or had a nice long chat, you made my week amazing.

And the work we do at these events gets me pumped up for the future. From the big questions and sometimes difficult conversations at the Community Summit to hearing ideas come out of talks, to the keynotes and Q&A with Matt and Josepha, there is work to be done, people doing it, and opportunities for us all to contribute. That’s one of the things that makes WordPress the amazing community that it is – we can all contribute.

I’m Sad

Very few know this about me, but I’m a little obsessed with the stories from Mt. Everest. It’s the highest point on earth, and people pay tens of thousands of dollars to climb to the summit. Once at the summit, you are literally standing on the highest place in the world. After months of planning, exercising, training, spending, and taking time off from other things. You’re at the apex of all that hard work.

And then you have to go back down.

You can always talk about the experience. You can show people pictures and videos. But unless they were there, it’s truly hard to explain what your experience was.

While WordCamps aren’t nearly as dangerous as summiting the highest mountain, they still bear some striking similarities when it comes to “coming back down” from the mountain top.

When I was in high school plays, we would work tirelessly for months to prepare. Then in one weekend and three performances, it was all over. The feelings of “being lost” with what to do after it ended we called “let down.” Brides and grooms experience this after planning a wedding. Parents sometimes experience this after the birth of a child. It’s normal to have those feelings. And you should bounce back within a short amount of time.

I Returned Home to a Loss

I’m not sharing this for sympathy, but sharing because we come home to different things. And it’s possible to be really happy about WordCamp and really sad at the same time about other things.

I returned home to discover my Maine Coon Cat, Marilyn, had passed away while I was in National Harbor at WCUS. I walked into the living room to see her resting in a seemingly peaceful forever sleep. Of course I cried. I reached out to some friends for help. And she’s already resting beneath the beautiful garden of a friend. She was my companion of 17 years, with me through my daughter’s high school years, graduation, and my transition to an empty nest; with me through a divorce and job changes over the years; with me through a few moves into apartment living, and then into my current home; with me in good times and sadness, happiness, anger, and the blahs. She was a messy, hungry, thirsty, enormous cat (19 pounds at one point). And she was always there with me. The other two cats have been meowing since I got home. They’re grieving, too. And we will get through the grief together.

Mixed Emotions

Honestly, there’s hardly ever a time in our lives when we don’t have somewhat mixed emotions. We can be content with life but bounce up and down with events, people, relationships, and even just good (or bad) service in a restaurant. We are humans with the human capacity to experience many things all at the same time.

This past spring I watched the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and just reading the title, I already felt like it described my life. Because it’s possible to experience and feel multiple things at the same time.

Grief and happiness can coexist.

Exhaustion and elation can coexist.

Mental momentum and inertia can coexist.

Fear and bravery can coexist.

You and Your Emotions

Whatever you’re feeling after an event, it’s OK. And confusion about the swirling seemingly opposing emotions is OK, too.

Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself. And reach out to others when you need to.

You are worth it.

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