I had the pleasure of attending the xoxo fest last week. In answering the three questions required to attend: “What do you do?, What are you working on right now? and What’s something you made that you’re proud of?”, I could point to something I made recently that I was proud of and was able to answer honestly and point to work that I’ve done. But still yet, the impostor syndrome that emerged as a theme over the course of xoxo was a nearly constant companion sitting on my shoulder. I did my best to shrug off this little brain gnawing beast with private mental pep talks (I make stuff! I illustrate things! I am creative!), but in a large airy room full of many of the internet’s major web luminaries whose faces and work I’m so familiar with and who I pretty universally admire: the beast sort of left me with a case of paralyzing shyness. I didn’t mingle and meet and greet as much as I’d hoped to, though I did make some new friends, saw some old friends and met some fantastic goats. I didn’t get to attend every speaker’s session but of the ones I did see, Molly Crabapple’s resonated with me on a personal level. Molly spoke of the need for freedom in creating art and how getting better at any craft requires the luxury of time. She spoke the often unsaid truth at events and gatherings like this: money is the basic catalyst that allows for the freedom and time to create. When your primary concern is finding/keeping a job to pay the bills, then you’re just too worn out from working so hard to make ends meet to focus on improving your craft. As someone whose father was killed when I was an infant and who more or less had to provide for myself and figure life out on my own from an early age, the things she said were things I’ve reflected on so many times. I’m not sure what the answer is to the inherent unfairness of this situation and of course there are exceptions to this, but I’m glad she talked about it and I doubt it was easy to do so. I’ve had some recent revelations in my family-of-origin story that highlight on a micro-level how class differences can shape attitudes toward people, how they can determine a life and shape a personality, for better or worse. I’m still grappling with the pain of these truths but I realize that I should do something with this narrative because it’s a pretty unbelievable story and because I can. That is one thing I have not always been able to say: because I can. Before she even gave her talk, I realized that I had met Vi Hart at a fourth of july party a few months back in well, July. I saw her at the hotel, and confirmed that she had been ‘the eagle masked one’ and took a polaroid of her. She struck me as pretty fearless when she showed up at a party in an eagle mask, and this was confirmed by her talk, which was more of an ongoing performance piece than a linear monologue. I admire how she is so unabashedly herself and can sort of see her as being the heir to the Laurie Anderson performance art throne. Being around all of the xoxo positive, euphoric energy soaked up some of my hard won negativity and helped me to feel like I am capable of achieving some successes, and even capable of defining for myself what success means. That certainly does mean having some financial reward for my hours spent working, but it also means more than just that. I’ve read some pieces suggesting that xoxo was perhaps a little light in the area of criticism. While I agree that this is legitimate, I really appreciated the inclusive feeling of xoxo. This introvert would have probably hidden in the hotel for the entire weekend had the atmosphere been more critique slanted. Andy’s closing words for xoxo were ‘go out and make things, and maybe we’ll do this again next year, make me proud’. I’m hoping to do that.