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Controlling what I can to enjoy life

The end of April means that my annual geek-fest in Calgary is over.

I have always been a fan of science fiction and pop-culture and one of the premier events in North America happens close to home.

In its 15th year, the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo ran April 21 to 24 at the Calgary Stampede Grounds.

While I have only attended the event maybe half-a-dozen of times over it’s run, my wife has only missed one —the first one — and pre-pandemic the event became a holiday tradition for us.

I attended the event more frequently in the early 2010s before I really struggled with my mental health, and it is something I have always enjoyed. Unfortunately, as the crowds got bigger, my ability to tolerate them got lower and I ended up not going for a few years to just not put myself through that stress.

In 2019, I made tentative steps to go back, attending for a few hours each day, but not going all day, every day.

The event held in September of 2021 was nice, much smaller in scope and it hearkened back to the days when the event first started.

While bigger than the scaled back event held in September of 2021, the 2022 event was not quite back to the pre-COVID glory days of pre-pandemic; however, this year’s event still managed to attract some fairly big name stars.

Some of the star panels I attended were William Shatner, Michael Rooker, Brendan Fraser and Nolan North.

In my opinion, the highlight of the weekend was Michael Rooker’s panel. He went completely off-script, drove the moderator nuts and had the audience laughing almost uncontrollably.

Another highlight for me was a discussion panel centred on Nolan North.

North is a prolific voice and television actor most famously known for —my favourite game series — Playstation series Uncharted.

The costumes worn by some of those in attendance were unreal as well.

One gentleman was dressed quite convincingly as Gandalf the Grey from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings movie series. Another photo I took was of someone dressed as the characters Alloy and Ratchet from the Playstation games Horizon: Zero Dawn and Ratchet and Clank, respectively.

Alongside the costumes and the celebrities was a large shopping area set up in the BMO hall featuring a wide variety of vendors carrying the usual T-shirts, comics, collectibles and other commercial or hand-crafted items.

Elsewhere on the Stampede grounds, the Big Four building hosted a dining area downstairs and the always popular Artist’s Alley upstairs.

Artist’s Alley,as usual, was full of creators involved in comics, writing, leather work, pottery and many other artisan’s creations.

Due to the crowds on Saturday, the usual busiest day of expo, I ended up not attending the Sunday as I had enough of people the day previous. In all honesty, by the end of Saturday, because of my anxiety in crowds, I was wiped out.

While the venue setup was perfect, and well, spaced out for the Thursday and Friday of the event, the crowds descending on the grounds on the Saturday overwhelmed the way things were set up and the lines were ridiculous no-matter which way you turned.

With my anxiety surrounding crowds at the best of times, they are definitely not my thing. However, the event definitely is. So, what is there to do?

This was my first full event in several years, partially due to COVID and partially due to my mental health. The fact that I made it through craziness of Saturday with some discomfort and anxiety but overall survived the day speaks volumes about how my skills have developed and improved to deal with anxiety and stress.

Still, for next year I’m looking at making a change so that I can further enjoy the show even more. Instead of forcing myself to deal with the large volume of people on the Saturday,which resulted in wiping me out mentally and physically causing me to miss the Sunday, I’ll maybe look at attending the Thursday, Friday, and the Sunday, only attending the Saturday for a couple hours if something really big on the schedule catches my eye.

I definitely enjoyed the event, despite the anxiety wiping me out. It was great to get away, break from routine, reconnect with friends I don’t get to see very often and generally have a chance to recharge.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave my mental health at home, but there are ways of dealing with that too, and while this trip was good, next year will be even better.