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2016 Convention Stories

Taking the Leap: My First Convention

Eric Rubeo
President, Phi Nu Chapter
Miami University, Oxford, OH

From left to right: Rachel Cooper, Eric Rubeo, Joseph Neives, Erika Westhoff, Haley Coburn, Minnie Layer, Jamie Warren, Jason Cruz, and Maya Alpert
From left to right: Rachel Cooper, Eric Rubeo, Joseph Neives, Erika Westhoff, Haley Coburn,
Minnie Layer, Jamie Warren, Jason Cruz, and Maya Alpert

Pack your bags. Say goodbyes. Ignore the fact you’re all alone and that, really, you have no clue what awaits you in the larger of twin cities.

Miami University, home of my chapter, has no memory of members ever attending convention. Being invited to read fiction published in The Rectangle struck that special spot in my gut responsible for instigating both fear and excitement. What if I get lost? What if they hate my work? What if I can’t connect and spend all five days both surrounded by peers and lonely?

Rise. Straighten your spine. Try to stop shaking. Breath, smile, read.

“I loved your piece. Are you going to the open-mic?” Jason Cruz from Stetson University said after the Rectangle Reading, and though he could not have known it then, but in that moment, he made Minneapolis feel like home. We attended the open-mic. We both read. We exchanged numbers. That first night of convention, I went to sleep knowing I had one new friend and it’s tough to express how much that meant.

“Would you like to come to lunch?” Erika Westoff from Stephens College asked, Thursday, after the student leadership sessions. “Oh, you met Jason too. We’re all headed to the bistro.” I’ll admit I would have joined anyone, but now I know how much it mattered I joined them because that group—the girls from Stephens College and Jason—they became my friends.

Join your friends for dinner, too. Return to the hotel. Laugh. Have a nice night. Forget the fear of loneliness.

And somewhere between the bad poetry contest, Charles Baxter’s keynote speech, professional development events, student panels, and meals shared all over Minneapolis, these friends became family. We all shared our stories and our dreams. We made ourselves vulnerable and made each other feel loved. I didn’t know it was possible to become so close so fast, or to have so much fun I’d forget it all would have to end. But thinking about it now, I’m not so sure there was a chance convention would be anything less.

Pack your bags. Say goodbyes. Celebrate the glory of social media and remember what it feels like to be home.

Jason, Ericka, Rachel, Maya, Jamie, Kitaira, Haley, Shelley, Minnie, and Joseph, thank you.

Until next year.

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