Euphoric. That's the only word to describe how I feel right now. My body is sore form traveling, my eyes heavy from lack of sleep, but somehow I feel refreshed. My head is teaming with ideas and inspiration.
I just returned from one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Over the course of the past 3 jam-packed days, my life changed. I'm talking about my trip to Columbus, Georgia for the Creative South conference.
When I think about conferences, I remember back to when I helped organize and design the first TEDx conference at my university. The point of these types of events is to create a space where connection is natural. A bunch of like-minded people in one place, hungry to learn and share and relate to one another. While organizing and hosting a conference is quite different than attending one, I feel that TEDxDrexelU was the first time I felt that I could engage in meaningful conversations while turning strangers into friends.
But Creative South was so much more than that. Walking through the halls of the venue, I walked past familiar faces that I remember seeing on my computer and phone. But when I approached these people and had a real discussion with them, I learned so much more than I ever could in 140 characters. These people are so much more than a portfolio. The things that don't always make it on the web – the fears, the struggles, these honest interactions – that's where the magic is.
I feel lucky to be in an industry where my peers are not viewed as competition, but rather as motivaters. It felt like I already knew them a little bit, because I had seen their work, read their opinions and interviews, and possibly had exchanges over social media. But nothing on screen (even a video call) is quite like that face to face connection.
We only share a small part of ourselves online. It's impossible to truly open your heart to someone through a screen. We need face to face connection.
Coming together to relate and connect is a basic human need.
I really can't oversell the value of this fact. Many of my friends wish they could have been at Creative South but weren't able to make it. The good news is that there's never a perfect time to connect with someone. So why not do it more often? I plan to reach out to people I want to meet, and make it happen. Even if it means leaving my area, I know it will be worth it.
A HUGE thank you to the good people behind Creative South, I feel like a stronger (and happier) designer and I have found my people.