I went to my first ever convention in 2014, when a friend and I flew across the country to Austin, Texas, for RTX 2014, a gaming convention for our favorite YouTubers, Rooster Teeth. It was a fun and wild time, and I can honestly say there was nothing quite like it. It was such a crazy and enjoyable time that it lured me into coming back for years in a row afterward. While conventions may not be your cup of tea, there are a lot of hidden perks to them that I am not sure many take the time to learn or experience. Here are five positive things I learned over the course of my time convention-going.

1. People There Can Be Really, Really Nice.

Laurel Swiderski

I'll start off with saying this: conventions can have some weird, shady people. No place is perfect, and conventions certainly are not. However, what I noticed is that there are also a ton of awesome people at conventions. I have never experienced more kindness and instant friendship than in the time I walked through the halls of a convention and got to know those I shared lines and panels with. People at conventions can be so warm and welcoming and genuinely friendly. I met the group pictured above at my second one, and to this day, we still talk and hang out as much as we can despite the distance, time zones, and the years since we last saw each other. We all bonded through attending our conventions together, and I am happier for it. They are the best of what can come from conventions, hands down.

2. Cosplayers Are Incredibly Talented.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TyI5W_jZEA

I never realized this until I did my first cosplay. Cosplay is no simple Halloween costume worn at any time of the year. It is an incredible craft that frankly those who dress up do not get nearly enough credit for creating. When you are walking by people and you see hand-crafted swords, shields, armor, and other assorted props, it is mind-blowing. I remember a specific cosplayer who built an entire replica motorcycle from a show she watched that was literally the size of a car, and she did it all on her own. How crazy is that? The intricate make-up and costumes I've seen in the past put some artists and designers for TV shows to shame. People put their heart and soul into their outfits, and while it may seem weird to onlookers, what they accomplish is truly remarkable.

3. It's Fun To Be Nerdy.

Laurel Swiderski

This is a little note I really want to stress. In our day-to-day lives, we put so much emphasis on being perfect and normal. If you are too into something or want to outwardly show your love for it, people get bored or mark you as odd, because normal people keep that stuff locked away. However, we all have our quirks and our interests and what makes ourselves different. Conventions encourage those differences. They are hubs where passions are celebrated, not chided or given a side-eyed glance. You feel at peace at them in a sense, because you know it is a free zone to celebrate that one show you love, or show your passion for making really cool and elaborate costumes. You can simply be you, in all your nerdy fashion.

4. You Get To Meet Your Idols.

Laurel Swiderski

I cannot stress how cool and surreal it is to walk through a convention hall and see these people who play your favorite characters/star in videos/etc that you watch on the regular walking all around you. I literally ran into the main founder of Rooster Teeth by opening a door when I was lost and, to my surprise, finding him on the other side. You come face-to-face with these people who play such a significant role in making your lives fun and it is exhilarating. It is even better when they get to know you or even remember stuff about you in later years after meeting thousands of other people. Getting to tell these people to their face just how much they have benefitted your life, while also getting to see their genuine reaction to it, is unlike anything. The hugs you get afterward are pretty great, too.

5. There Are People Like You.

Laurel Swiderski

There is something to be said about the sense of community at a convention. It is so wholesome and rewarding to see people be able to bond over what they care about the most in one big setting. Hearing people say a show or community saved them from the darkest points in their life when it did the same for you, or finding that someone loves your favorite characters as much as you do, it so underrated to witness. It makes all of the hard work, traveling, and odd stares from people worth it. In a way, you feel at home. And there is nothing purer than that.