I am attending the Association of American Geographers conference in Chicago this week. The conference is the largest gathering of geographers in the world. After the quiet of my CLA basement office, the crowds are overwhelming, so is being in Chicago, the third largest American city. Attending a conference is an odd experience – part happy reunion with long-separated classmates, part thrill at the chance to talk ‘shop’ after months of working on one’s own with a cadre of people who are truly interested in the work I do, but I also experience a dark underbelly of insecurity that has to do with awkwardness of being among so many after so long alone, and a fear of attempting to share one’s revelations to a room full of (I’ll admit it) people with whom I have to compete for jobs, publishers, etc. Conferences also open doors and windows. From the chance to sit in sessions targeting my own thin disciplinary strand to attending random presentations on topics that seem wholly unrelated to my work but contain some delicious idea that changes my thinking, sometimes profoundly. Then there is the exhibition hall, full of publishers like Penguin (all softcovers are $5 all hardcovers $10), some are even handing out books. Free. Yes. Free. A bibliophile’s dream!
And here I sit, feeling disconnected and tired and missing some of my friends who are not here this year. My undelivered and unfinished paper set aside to write this reflection.