The biggest thing I can say about XOXO, having attended this weekend for the first time since 2013, is that I feel pretty much exactly how I felt the last time around, and I wish I had made it to all the ones in between.
Very few events of any scale manage to be open, accepting, encouraging, inspiring, surprising, energizing and downright fun. Despite lots of comments about how big the conference has gotten—two thousand attendees this year—I felt the same warmth and community (albeit with a bigger challenge to find old friends in the throng) as I had previously.
While I had to miss the last day, I soaked up a wide array of XOXO’s programming, including all of the conference’s first day, most of Art + Code and Story, and a good amount of the tabletop and arcade rooms. I was nearly overwhelmed with the amount of creativity and inspiration that surrounded me. The talks I saw brought tears to my eyes, both happy and sad, on more than one occasion. Like last time, the net result is like experiencing a sea swell on a boat: I’ve been pulled up to unexpected heights, and I’m wide-eyed as I see where it will take me.
And while I was thrilled to spend my time with familiar faces, the natural new connections make this event special. An XOXO attendee can successfully strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone wearing a badge. So when I’m there, that’s exactly what I try to do. Grab a meal with six people I’d just met? Turn people you admire into the people you know? Say hello to every person who sits down next to me, transforming unfamiliar faces into friendly ones? Yes, yes and yes.
Life in a broader sense doesn’t always work like XOXO works. Heck, we as people don’t work every day the way we function in this setting; I know I’m not always one to smile at strangers. Yet Andy and Andy continue to bring their universe to life, and I am again grateful for having been there.