#AlwaysKeepFighting at SDCC follow-up: DCcon

This is a copy/paste from my (public) Facebook post with the story of meeting Jared Padalecki of Supernatural at DCcon. I will update at some point with information about the #AKFHallH candle project that set all this in motion, but I wanted to have this post mirrored somewhere (fully) public.

I was vending at the con, the first time I’d ever done so at a Creation event or 100% solo; and I’m beyond grateful to my neighbor Zerbe Hunter for making sure I could, you know, pee and stuff. All weekend friends were messaging asking if I was getting any photo ops. The answer was, of course, no; expecting a stranger/new friend to watch your things while you run off for that seemed tacky. Plus coming to make money and immediately spending it all is the worst business plan! When you’re there to work, you’ve gotta be there to work.

On Sunday it was a bit harder to be “missing” the con. Everyone was buzzing with nerves about their photo ops and autographs and meeting “the boys” for the first or the hundredth time. There’s excitement in the air all weekend, but on Sunday it’s a palpable thing, like the potent air before a storm clears summer heat.

I wasn’t too surprised to see Osric Sunday afternoon since he’d been by on Friday*, though I thought he might’ve left already. (*Note: I made his costume for Comic-con 2014, he knows me.) But I was getting really sleepy so it was good timing. (Because my items are so labor intensive, I work at my booth and late into the night at cons.) This time Osric came back behind the table, though, which was good trick since the opening was super narrow. He seemed like he was acting kind of odd, and he says “so William has been messaging me…” and I’m thinking, who the hell’s William? Do I know a- OH. “You mean Shatner*?” (Also note: I have been on Mr. Shatner’s GISHWHES team 2 years now.) He says so we got you something, and pulls something out what is obviously a photo op ticket (fangirls can clock these at 150 yards in the dark). In fangirl terms, as a gift this is up there on the scale with a Red Ryder BB gun or a marriage proposal. Please note that I am not a public crier (except at children’s movies) but I was coming really close. As I’m thinking in an absurdly practical way, “when are Jared’s ops anyway?” he tells me that they’ve got someone to watch my booth and we’re going RIGHT now. I’m vaguely aware of there having been a bit of a crowd for this, btw. I probably appear outwardly fairly calm when surprised, but have a hysterical deafness and blindness problem, so I’m an unreliable witness to my own life.

So I follow Osric and his handler out the door, and we weave through and past the queue into the op room. After the quiet in the vendor room, the loud music (there’s a playlist of upbeat tunes in photo ops) was like a wall. I was, at this point, seriously concerned I’d have about 30 seconds to compose myself, and that I’d never put on lip gloss that morning…or in fact eaten much of anything. You kind of want to control all the variables meeting celebrities (whether you’ve met them before or not). It minimizes the chance you’re going to do anything embarrassing, such as require medical attention. My variables were feeling a bit too variable when we got to the front of the line.

But I got a reprieve, as we were too early. They were still doing J2 ops, and had to finish the last few; and then a few Jensen solos. I got to watch the girl dressed as gym teacher Dean peg Jensen right in the face with a play ball (at his urging). Priceless. Huge grin on Jensen after. I bet he was that kid in dodge ball who ran right up to the line, taunted you to hit him, then caught the ball. When Jensen left I had to step out of his way since we were hovering in the corner by the back door; he stopped to say hello to Osric. Big hugs and a brief chat there. I felt awkwardly in their private moment, but I think it’s worth noting it was incredibly apparent how fond Jensen is of Osric. Those “family bonds” amongst the cast are real. (I didn’t talk to Jensen, which is likely just as well, since I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I think most people feel that way in his vicinity. Rather than him seeming tall, you feel inadequate for not wearing platform boots just in case he stood near you.)

Then Jared’s solo ops started. They needed to tag me in to the very end, so I watched Jared’s stream of people for a while. Osric was talking to Adam (from Creation), so I talked to him for a bit also. About Japanese fashion and Stan Lee. After a while, Osric pointed out two people sitting in a short row of chairs behind Chris, in front of the “bag table”. He said they were Jared’s parents, and took me over to meet them (he introduced me briefly to Clif on the way). I think they were a bit confused about who I was and why I was there at first, but were very nice; then Osric told them I did the candles, and his mother insisted on shaking my hand a second time. They seemed like the sort of people who would immediately offer you every beverage under the sun upon entering their house even if you insisted you weren’t thirsty. His mom asked me why no one was in costume; I tried to explain that everyone cosplays on Friday and Saturday, but they want to look nice for the guys. I think she thought that was funny. She also wanted to know if I’d met Jared before, and I had to tell her that he was actually the first person I ever paid to have a photo with. What a weird thing to tell someone’s mom!

Then I watched some of Jared’s ops from behind Chris, while Osric hugged nervous people in the photo line (who looked intensely relieved to see him; I’ve suggested he take a side job). I’d probably pay to WATCH photo ops. I’ve only done a handful, and you’re so wound up about your turn you can’t fully appreciate watching the folks in front of you. But Chris light on his feet like a dancer, the guys swinging lightning fast from one fan’s special moment to the next seemingly without effort, the crazy or touching things that the fans ask for, all set to a beat you can dance to…It’s quite incredible.

I found it kind of calming that Jared’s folks were like anyone’s parents might be (not that I expected anything else, but how often do you meet a celebrity’s parents), watching him do his photos with some amusement. And it was weirdly calming seeing the constant stream of other fans having their moment with him, being able to see the nerves and tears and giggles and glee with a bit of distance. Please know, fellow fans: there is something wonderful even in your unsteadiness and you should not be ashamed of it. Just don’t let it burden your heart so much.

I got nervous again when I had to stand on the tape myself (some of you know what I mean). And this is about where my memory starts to get shaky (though I could’ve told you the color of the shirt the volunteer waving people forward was wearing). Osric went up first and told Jared who I was. I think I was looking at his back and the carpet. Jared’s watch. But once I was introduced and he figured out who I was, Jared turned his back to Chris and the photo lights and the rest of the room, took both my hands in his, and pulled me in front of him. I’m 5’6” which is fairly average for a woman, but he bent down and I really couldn’t see anything in the room except him. There might as well not have been anyone else there and I think that’s what he wanted. I can’t tell you the timing or number of the hugs he gave me; it was a lot, and they were likely tighter than anyone has ever hugged me. (Except that one time a con roomie was drunk AND high and lifted me off the ground.) But mostly Jared held my hands (which were balled since I was still holding that ticket, no pockets). He was holding eye contact with me, so I held it with him; and maybe that’s why I can’t accurately remember everything he said. I should’ve burned it into my brain. I know we both said nice things about Shatner and Robbie. I don’t remember much of what I said to him, either; I’m pretty sure it was none of what I ought to have, but I was unprepared for the conversation. He was too, I guess, so we mostly hugged it out. He kept repeating that he didn’t have the words to tell me how much it meant to him – and to a lot of people, and saying “thank you”. He was definitely making an effort to keep his composure. For some reason that made me feel less like I was going to cry, too. It sounds totally daft; I just immediately felt protective and like I should be comforting him, as if he was the nervous fan and I was the celebrity. He made me feel that way. Like an idiot I’m pretty sure I said “oh, sweetie” at one point (which I can only hope he didn’t hear)(I’m only 6 months older)(At least I didn’t grab his face and tell him he’s “too precious for this world”?).

I think the other things he said were meant for me and it feels wrong to post them. Many fans have retold their stories they told celebrities; but I think this was his story, not mine. I “said” what I had to say to him already, really, and this was what he wanted to tell me. I don’t mean that in a self-centered way, because the things you say to others are often ones you needed to hear aloud. But you should all know that whether you were in Hall H and held a light, or you were across a vast ocean in darkness: Jared felt your love and he’d return it back to you ten thousandfold.

One of the last hugs was the tightest, and for a second I closed my eyes and put my head against his shoulder; which felt like the right thing to do, I think I was tense the other times. You don’t expect to be so close to a guy like that for so long. That hug felt like it could last a thousand moments you were alone and needed one, and I thought of so many other people I felt deserve and need it more than I do. So you come and hug me some time; I’m saving a piece of it for you. I don’t know if Chris said something but then I could tell from the way Jared turned that it was time to take the photo, so I turned sideways too; my hand is in a weird position because he was holding me really tightly and I didn’t know whether to slide my arm out over his.

I don’t think he wanted to be done yet, he was saying he had a thing he wanted to give me and another thing and he’d had to dig around and that he had to go but he wanted to know where I’d be. I told him, and then at one point I believe I said “you have to go do your job” (idiotic thing to say #2) as I was walking away, cause he still hadn’t turned back to his ops. Osric asked if I was okay on the way out. I did have to lean against the wall for a second, due to some uncertainty about the reality of the floor.

Then it was back to the vendor room. Osric stayed for a few minutes talking to fans, which helped. I also made a really inappropriate joke at one point (it was just dangling there!). I felt a lot better with him there in general so I’m grateful he was my safety blanket, as a cast member I’ve been around before and am comfortable with. Then I had to go back to work, and without a moment to myself to let it sink in it didn’t quite seem real. Frankly it seemed like the sort of hallucination I’m always worried I’ll have from sleep deprivation working big cons, and I expected I’d wake up on the floor having passed out from surviving on Goldfish crackers. I took one bathroom break mainly to try and take a few deep breaths and be sure I was awake. It was almost totally dead in the vendor room for quite a while, too, so we screwed around and laughed and took photos with the puppets. I warned my neighbors Jared had said he was coming (they were cool when Misha came in – and nearly put his eye out with their angel blade), but that I was sure they’d never let him come in the vendor room, and his schedule was packed. When somebody does something like that for you, you don’t really expect “but wait – there’s more!” (For only $19.99 plus shipping and handling) (Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back)

After a while I wasn’t expecting him; the adorable little girl at the table on my other side had finally talked her parents into buying her a plush cupcake, and she was an incredibly curious kid who was giving me a real run for my money trying to answer technical questions about plush making in a way a 7 year old (or so) would understand. I was looking down at her, and then someone says, “hey, sorry to interrupt”…I look up to the her dad’s height, but no one’s there; so I go up farther as I realize there had been a big whoosh of motion out of the corner of my eye, and there’s Jared in a big crowd of people. Let it be known that apparently if Jared wants to do something, nothing is going to stop him. I tell him I’m coming out to him, and scuttle out like an awkward teen crab through a small crack between the two tables (how I was getting in and out most of the weekend).

I’m told there’s video of this, but I haven’t watched it. I don’t like watching myself; my career as a Vine star is doomed. Jared tells me he knows I didn’t want to be singled out, but that he brought me something. This is where I found out that TV writers have highly honed spy skills, and one was complicit *shakes fist lovingly at responsible party*. Jared says he dug all around to find the crew gift from Season 8 specifically; he pulls out the paper tag addressed to him in the pocket. Happy Holidays. Then he pulls out the SPN Comic-con bag, and is telling me about it like I wouldn’t know so I say, yeah I traded a bunch of people to get that one, hahah, so he says “is it signed?”; which of course it’s not. I stuffed mine full of candles, actually. He was trying to figure out which signature was which. Then he pulls out the shirt, and tells me he wanted me to have the first one they made. He points to the candle and says, “you made the shirt”. I have no idea what I said.

This was all conducted at some speed, since he had basically moments – I think it was the J2 panel he was off to, I’m not sure. He was sorry but he “had to go”, as if I was more important than a waiting auditorium. A last hug. I’m really not sure speechless covers it. As he was sweeping out of the room with his entourage, I spotted his folks trailing behind out of the corner of my eye and got them to stop so I could duck behind the table and give them one of the candles (don’t get excited, I’m not holding out on everyone; I had a HANDFUL for cast/crew who couldn’t be at SDCC or didn’t get one).

Afterwards some girls actually came over and fangirled me for a bit. Not in a weird way, they were genuinely happy for me and wanted to know how I warranted what was sort of a fandom parting of the Red Sea. After things quieted down fully, and the room emptied again, I did need to sit down for a second.

I now know most of what happened to lead up to this; Sandra was trying to arrange it but having trouble long-distance, so she asked Cortney for help and that’s how Mr. Shatner became involved; he contacted Osric. By the time it got that far, it turned out that Jared already knew I was going to be in DC. I don’t know how he knew for certain, but I suspect a certain writer. I really don’t have trouble separating actors from their characters; but I have this theory that people let actors and characters co-exist like synonyms in their mind; so fundamentally Captain Kirk wanted me to meet Sam Winchester and I still can’t process that. I think that’s probably how folks feel when Bill Murray crashes their wedding, like “I don’t know how or why this is happening but it’s pretty amazing so okay”.

I’ve said all that, but I still don’t know if I’ve said what I need to or what I should, or how I should. You should know about me that I am a backstage person; I was a pathologically shy child, which is something I’ve recovered from but I still have a strong dislike for the spotlight. I had no expectations but to release that idea into the world and let it fly where it would. That’s not a lack of gratitude for the people who put this together, or to Jared. I just don’t think I deserve anything. I don’t believe in things you “deserve”. That’s a dangerous fallacy, to see life as a series of checks and balances. If so, then your happiness is only proportionate to your suffering – as if joy came with a tax – and the universe is compelled to correct to the ordinary, and that’s a dim view. I think it’s not about what you deserve, but what you earn. And if you don’t feel you earned something, then you just work harder to earn it after the fact. If you can earn something, then you should never feel ashamed of what you have, or what you’re given. That work doesn’t ever end.

I’ve thought about the one person who was upset that Jared was singled out by the candle project, and I’m sure that someone will feel the same way about me. But I’d say, when you feel the burden of life’s unfairness (and it is not inherently fair, and often unjust)…no one’s light diminishes the others. All that should happen when one light seems to burn brighter than others is that it drives back darkness from us all. We’re a team. That’s what family is. And for someone in darkness, even the tiniest of lights is a beacon. Believe that you have something to contribute. Believe that you can make a difference, in some small way. Believe that love you give is love you earn. When I was in preschool, I adored the song “love isn’t love until you give it away, you end up having more”. That’s the funny thing about love. Love is perpetual motion. It keeps turning, in a circle so large that you can’t always see it moving. Whether you give love to someone who “deserves” it or someone who doesn’t, it only strengthens you. When you turn away from opportunity to be angry or to hate, you keep the circle unbroken. Keep that wheel turning and eventually it will come back to you.

All I wanted was to keep the wheel turning. Even if you cannot give enough, give what you have to give. If you cannot be fearless, be undaunted. And even if you cannot be victorious, always keep fighting.

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Anne Darkly
Professional geek, plush artist, movie lover, writer trying to get back on the wagon. Or off the wagon. There's wagon involvement. Everyone told me to get a blog, so I did. Yee-haw.
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