It’s been four days, this year’s XOXO festival is over, and I’m fried, tired, wrung out, worn through. It’s knocked me over again; I’m exhausted and off-balance and struggling on a Monday morning to wade through sleep deprivation and emotional hyperextension to do the work that I actually do every normal day.
There’s an impossibility to getting out the far end of XOXO gracefully. The festival, with its density of good will and shared optimism and its surfeit of creative energy, with its intense press of good friends and good strangers into a shared space and common experience, isn’t set up for an easy exit or a casual goodbye. I have to fight it off, scrape my way back to not-XOXO. It’s always a rough morning after.
Because the last day is suffused with that particular heaviness under the joy, the sinking, dragging, unshakeable weight of not being able to forget even during the best moments of a thing that you’re also at the end of it. That the better it is now the worse it is that “now” can’t last. It’s a weight I have to push hard against, with hugs and beer and manic chatter and goofie selfies and uncharacteristic dancing all piled up together in a haphazard attempt to stoke on an unflagging social momentum that’s fundamentally exhausting to me but is the only way I can keep the weight from catching up as the day ends.
But the weight is always there anyway; it’s in the shared tired looks during a sudden lull, in the quiet conversations about what happens next, in the tactical “if I don’t see you before you take off” goodbyes as the evening wears on. It’s there on the face of every other person making the same effort to push hard against it, in the electrical fry under every conversation that might be the last one you have with someone for a while, or ever if you both drop the ball. And there’s so many balls in the air, and so much gravity to go around.
It was a fantastic festival. It was fun and funny and heartbreaking and inspiring; it was a kind of thing that just a couple years ago I didn’t even know was my kind of thing, and now I can’t imagine thinking twice about it and only worry that it might never happen again. It was what it is every time, too much and not enough, and I’m incredibly lucky to have had a chance to be there, and to know so many wonderful people attending and running it.
But it was. Not is. It’s the morning after now, and I’m tired in every way I’m able to be, and the weight is calling in its deferred debt with interest. And even knowing how much good I’m carrying out of these last few days — all the ideas I’m excited about working on, all the stark perspectives festival speakers laid out, all the friendships made and renewed — that weight is still there. And it’s gonna hang on me for a while, and hang heavy.
Originally published at www.joshmillard.com on September 12, 2016.