I return from ESRI User Conference, alternately titled "18,000 Introverts in Cargo Shorts". But in a good way.
I get to go to this conference about once every other year. I learn a lot. It's exhausting. It's a pleasant change to not have to explain what I do to people using only little words.
. . .
I know I have to get over it and move with the times, and I am, but not with my characteristic enthusiasm, you know? So come Tuesday evening I was feeling a touch morose about the whole thing. Calling home to check in with the family that night, my husband gets on the phone. "It's 8:00 pm. Why are you in your hotel? You should be out."
"I was out all day."
"You were at sessions all day. Now you should be out. Go talk to people who do what you do. Find a party."
"The party is on Thursday."
"There's a party. There's ten parties, at least. You should be at one."
Wednesday morning first thing I found myself sitting in a cartography session (manipulating digital elevation models for relief representations, if you're into the sort of thing) and suddenly found myself smiling and enthused. Joyous even. This is why I love what I do. It's not the software, which will lurch forward and take unexpected turns and back up a little and then move again. That's what tech does. It's not even my nice neat little lines of code that make the thing run. What I love is the science. It's beautiful.
Wednesday night, I did go out. I met friends. I went to three parties. I had a great time.
So I return. I have pages full of notes with new things to try. I spent a lot of time with experts who helped me figure out how to make my projects work. (ESRI really pulls out all the stops with customer support at these things. It's amazing.) I have piles of stickers and buttons and a week's worth of new t-shirts.
And I have inspiration.
And another note, I also have an award, or part of one. My boss and I entered a couple of maps in the Map Gallery at the conference and one was singled out as Best Analytical Map. We're very excited. (We got a little plaque and everything.) You can read a little about it here, or check out our fancy web map. Or both... :-)