I’m happy to report that SIGITE/RIIT 2015 is over. Those who have been following my blog have heard a lot about the SIGITE conferences since in 2013 I was sponsorship co-chair and in 2014 I was program co-chair. This year it was my turn to be conference co-chair, and there’s good news to share. The conference had 155 registrations, which is only two shy of the all-time registration record (curse you, Newark). I haven’t looked at the conference evaluations yet, but we had a lot of positive feedback from attendees. It certainly feels like the conferences were a success.
During the post-mortem meeting I was asked if I had anything to say about the experience. I told them that it was a lot like having a baby: you think it’s a great idea at first, come to realize it was a horrible mistake but only after it’s too late to change anything, and then ultimately end up feeling like it was worth it. While that got a lot of laughs, I suspect no one took me seriously. And there are a lot of things in common between the two experiences.
So I give you the stages of organizing a conference/having a baby. Note that I talk strictly here about my own experience which didn’t involve adoption. I invite those who have adopted children to comment on how things are similar/different from organizing a conference/getting pregnant and giving birth:
- Dreamy excitement: In this stage you first decide that organizing a conference/having a baby would be a great idea. You think about all the conferences/children you’ve known and dream about the things that you’ll do the same or differently with yours. To conclude this stage you agree with whomever is relevant that you will move forward with plans to make it happen.
- It becomes real: During this stage your plans are set. You are named as the conference organizer/get pregnant. Your excitement peaks as you realize your dream is going to come true.
- Dawning nervousness: As conference plans move forward/you begin to get morning sickness, you start to realize that it may be more difficult than you expected. Still, there’s not a lot of work yet, so the excitement from the previous stages endures.
- Things develop: In this stage things start to get uncomfortable. You have to file paperwork, create the registration system, put up the web page, and overall do more things that you were expecting months before the conference takes place. This is like the last trimester of pregnancy in which the positive hormones start to be balanced out by your growing girth. Doing ordinary things like teaching/walking gets more and more difficult, and for the first time you’re looking forward to having it all be over.
- This was a horrible mistake: At some point a month or two before the big day, you begin to think it was a horrible mistake to have agreed to organize a conference/have a baby. You feel uncomfortable and tired and crabby. You have no idea how you’re going to get it all done/get the now-very-large baby out. And yet you know that it’s much too late to change your mind. This doesn’t help the situation.
- Just get it over with: At some point all the suffering pushes you to the point where you’re just ready for it to be over, no matter how horrible the day/days are going to be. Deal with 150+ people for 3 days? Push a 7-pound baby out? Sure! As long as I can go back to being comfortable and having a semblance of a normal life again.
- So tired you can’t think: Congratulations, everyone has arrived for the conference/the baby has been born! You’re happy that the day has finally arrived, and yet you’re so tired that you can barely put one foot in front of the other. You wish you could enjoy things more, and maybe you would if you could get more than a few hours of sleep at a time without someone demanding something from you.
- You can think fondly about the experience: Sometime after it’s all over and you go back to sleeping more than a handful of hours a day, you begin to have some positive memories about what happened. As hard as it was, there were some good things about the experience, and you’re able to remember those. That doesn’t mean that you’d want to do it again, although there are people who organize more than one conference/have more than one child. But you’re just glad you did it the once.