If you are lucky enough to have a dream in life you realize that eventually you must let that dream go. It doesn’t mean that you failed or that the dream failed but that you must move forward from that dream. The hope is that you got to live it, to some degree, and can move on with a feeling of some satisfaction. The truth though is that you never quite fulfill any dream fully because that’s just the nature of dreams.
Perfection does not exist and a dream usually demands perfection, or darn close to it or it wouldn’t be a dream, it’d be a goal.
I will be President.
I will run for President.
You can get darn close to attaining your dream, so close that it’s more than just a goal, but we don’t really get them fully, and that’s OK. If we attained our dreams, then what would we have to strive towards? What would we stretch ourselves towards? Goals are the stepping stones towards dreams and if we keep achieving our goals then we get close to our dreams and can find a way forward from there.
Over my forty-two years I have had a lot of dreams, many which came and went with the wind but some which stuck with me. As an adult my dreams changed, they evolved as I did. I have had two dreams as an adult which stuck with me –
The dream of having a horror convention in Flint, Michigan, my home city.
The dream of owning a performance space and gallery.
Both are attainable and both are ’goalable’, though I slot them in the category of dreams because they are both very distant to the life I lead.
In 2011, as I have talked about time and again, I started a small horror convention here in Flint. Dream achieved? Sorta. As close as you can get, to be honest. Zoom in though and the distance between dream and reality is pretty vast. Dream is to have a horror convention. Reality is the work to do it and the struggles to get there and the disappointment when all of it falls short.
I no more regret dreams that didn’t come together than I do relationships that didn’t last.
Dreams are a part of us, they shape who we are and what we strive towards, and even if we don’t come close to them we can become better people because of them.
With the horror convention it was something I never thought could have happened. To think that we created it with just $800 of seed money is mind-blowing. I was blessed with some friends that believed in me, with some people who believed in what we were doing, and we put it together and created the improbable – a horror convention in Flint, Michigan. Over our six years and five conventions we brought celebrities into our city, we showed films from around the world, we brought vendors and artists in from all around our region, and we did an affordable show that was by fans and for fans and didn’t sell out on that. Best of all was that we raised money for organizations that needed it and deserved it and we never took a dollar of that money for our own uses. We did things the right way and never betrayed our fans. I try not to be prideful but I am proud of that. I am proud of what we achieved. It wasn’t my dream but I think it was better, maybe, because it was real.
But all things pass and all things fade.
With each successive year the hill we had to climb to do the convention got higher. We needed more money to put it on and it required more from us to put it together. It was worth it, it was always worth it, but the longer we existed the harder it became. We changed venues, which seemed like a blessing but became a curse when that venue was essentially given to another entity bent on raising prices and focusing internally. In a city full of non-profits and churches it fell more and more to us to fund a convention that was ready to grow but which we couldn’t afford. We wouldn’t raise the cost for vendors and guests because we knew what we were – a small, one-day convention – and we didn’t want to be another show that bled people for money. My philosophy was always that if the vendors didn’t do well, i.e. make money, then they stop doing our show and let others know not to do our show. Vendors are the backbone of conventions and if you don’t treat them right you will pay. Guests wanted to do our show but without funding we couldn’t and were at a point where I was putting my own money into the show and a simple fact of business it this – if the business cannot sustain itself then it’s no longer a business and is a hobby.
This was a hobby.
And we loved it.
I loved it.
But it was too much.
Dealing with the money, the logistics, the occasional asinine and selfish vendor, the randomly rude guest, the unreasonable fan expectations, dealing with the venue, searching for funding, reaching out to make partnerships, all of it was a weight that grew heavier and heavier and heavier with each year.
After our 2014 show my heart was broken. I had lost a friend that year and had dealt with a memorial project for him that was to culminate at the con and during that same show I had an ex-vendor’s girlfriend calling me to allege we had a bootlegger selling this person’s wares at the show. I absolutely hated that show and the toll it took on me. At the end of the night I had to stay two hours after everyone left as I tried to find ways to secure the space after realizing that the venue’s doors weren’t locking and no one was answering their phones. We had a priceless movie prop in the venue and I didn’t want some drunk college student or curious weirdo to come destroy it. It was a nightmare. We’d lost so much money on what had been our biggest show and the simple fact was that while people came out to the show, we never really had a breakthrough attendance year. We did OK but every year there was an event, or football game, or party, or something else that prevented people from getting to the show. There was also the sheer fact that we had limited resources with which to advertise. Fans loved the concept of what we were doing but most people that followed us never came out. So with diminishing crowds, no real funding, and growing pressures in our day to day lives it was time to re-evaluate things.
I was ready to call it quits.
I loved doing the shows but the stress had gotten to be so great that it outweighed the fun. It was hard finding time to get us all together for meetings let alone to put the show together. We all had jobs, and families, and lives and passions outside of our shows and the weight of the convention became too great. As much fun as things were, the needless stress seemed to grow exponentially, down to people thinking that the Green Room was their personal buffet. We even had the joy of booking a guest that spent most of his day away from the show with some girl he was something-or-other with. We pulled down the tent, took a year to think, and in the fall of 2015 we met and decided we’d try one more show. A smaller, simpler, less expensive show. From the ashes of the Flint Horror Convention came the Monster Marketplace. Another day of low cost, family fun, with more regional guests. It was a step back but we hoped people would still come out. Interest had diminished in the ‘brand’ and by the time the convention came around you could see pretty quickly that we were not going to do very well. We had had to press the venue for three months to let us know if we might be able to grow the show, having a little more money than we expected, and didn’t learn we could until the week before, which kept us from adding vendors or anything else. The venue was so mismanaged that it became a pain just to try to work with them. The contact person was sweet but we always felt we were a burden and this year we had the added bonus of having to deal with dozens of college students wandering around the outside of the con and some inside as they went to a Saturday business class housed in the same facility. During the show we had one of the guests, who we paid and paid for them to have a hotel room for two nights, decide that they were done and pack up, get out of their convention outfit, and wander off to their hotel two and a half hours before the show closed. This after we had planned to have an announcement to honor a milestone for the person. But such is life.
Such are cons.
You are spinning so many plates that you hope that you can keep them spinning while the earth shakes around you.
Our 2016 show as fun but full of more stress than necessary and it was the final sign for me that the time to move on had come. I mourn that decision but know it was the right one. We had a lower turn out than ever before and it just feels like the interest in our shows have passed. We’ll still do smaller horror events but our days of conventions are gone. What makes me saddest is that we did have people that supported us and what we did and we filled a space that is quickly vanishing, and that’s of the small convention. So many shows are super-conventions that are all about the egos of the people behind the scenes and of the brand and not about the fan. Sure, they offer a lot to do and see but at a high price that hurts vendors and fans alike. The super-shows will eat one another and the fans will suffer for it. We need the small shows where you can meet guests and talk to them and learn from them. Where you can make friends and discover things. We need them because like indie horror is the backbone of the genre, indie cons are the backbone of fandom.
I wish things hadn’t come to what they did but it is time to move on.
I am tired and need to focus back on my writing and my books. I have tried to do both and in doing that my books have gotten the short shrift. What comes next I can’t say. As I mentioned, we’ll do other events, but never something so grand as we did before. I am sad to see it go but have no real regrets.
We were blessed.
I was blessed.
I still am.
I made new friends, met amazing people, saw amazing films, and lived as much of a dream as is possible.
Now is a time for rest and to regroup and to see what my heart tells me is next.
Because something will be next.
It’s just a matter of what that will be.
Dreams are never as far away as we imagine, and they are closer than we dare believe and they can drive us, and push us, but they do not chain us, they do not own us, and they do not define us. Dreams change as we do, and once in a while it’s good to let a dream go to move on to the next because if you let a dream define you then it becomes no longer a dream but a burden, and there is little good in that. Little good at all.