Why I Skipped #ShmooCon — Again

by Bill Brenner on February 16, 2013

Like last year, a lot of people have asked me why I’m not at the ShmooCon security conference in Washington D.C. After all, it is one of my favorite events.

Mood music:


Simply put, it’s too close to the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco the week after next. Being away from home for multiple days for two weeks inside a month is simply more than my family can handle these days. Last year that realization was painful and I felt a deep sense of loss. The folks who attend ShmooCon have become cherished friends and I hate missing opportunities to see them.

But this year I don’t feel the sense of loss. For once thing, I’ll see many friends at RSA. And, this past year I’ve learned a lot about making choices, sticking with what my gut tells me to do and not being all pissy pants about it. I’ve spent a lot of time this year learning to accept that I can’t do everything I want.

Ever since I shook myself free of the fear and anxiety that came with my earlier form of OCD, I’ve had a craving for these journeys, perhaps for the simple reason that I can go through an airport and onto a plane without feeling like nails are being hammered into my intestines.

I think there’s also a high I get from going to a security show and kicking ass with my writing. Writing conference stories used to leave me harried. No more.

But that liberation has come at a cost. Specifically, since the OCD still runs hot from time to time, I have a problem with balancing my professional cravings with life at home.

I started to figure it out at the RSA conference in San Francisco a couple years ago.

Something went very wrong on that trip. Professionally everything was fine. But below the surface a personal crisis was brewing. If you look at my OCD Diary posts from that week, you could see me coming unhinged. I wrote about discomfort I felt as everyone told me what an honest guy I am because I’m not always so honest. In fact, that week a lie was eating away at my conscience.

I came home to a wife who was understandably angry with me. I was also sick as a dog, burning with fever. We worked through it, but it woke me up to the fact that I can’t do it all, 24 hours a day like I sometimes want to.

I needed to find the middle speed, which is hard as hell when you have an obsessive-compulsive mind and an addiction or four to keep in check.

I re-realized that I had to be truer to my top priorities: God, my wife and children. I can’t stop doing all the things I do. My life has evolved this way because, I think, I’m meant to give a part of myself to helping others. At the very least, it’s payment for the second chance God gave me.

But, to use corporate business-speak, I need to do it smarter, and be willing to drop it altogether for family. That’s one of the truly sick things about OCD: You know who and what you should be paying attention to, but the mental pull still drags you to less-important things that seem awfully important at the time.

That’s my blessing and my curse.

Last year, ShmooCon coincided with Duncan’s first confession, a very important event in the life of a young Christian. There was no way I would miss that. Not even for ShmooCon. Being Sean and Duncan’s dad and Erin’s husband comes first.

Next week I’ll take vacation and be with the family. Then I’ll go to RSA, kick some ass and enjoy the company of friends.

I feel pretty good about my strategy.

Meantime, I wish all my friends at ShmooCon a fantastic weekend. Bruce and Heidi Potter always put on an awesome event, and a lot of the talks are video recorded, so I know I’ll still get to lap up the content eventually.

Onward and upward.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gary Hayslip February 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

You made the right choice, the family is your foundation for everything else you do. I have had to do the balancing act myself as I push my career. Good luck buddy.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: