I have been putting off writing this last segment of the trip because 1. it starts emotionally, again, and 2. getting to the end of writing my LeakyCon blogs almost feels like saying goodbye a second time. But life presses on regardless, so… I got up early on Saturday morning (after an incredibly late night) so I could go to the panel that Esther Earl's parents were hosting. I sat next to Lauren and Matt (with Eia by my other side) and found myself on the verge of tears for the next hour as her parents spoke about the events of their daughter's death and how nerdfighters and YouTube helped. They talked about how she got to go to the first LeakyCon and how her dad is writing a book about her life and the impact the internet had on her condition. They read little excerpts from her diary, told funny anecdotes, and said sad things as well. I held Lauren's hand for a lot of it.
It's a strange situation, because I never personally met Esther. I never really spoke to her either, though since her death I've noticed she did comment on my Facebook on more than one occasion. But more importantly, what I didn't know is what a big fiveawesomegirls fan she was. And how a lot of her core group of friends, Catitude, met BECAUSE of fiveawesomegirls. It was pretty powerful and crippling at the same time, seeing these wonderful people that are so close that lost someone so special to them, knowing I indirectly had a hand in them meeting in the first place. I really had no idea. None of the fiveawesomegirls did. We were just making videos, being ourselves, often complaining about how much work it was - but we had literally no idea what we were actually doing. I don't think the full gravity of our project really hit me until I sat in that room with all of Esther's friends and family.
It made me really think about the people who, in turn, inspired ME. Strangely enough, two of my biggest inspirations were in that room with me that day as well. After hugging Lauren and Matt and Eia and various members of Catitude, I bee-lined my way back to hug both Hank Green and Paul DeGeorge, and made sure to tell both of them how much I owe them for the things I'VE accomplished in the last few years. If it wasn't for Harry and the Potters, I would have never started a wizard rock band and met all my best friends, and if it wasn't for wizard rock - I never would have joined YouTube. Hank was the first person to watch a video of mine and really see something there, and I am thankful every day of that first Project 4 Awesome in 2007 when he included my video in one of the emails he sent out for nerdfighters to promote. I think about that day every time I make a video, honestly.
Anyway, the whole event was a vastly personal emotional experience so I wont go in to extreme detail, but I can say that other conference-goers were pretty confused when the doors opened afterward and a whole room full of crying people spilled out. We just stood there for awhile, laugh-crying, hugging each other and really appreciating the time we have with the people we love.
It was hard to know what to do after something like that, but luckily Eia and I ran into Ariana and Sam and Elizabeth who were waiting in line for the keynote with Evanna Lynch, Scarlett Byrne, Chris Rankin and all of the kid actors from Deathly Hallows part 2. We got in line with them and before long were back in the main ballroom. This keynote was absolutely adorable. All of the kids were so cute, and I was surprised by how well spoked a few of them were. There were so many quotes from them being tweeted, like about Young Snape's aversion to lemon meringue pie ("…it's so... sweet!") and little Hugo Weasley's tips on acting "Just always have a smile on your face!" Afterward they added Evanna Lynch, Chris Ranking and Scarlett Byrne, which was also fun, but it's hard to top seven adorable children.
We left near the end to go get food and headed over to Jack's Grill with the whole group of girls I'd been spending most of LeakyCon with. There was a lot of goofing around and figuring out logistics for the ball that night, and more importantly, the lunch ended with these delicious passion fruit flavored cheesecake balls. I wish I could have another one right now, actually.
After lunch, even though it was relatively early, most of my friends all went back to their hotel rooms to get ready for the ball. For those who have never been to a Harry Potter conference, the ball is a Big. Deal. It's always the last night of the conference so everyone is on an "I don't ever want to go home" high, and people treat it like prom with how dressed up everyone gets. I love it so much. Eia and I got ready with Kayley and our new friend Abby Larus in our room before heading over to the room of Ariana, Sammy, Sam, Rosi and Rachael to take pictures and make an entrance at the ball together. Everyone was just in such a good mood and so happy and goofy, and moreover, everyone looked so gorgeous.
Once we got to the ball (with our inconspicuous 'coffee cups') everyone took straight to the dance floor. The music was fun, everyone's hard work on hair and makeup became instantly pointless, and we were all surrounded by everyone we love - it was truly the perfect ending to LeakyCon. For the most part we stayed in the same central location in the heart of the dance floor (save for a quick trip to Jack's for Long Island Iced Teas) until the very end of the ball. At that point we did the (now tradition) sing-a-long to "Total Eclipse of the Heart" not once but twice, onstage with various other Leaky Staffers, Starkid members, wizard rockers and HP cast members. Then they had a hard time getting anyone OFF the stage, which was to be expected.
The dance itself ended all too soon, but knowing most of us were going home the next day, there was no question that the celebration would keep going. We caught wind of a party in someone's suite, so my friends and I headed up there for another hour or two (I've really lost track of the actual course of my night). It was a relatively relaxed party, though for some reason I seem to remember Darren Criss and Evanna Lynch taking pictures in a wicker basket? (maybe I had more to drink than I thought) and I ended up with marker drawings of a pony and Spike the baby dragon on my back courtesy of Frankie Franco and Nick Lang.
The night ended as perfectly as I could have hoped, with myself and all of my female friends in one hotel room sprawled across a king sized bed, just chatting about the week and how we hated that we all had to say goodbye in the morning. Alex joined us at the end for a bit as well, just in time to have to nearly fight a guy who came to our door to tell us we were being too loud, even though I will say that just this one time, we really weren't being loud at all.
Eia and I shuffled back to our own hotel room around 5 AM (a time we were all getting to know quite well) and snuggled in for one last night at the Royal Pacific, knowing our alarms were set much too early for our liking.
This day was hard. The whole morning was kind of a daze as we packed up our things and went to find our friends for the last event of the week. We headed down early for the leaving feast, eager to pile our plates high with bacon, toast, fruit and eggs. Melissa of course made us all teary with her speech, and we sleepily pretended this wasn't the end.
After the leaving feast ended, many of us were reluctant to leave the main ballroom for the last time. We ended up sitting in the chairs in a big circle for another hour or so, just hanging out and talking. After a little while we were joined by Noah, the adorable fiveawesomegirls fan (whose age I'm not positive about but I believe he's under 10) who decided to entertain us for awhile. We took pictures with him and he recited some of his favorite videos from memory, all while trying to convince us to start a new collab channel with him. It was a blast, I love that kid. Just the cutest and most enthusiastic little boy I've ever met.
Finally we had to start saying our goodbyes. This is always the worst part; no matter how many times I say goodbye to these people, it never gets any easier. The ConTour group was the first to leave. I see Alex, Jason and Sarah quite a lot, but saying goodbye to Hayley, Andy, Sarah's sister Rachael -- I hated it. Especially because deep down I knew I should have been leaving with them.
I headed with the rest of my friends to the lobby where were found some comfy chairs to sit in for the last hour before going to the airport. Some of us chatted, some slept, but for the most part everyone was starting to feel the end of LeakyCon really setting in and nobody wanted to talk about it. Thank god most of us had VidCon to look forward to at that point, otherwise this day would have been truly miserable.
Finally we got our bags from the bag check and waited out front of the Royal Pacific for a taxi. While we stood on the curb, the sweetest thing happened. We saw two girls who were a few years younger than us hugging and crying before one of them got in a cab all by herself. We were all touched by how beautiful/sad it was that after the first girl left, we all went up to the second girl and said, "We get it! We get it too!" and we all hugged her. Seeing these complete strangers experiencing the same thing we go through every year at these cons was just so moving, and it made us all realize we're not alone. The girl was kind of taken aback, but she tweeted at us a few minutes later saying being consoled by us on the sidewalk was one of the best things to happen to her all week.
The six of us then got in a van-taxi and headed to the airport. Once we got there and all checked in through our respective gates, we headed STRAIGHT to the Harry Potter gift shop. Haha. Mostly it was just that none of us were quite ready to let go, but it was such a good thing we did stop in there, because we ran into Rohan Gotobed and Ellie Darcey-Alden, the kids who played Young Sirius and Young Lily! We asked them if they would take pictures with us, which they did, and chatted with their parents for a little while (after they too insisted on taking versions of the pictures for themselves, which is just too cute, "now one for mummy!").
We also saw the kids who played Young Snape and Albus Severus running around, but we didn't quite manage to get pictures with them. It was so funny running into them not only at the airport, but at the HP store at the airport. I love that so many of the young Potter actors are just fans themselves.
Before we left, most of us (on a complete whim) bought these photo frames that looked like a Hogwarts trunk that I can't wait to put a picture in from LeakyCon. I'm having a hard time deciding which one, actually. Anyway, we all ate in the airport food court before finally, finally saying goodbye to each other and making our way to our own gates to fly home.
Now I am home from LeakyCon, and have been for a week. It's been an interesting time, decompressing from my adventures in Orlando while preparing myself for another week in LA (I actually leave for the airport in two hours; I really cut it close with finishing this blog post in time). I'm really excited for VidCon, but LeakyCon is a tough act to follow. Luckily most of the same people will be there, plus some more (I'm really, REALLY excited to see a lot of my UK YouTube friends, the ones I haven't seen since last VidCon, or back when I was living in London).
Anyway, it's going to be a fun, fun week and I find of feel like I need it after something like LeakyCon. One more hurrah until I really get home and have to come to terms with my big summer events being over. I don't want to think about that yet - I'm dreading writing those blog posts in another week's time, haha.
Anyway, I should go finish packing and start getting ready to head to the airport. Until next time!
Flights taken: 15
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