This past weekend, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Festival of Books is a huge, two-day, annual event held on the campus of USC (University of Southern California).
Years ago, before my son was born, I went to the Festival every year. Back then it was held on the campus of UCLA (University of California Los Angeles.)
I attended the Festival last year for the first time in many years. There was a certain thrill and energy that came with being surrounded by all things book-related, at attending an event that is a true celebration of books and authors.
This year, though, I really wasn’t sure if I should go or not. Because I haven’t been feeling well lately. Because my pain level has been high and my energy level has been low.
That’s the hard part for me — deciding when to push myself and when to hold back and admit that my body needs rest.
The truth was, I really wanted to go. I didn’t want to stay home because I was worried about my pain or the heat. I wanted to prove that I’m still capable of being out in the world, doing things I feel passionately about, not letting my illness completely dictate my life.
I tried to make it as easy and stress-free as possible for myself by not attending any panel discussions or book signings. I didn’t want to have to worry about being in a particular place at a particular time.
I simply strolled around the Festival, wearing my mask and sunhat, and doing my best to be present and enjoy the experience.
I admit — I did start to daydream about what it would be like to be an author with my own exhibition area, selling copies of my memoir. Immediately I thought of giving out small, wrapped candies to those who stopped at my table. (Starburst and Hershey’s Kisses came to mind, though the Kisses might melt in the heat. Jolly Ranchers could be another possibility.)
I walked around, I took pictures, I picked up books, chatted with some authors, and bought three books, even though I have more than a dozen books at home, just waiting for me to read them.
I loved being there. But, (you knew there was a but coming) it was incredibly hard on my body. It took me about 15 minutes to walk from the parking structure to the exhibition area. Plus, I had parked on level 5 which meant I would ordinarily take the elevator down to the ground level. However, eager attendees were crowding onto the elevator each time it stopped at 5, and I will not ride in a super-crowded elevator. (During my teaching years, I once was stuck in the school elevator for 55 minutes one morning.) So I walked down five flights of stairs. (Thankfully when it was time for me to leave, no one else was waiting for the elevator so I rode it up to parking level 5.)
When I felt my speed decreasing, when I found myself searching for a place to sit and rest in the shade, I knew it was time to go. That’s when the mask comes in handy. No one can see me talking to myself as I retraced my steps back to the parking area. One step at a time. Okay, you can do this.
Am I glad I went? Yes.
But I’m also sad. Because I miss the old days, the years I could just go out and do something without weighing all the possible risks. When I didn’t have to worry about having a pain-hangover the day (or days) after a particularly strenuous activity.