Why I Skipped #ShmooCon This Year

A lot of people have asked me why I didn’t go to the ShmooCon security conference in Washington D.C. this year. After all, it is one of my favorite events of the year.

Mood music:

I’ve told some people I sacrificed it so I could spend the travel money on a trip to L.A. to work on a project I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve told others I skipped it so I can go to Black Hat and Defcon in Vegas this summer. Both are true. But there’s also a realization that I can’t be on the road as much as I’ve been in the past because in doing so I miss things at home.

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 (I wrote eight posts in my security blog at this latest conference). 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 last year.

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.

This time, 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.

I’m also fighting a nasty cold, so I’m better off here instead of contaminating everyone in D.C.

Some choices are brutal, especially when you are the type of person that wants it all.

But this time, I feel none of the discomfort I felt last year when I skipped another conference over this. I made the right choice, and I’m grateful for that.

I’ll return to ShmooCon next year.

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