Megan Mann
July 09, 2015 6:00 am

There are plenty of ways to make friends. There’s the traditional route of making friends at school or dance class or in some sort of organized sport. There’s the friends you have because your parents were friends or the friends you find at work. Then there are the less conventional ways of meeting friends: the Internet, which is how I found my best friend, or how I found most of my friends, waiting in lines.

When I was in middle school, I liked this guy and his older sister was smart enough to see my potential and swiped me away. We bonded, watched The O.C. and creeped the Internet. We also went to a lot of shows, where we always wanted to be in front of the crowds (mostly due to our short stature), which meant we needed to wait in line for hours. This, plus my gregarious nature, had me starting conversations with anyone and everyone. Soon we started to see the same people, and after a while decided it was time we all became friends. This was the start of some of the best friendships I could even imagine.

Fast forward to 2010. My friends Emily and Cassandra were talking on Facebook about wanting to go to one of the world’s largest conventions, San Diego Comic-Con (which kicks off this year on July 9). I immediately inserted myself into the conversation and said COUNT ME IN. I WASN’T INVITED, BUT I’M GAME. The farfetched idea seemed realer and realer as the badge sale loomed closer and closer. Finally Emily asked me if I was serious and I said I guess I was and soon plans were underway. Emily and I were going, and would be joined by our friend Michelle and two of Emily’s friends, Pouneh and Lydia.

By the time we had all finally arrived in Los Angeles, we were excited. We had looked up the schedule, picked out the panels we had wanted to see and couldn’t wait to walk the exhibition floor. We picked up our badges and woke up bright and early Thursday morning to make our way to our first panels.

Only that wasn’t how it worked. See, when it comes to Comic-Con, there’s very little in the way of preparing you for it. There’s no rulebook, no guide to tell you what to expect. You’re just supposed to show up and learn the ropes as you go. This is something we didn’t know. We were confused about not getting into the panels we wanted to get into and had no idea we had to line up hours and hours before simply to get into a room like Ballroom 20 and Hall H. We packed snacks, but we didn’t realize that you needed to pack more than that to get through the day. By the time Sunday rolled around, we were shells of ourselves. We looked like we needed a sandwich and a sedative after the past four days. But we knew, no matter how run down we were, that we would be back the following year.

And we were, but this time we were prepared. We counted down the days until badge sale. We picked a hotel closer to the convention center. We packed comfier clothes and battery packs for our phones. We had blankets and food and we understood where each of us stood. We all had our parts and together we made the perfect team:

Emily was the one who kept us together. She brought a binder full of everyone’s flight information, our hotel information, who owed what and where everyone was going to be. Michelle had all of the information. She knew what was going on outside of the convention center, what was going on at NerdHQ (Zachary Levi’s panels for charity) and any cool thing going on.

Meanwhile, Pouneh actually lived in LA, which meant she had the car to drive us down to San Diego.

And I, well — I provided the much needed entertainment. (I said I was gregarious.)

The second year of our Comic-Con shenanigans, and  every year since, have been when I really learned what it meant to be friends with these girls. We spent hours and hours together outside on the concrete talking with our fellow nerds about everything no one else but we understood about Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and Norse mythology. We shared tarps and blankets on dewy grass as we slept huddled next to each other overnight. We made food runs and cell phone runs and had “Can I run to take a shower while you stay in line for us?” moments.

We have seen each other in happy moods and bad moods, when we were hangry and disappointed. We’ve seen each other late at night and early in the morning and all the time in between. We’ve laughed so hard we’ve cried, we’ve worn masks we collected over the four day convention to scare each other awake and even got so delirious once that we all realized math was not our strong suit and had $32 extra when trying to order pizza. We’ve learned a lot about each other and ourselves over the years.

Without Emily, Michelle and Pouneh, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the absolute freedom that comes with San Diego Comic-Con. While we’re all free to be as nerdy as possible in our every day lives and those closest to us know our tendencies and passions, it’s there that we find our kindred spirits. We find those that are just as interested in what we are and who are willing to talk about it at length and in great detail. We learn about the world and history and mythology and people through these conversations. We make friends with those around us. Sometimes just for those few days, sometimes just for the time we’re in line together and sometimes, thanks to social media, for years to come. I learned that being a nerd helps you grow as a person and as a friend. While I’m unapologetically nerdy at all times, it’s there that I can be fully accepted for it and not looked at like a total crazy person with my abundance of enthusiasm.

I learned that if you can sit and sleep next to someone for 15 hours outside and another 8-12 hours inside a panel room without wanting to murder each other, you’re friends for life. I know that I have found three of the most incredible friends who I love spending time with throughout the year and love spending that week or so together every July. I know that these are three girls I will always have fun with and who I can talk to about anything. While I was friends with Emily and Michelle before, I know our yearly excursion has brought us close together and it’s given me a bestie in Pouneh all the way in California. We’ve seen each other in every state and we still love each other.

Thank you, San Diego Comic-Con. You’re exhausting and a lot of work but you have given me three of the most wonderful ladies that I will cherish forever. And thank you, every fandom we’ve been a part of. You have enriched my life and connected me with so many incredible friends.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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