The International Literacy Association (ILA) was in many ways the typical conference with the normal pitfalls (hotel snafus & erudite professors with horrible presentation skills) and highlights (stirring speeches & lightning-bolt moments of insight and purpose). What was atypical—aside from the fact that the conference swag was not paperclips but free books—was that I knew that this weekend would be a particular challenge for me and my fibromyalgia symptoms.
My energy was already depleted from the ups and downs and general chaos of becoming new foster parents. Moreover, traveling can be exhausting to people who do not have chronic illnesses. I do. Because I started my conference travel on empty, I spent all but one delightful evening in a large king-sized bed on the 15th floor when I was not in sessions or meandering through the exhibits looking for educational materials and scoring free books personally autographed by the authors (squee!). I took more pain-related pills than I normally do, and I was horribly impatient when presenters put together low-quality sessions.
Still, Boston is an impressive city—even if I did not see as much of it as I’d have liked, had to cancel visits with friends, and made zilch project on my overdue writing assignment. (I wrote this blog post on the plane). Even if the fatigue and the pain kept me confined to a hotel bed, being literate means that nothing can truly confine me so long as I have a good book and the time to savor it. And that literacy, after all, was the point of attending ILA in Boston.
The conference swag was an unexpected perk, and I know a little girl who was pretty excited that we had new books to read together.