At my very first AHA, years ago, I walked into the lobby and had a full-on panic attack. It was full of historians—generally about 5000 attendand they all looked alike.

Luckily I saw a grad student in my department within about five minutes, and immediately glommed onto him, or who knows what might have happened to me. Or possibly to the people around me. Anyhow—what struck me this year:

Five thousand historians in one place doesn’t panic me anymore.

I’ve normalized it. Oh, sure, I make snarky comments about “infested” and pretend I’m running away. And by Saturday, getting some peace was worth walking the 15-20 minutes from the Marriott to the Hilton, even in heels, rather than taking the shuttle. But I wasn’t bothered enough to actually go out into DC instead of attending panels.

Not only that—to grad students attending their first AHA, I think I might look like one of those well-networked people. I’m certainly greeting a lot of people with hugs and cries of surprise.

It’s all pretty creepy.