The Hangover: Thoughts on ISC West

I’ve been working from home full time for a little over a year now. My workspace is a desk in our spare bedroom; my coworkers are my girlfriend (who also works from home) and our dog, Zeus. I don’t have to wax at length about the conveniences of the setup: sleeping in that extra half hour, skipping morning & afternoon rush hour traffic, wearing sweatpants through lunch, tackling minor chores throughout the day so they’re not all piled up after work.

We’re both homebodies anyway, which we leaned into hard during the first months of the pandemic and has since become our new normal. It’s not uncommon for me to realize that it’s been days—maybe a solid week—since I’ve started my car, or worn “real pants,” or left the apartment for anything besides taking the dog out. We’ll occasionally go a week or two without having in-person conversations of any substance with anybody except each other. And I’ve learned the hard way that making small talk with new people is a social skill that you can lose if you’re out of practice.

(My apologies to anyone at the conference who asked me “How’s your day going?” and received a sputtering, nonsensical combination of words in reply.)

This is all to say that my world has shrunk significantly since the pandemic started. And jumping from our quiet, 1,083-square-foot apartment to the double sensory overload of 1) a security conference in 2) Las Vegas was a bigger psychological adjustment in its own right than I had anticipated.

That struggle shines pretty clearly in some of the pieces I wrote last week. One was about getting lost walking from the hotel to the conference; in another, I made sure to mention the overstimulation, intensity and non-stop engagement required at big conferences. As tends to happen when I write honestly, I can’t help but cringe just a little bit re-reading them as published, publicly available pieces instead of aimless musings in a private Word document. In my head, I was commenting on the difficulties involved in re-emerging from isolation. On the page, a little more frustration bleeds through than I’d like.

One of the hardest parts of writing is making sure the idea that’s in your head is the one that makes it onto the page. I’m hoping that I captured some small wisp of the spirit of fellowship among travelers from different parts of the world who crossed paths long enough to share a meal. I hope I conveyed the novelty and unexpected delight of making lengthy, non-work-related conversations with strangers. And as exhausting as constant engagement can become, it really was nice to be reminded that there’s a whole world out there.

And when I got home on Friday night, it was just as nice to trade my business clothes for sweatpants and crawl securely back underneath my rock.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at

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