I went to my first Joint Meetings in 2007; this year was my ninth. Obviously, the way in which I experience JMM has changed dramatically, but I loved it when I first went, and I still love it.
It feels like every year I care more and more about the Joint Meetings as a social event. I went to fewer talks this year than I have any year since 2012 because I spent so much time with other people.
At the end of the day, I can find papers or blog posts that correspond to a lot of the information in sessions, and if nothing else I can email the speaker. But I only get to be surrounded my mathematicians and math students from all around the country (and the world) a couple of times a year, and more and more I want to take advantage of that.
As I talk to more people at JMM, my mathematical community expands. As my mathematical community expands through the rest of the year, the number of people I know and get to see at JMM increases. And so I spend more and more time talking to people, and they introduce me to new people. It’s a positive feedback loop.
The types of talks I go to have changed recently, as well. When I first started going to JMM, I could really only go to talks suitable for a really general audience. A couple of years later, I started going to recreational math sessions and graph theory/combinatorics research sessions. As I’ve taken more math, I’ve started going to talks in sessions focused on PDEs, modeling, and applied math, and I’ve grown more and more comfortable in those sessions (and have gone to more specific ones) each year. JMM always shows me my mathematical growth.
But this year I started going to math ed talks, as well. I’ve been interested for a long time but felt that I would be out of place. I got over that at MathFest this past summer, and I spent a good bit of time in teaching sessions (mostly those about inquiry based learning and teaching discrete math) this year. I’m not in a classroom very often right now. I might not be for a while. But teaching is something I want to do eventually, and I think it’s helpful for me to be thinking about it even now.
So that was my JMM this year: talking to people, math I’ve been comfortable with for years, math I’m newly comfortable with, math that still pushes me a lot, and teaching. It was exciting and edifying and energizing, and that’s what I love about it so much. JMM reminds me of why I do math, why I love math, and with whom I do math.