It was Friday night, time for the first event planned for Blogger Interactive 2013.
Red and blue lights were flashing as I drove down I35. Traffic was crawling, and I passed three wrecks as I made my way into downtown Austin. Instead of my usual road rage, I felt relief at the delay. Finding parking on a Friday night is never fun, but real 6th street crowds usually don’t show up until 10pm or later and are very unlikely to be there while the sun is still out. I easily found a well-lit lot not too far from the Tequila Bar, parked, and walked up alone, hands shoved into my pockets.
I was fighting an overwhelming urge to flip a U-turn and run Phoebe style back to my car and back to the safety of my pjs, computer screen, and Netflix account. Then I saw some familiar faces. Turning back was no longer an option, and as I recognized several people I’ve come to consider friends over the past two years, I didn’t even want to.
Society Red greeted me warmly with a big hug, and I felt better almost instantly.
Then my awkward set back in as I remembered I’d willingly come here for two hours of small talk, and I am terrible at small talk.
It’s hard to explain what happens to me in social situations like this.
For as long as I can remember, I have been afflicted with a debilitating mix of shyness and introversion. The shyness is more of a physical reaction than anything these days; a cloud settles in over my brain, I get uncomfortable in my own skin and fidgety, and I want to throw up a little. I’m not actively thinking about how others might perceive or judge me, but the same fear that many get right before an important job interview or public speaking overtakes my entire body.
When I’m alone or one-on-one with people, thoughts, comments, jokes, and insights flow freely in swirl of inner monologue that I can reach up, grab, and successfully communicate at will. In blog posts, comment sections, text, email, and message apps, I have almost the same ease with conversation.
But as soon as I’m in a social setting and have to really talk, my brain and mouth disconnect. I’m left with my only moves–smile, nod, laugh, sweat profusely, and throw in an occasional question to keep the other person talking. When I do try to speak, in my mind, it feels like I’m shouting. As people smile and lean in closer, straining to hear me, I realize I’m actually whisper mumbling and will have to repeat whatever I’ve just said–something that is probably insipid and useless. Sometimes, I lose my train of thought completely, and just stop talking mid sentence as my brain searches desperately for an easy phrase like, “Remember that series on body image?” Except it comes out, “Remember that series on…umm…”
“I like TURTLES!”
I sound like I’m already drunk. And then I wish I really was drunk so I could have something to blame it on other than being socially inept.
It is Awesome-LY uncomfortable.
But I am so glad that I went. Maybe my biggest take away from this weekend was that fear and self-doubt are stupid.
They serve no purpose in my life other than keeping my world, my writing, my opportunities, and my connections with people small.
My family was out of town, and I was texting my husband for support, wishing he was around to go with me. I needed a buffer and a designated driver dammit!
I got so down on myself a few times this weekend that I wanted to skip out on the rest of the events.
But I didn’t.
Jen and Becca did a lot of work to put this inaugural event together. It was professional, the speakers were inspiring, it was in my own city which left me no excuses, and supporting my friends will always trump fear and being uncomfortable in my life.
Maybe you think going to something like this doesn’t suit your personality. Maybe you’re afraid that people will be disappointed or bored when they meet you, or that you’ll freeze up, and be awkward, or say something embarrassing.
Maybe you will.
Who cares though?
I’m pretty sure I told Chiara–confident, edgy, and vibrant CEO of the Indie Chicks–in a moment of sheer panic when she asked me what I write about, that I am a mommy blogger, because the only sentence that came to mind and out of my mouth was, “Umm…parenting and my life, I guess.”
Well, crap, should have prepped that elevator pitch a little more, eh?
What I write (and please don’t take the above as disparaging to mommy bloggers, I’m just not sure it’s an accurate description of my blog) might not be a good fit for the Indie Chicks in its current state, but if I want to pitch something to them in the future, I’ve made that connection, and she might even remember who I am and be receptive to an idea that isn’t about boogers.
Everyone who attended expressed in some way, the same fears and discomfort that I was experiencing. And guess what, I thought they were fucking delightful–every last one of them.
For a while now, I’ve felt uninspired and meh about writing and blogging, but after this weekend, I’m excited about it again.
I have new ideas, I’m ready to write, to work hard and learn more, to revamp my blog’s appearance and direction to offer more value to readers, and to get more social and connected within this community again.
Wherever Blogger Interactive 2014 lands next year, I’ll be on board, and hopefully more involved in planning and participating (if they’ll have me that is, just probably not as a keynote speaker).
I’ll be pushing you (yes, especially all my fellow introverts) to join in the fun too.
Trust me, it was worth it.