OK so I have been thinking about this post since the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. It is an amazing conference, I always learn so much and it just always seems to add to my herbal practice each and every year. BUT being an introvert it is so hard to be there. The first few years I attended with one of my best friends. It is nice to have just one person I trust, and can talk to. Even when we attended different sessions, I knew we would connect back up after and have time to chat, share what we learned and eat lunch together. I knew that one person was there. If I had not gone with this friend the first few years I am not sure I would be attending alone now.
Attending alone is a different story, each day as I drive up the mountain and the conference gets closer and closer, I can feel my anxiety level rising as well. Not unbearable but I can feel it. I am thinking to myself that there will be two women at the gate, letting cars in, so I will have to talk to them for just a couple of seconds. I will have to register, which is another two or three people I will talk with for just a bit.
I already know the session I want to attend so I bring my own chair (those hard chairs are just so uncomfortable, especially for hours on end), my nice camp chair, and I set up in the back. No, not in the front where I will be front and center, but in the back behind the last row, by myself. It is a great place to be, I can see the speaker, but have no one beside me, it is just me. So when you see that person at the back of the room, with her head down, that is me. I am not "stuck up" I am calming my nerves until the session starts. So many people, all around, I can feel them, the atmosphere just seems to seep into my soul. I really need to work on creating my bubble, so those feeling don't wander in.
I eat alone, I can usually find a nice quiet place where I can eat lunch, and just relax a bit. I walk around the vendor booths, not saying much of anything. I enjoy watching the children put on dancing demos and performances. Beautiful, but the anxiety goes up a bit when the leader says that the children will now travel around to play duck-duck-goose with the audience. OK so yes children have a sense of when someone does not want to interact, whew. They know. So I can just watch and celebrate, on the inside, these wonderful young women.
My anxiety also rises whenever I hear the words "turn to your neighbor". Luckily, that only happened in one session. For the most part the speakers have such wonderful information to get across and only a limited time, so it is generally an intense, jump into things, kind of conference. I hate turning to a stranger and sharing any kind of personal information. But I don't want to insult anyone and say "no". So I go along, and mumble through, thinking of something to say that I hope doesn't sound weird.
I go home each night and just relax, back with my family, feeling easy, things are easy at home, I trust these people. And I decide that the conference is worth the discomfort and I go back again the next day, enjoying all the information I am gathering, hearing such wonderful, knowledgeable speakers, watching other people talk to strangers with ease. But as an introvert this environment is not easy. Hopefully it will get easier with time, not yet, but someday.