Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blogher'11 Blues

I was looking forward to the Blogher'11 conference and meeting lots of cool women and going to the famous parties. All the posts and all the chatter about previous conferences conjured up a picture in my head of an incredibly fun inspiring event. I imagined all the women I would talk to and all the things we would have in common. I imagined sitting around a table with several other women sipping drinks and laughing up a storm about who knows what. It was all so wonderful in my head.

I did get to meet lots of cool women. I didn't get to know them very well. All my interactions were short. The boogie woman of social anxiety reared her ugly head. I just knew that all these women were doing me a favor to even deign to converse with me for a few minutes. I couldn't shake the feeling despite my rocket scientist brain telling me it was bull.

Thursday night I really tried hard to pretend I was OK and not anxious in the hopes I could fake it until it no longer felt fake. I managed to get through the People's party and part of the Queerosphere party before throwing in the towel and retreating to my hotel room at the Best Western in Chula Vista. I felt relieved to be out of the crowds but also lonely. I escaped to my Harry Potter book to forget my woes and be entertained. It worked.

The sessions and speakers on Friday went better for me. I felt less fear when there was a topic to be talked about or an expert to be listened to. Its always been easier for me to be social when being social is not the only thing going on.

I decided to skip the Friday night parties as I couldn't face up to the fears. I decided to save that energy for Saturday's parties. I enjoyed the voices of the year speakers and headed back to my motel in the hopes of a hot tub soak. Alas, the hot tub was broken so I settled for a nice long shower and watching some TV. I was alone but not lonely.

Saturday was a struggle at times. I was getting creeped out by how much social anxiety I was feeling at the conference and I started to dwell on that instead of putting energy into making a space for myself where I was comfortable. I started to think what I loser I was. I would search for tables with no one at them and then bury my nose in a book or in my iPad so no one else would join me and I could be alone. Its like someone just turned off my courage faucet and turned on my fear faucet. I did enjoy the speakers and the sessions I went to and giving blood but the interim times were icky.

The Saturday party I chose to go to was the Aiming Low party. I figured it was aiming low so there wouldn't be as much emphasis put on being super social. But I arrived to find out they were playing a sticker game where the sticker says “You are _________” and you fill in the blank and stick it on a stranger. I guess it was a ice breaker sort of thing but to me it was something I just was not wanting to do. As the sticker woman went away, I got rid of my sticker and I sat there sipping my wine alone at a table until two women asked if they could join me. I said sure and talked with them a bit but my mind was a million miles away dealing with this mountain of fear. I felt tears of frustration that at 50 years of age I'm still dealing with this damn fear I have had since I was 5 years old. Before the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks I excused myself and headed to the restroom to let the tears eke out a little. After I had them under control, I hoofed my way through the hotel lobby to the parking lot and dived into my car for more crying. Sigh. It was all so deja vu.

This isn't the first conference that I have gone to with high hopes of tremendous fun so I don't know why I thought Blogher'11 would be any different than the other conferences I have gone to. I'm mystified as to why I still seem to get this urge to go to conferences. I guess I keep hoping that as I get older I'll kick this social anxiety problem and things will be different. The fantasies of what it will be like are just so good that I overlook the past realities. If the conference did one thing for me though, it did inspire me to write this and that is something good.

9 comments:

Marie_Christensen said...

I think I would find the conference over-whelming. I commend you for going, facing your anxiety head on, and making the most of it. It can be tough and I have no idea how I would fair just because you have to put yourself out there to meet people. And I can find that very daunting...

Sometime it's nice just to hide behind the screen an admire everyone from a far :) And Harry Potter sounds like the perfect escape to me!

Victorias_View said...

Ha! In other news I forgot I attempted a blog years ago....And has it set up on Blogger which is connected to google! Chuckle!

Take Care

Victoria

PS Mercury is still in retrograde isn't it?

FireMom said...

I suck at parties and meals. Meals because I'm already cranky and overhungry. Parties because they're so loud and I'm in maintenance mode. I am. Aiming Low was SO crowded and SO hot and I just couldn't breathe. I was just very thankful to have FireDad with me so I could default to talking to him. I know it's a cheap way out sometimes, but it's what I needed to do this year as my back injury makes me feel like a big stupid head when I have to shuffle down the hall after a long day of too much time on my feet. I feel like people are thinking, "What's wrong with HER?" Which they aren't, because they're caught up in their own stuff. But my GAD just goes into overdrive. So my anxiety is up ANYWAY and then all the people and GAH! And I didn't realize who you were one time until you were gone and FAIL. LOL I'm awesome at that.

I had a better time in sessions and in the hall and out and about.

Please know that you weren't alone with your tears and your overwhelm. And please know that if I had met you in a hallway or session, I would have been much more personable. Unless it was the book pitching session, and then I would have been triple-y freaked out. ;)

Neeks said...

So sorry that the conference wasn't a better one for you, I would love to go to one of these some day. That said, I would do just as you did, and hide because honestly, who would want to look at t-h-i-s?

Maybe between now and next year, you can find a person to go with. We are always more courageous in groups, even if that group consists of two. I think that having someone to share the whole experience with might make it a lot less threatening.

Cathy said...

I definitely think I learned two things for if I go to a Blogher'11 conference again:

(1) Definitely bring a buddy who can relate to being socially anxious

(2) Get a room at the hotel so I can have an alone space nearby to refuel with alone time.

Cathy

Cathy said...

I meant plain old Blogher conferences not Blogher'11 conferences. Be sorta hard to go to Blogher'11 again unless I find a time machine to go back when I signed up way back in Sept of 10 :-)

Jennifer Zimdars said...

I can certainly understand your frustrations! BlogHer conference is massive and there are just sooooo many people. It's hard not to feel a little lost and frustrated in all of it.

I am not by nature a very socialable kind of person so when I went last year it wasn't easy for me to integrate into social settings unless I knew someone. I tend to wander off and do my own thing when things get overwhelming which many of those parties do. There were times it felt like a popularity contest. But the core group of people that I knew from BlogHer like Denise, Sassymonkey, Somer, FireMom all helped because I sat with them.

So definitely go with someone next year! Or even get a roommate, that's helpful too! I shared my room with 3 other ladies last year and it was wonderful. We got along awesome!

Emsxiety said...

I like that you tried and that you have plans to try again. You amaze me in a good way!

Winnie said...

I am going for my first time next week. I commend you for going and enjoying the sessions etc. I am glad it has inspired you to write, that is the main thing. I am shy by nature and am going solo, but I am not a partier. I will check them out and see. If I get overwhelmed, I will go to the hotel and read. I always bring a book when I travel solo. Great to have in restaurants etc. Thanks for the post. It has made me prepare.