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.