So I go to this amazing conference every year – An Event Apart – and I couldn’t recommend it higher to someone who works in the web world. This is my fifth year attending, and every year I get more out of it. The first year I understood about 20% of what was said… last year was probably the first year I followed over 90% of what was presented. However, last year at the Atlanta conference I felt like I had plateaued… not in terms of what I was learning from speakers, but from the value I was getting as a developer / designer / LEARNER in general. I was standing around the corner from the lobby area where the opening night ‘mixer’ was happening, cowering, hidden, trying to gather the courage to round the corner and talk to people. In fact, at one point I called my husband for a pep talk and actually got teary from fear.
Why did I have this crippling fear? Honestly I couldn’t tell you. It probably had to do with hearing people speak for a whole day about things they’re great at – things they’re acknowledged to be an expert in (yes I know, dangling preposition or whatever-the-fuck, don’t judge my grammar right now I’m vulnerable). The introvert in me (which is dominant) absolutely swallowed the small amount of extrovert that lives deep within, and while I did force myself to walk up to a group of people in a circle, introduce myself and ask a few questions, I really didn’t get anything out of my interaction with these great people because I was so shut down.
This year, what with becoming a mother and all that comes with that (omg no sleep), I have literally been a hobbit. I was worried about this year’s conference, thinking I would be in my shell again, but something really clicked this year with me and my extrovert is READY TO PAAARTAAAAAY. Last night after I arrived in DC, I went on a DC at Dusk tour, and was fortunate enough to be on the same tour bus as the two conference organizers(gods), Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer. I have so much respect for these two guys – not because of their tenure in the industry (that creates a certain sense of awe, certainly) – but for who they are as people. I don’t know them personally, or well, but from my interactions with them over the past few years, it seems like they are both very down to Earth, kind, gentle, and their senses of humor give me the warm fuzzies. I got to interact with them casually quite a bit yesterday, and their friendliness gave me the confidence to say ‘Hi’ to everyone I encountered this morning at the conference and have genuinely felt comfortable and like at the end of this conference I will have not only learned from speakers but will have expanded my network of FRIENDS in the industry, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time.
I can’t express how valuable this is and how much I as an introvert have struggled with it. Connecting with people in the industry is hard for me – at first I thought I had to do it by asking them a question with buzzwords to see if they thought I knew what the fuck I was talking about or was ‘cool enough to hang’ – but this year I’m finding it easier than ever. I think this primarily happened because I give less fucks than ever before (in terms of being cool or accepted) and am just so tired of trying that I’m being myself – which turns out is a really chill, thoughtful, funny person (or so the voices in my head tell me).
Anyway, I’m looking forward to this conference and have high hopes for not only growing as a professional in terms of skill and knowledge, but also leaving with a few newly made connections that will greatly increase my value as a professional in the industry. And hey, hopefully they’ll become actual real-life friends as time goes on. Now for the talks!