An introvert travels alone to a growth conference, out of state and among 3,800 women. This is my story.
I have wanted to attend a Rise Hollis Co. conference since the first one was announced in Austin 2 years ago. Only 200 women. Only 1.5 hours from my home. This one just wasn’t meant to be. Then came Los Angeles. 800 women but the dates were wrong for what was happening in my life. Minneapolis was announced. 3,800 women! Out of state. No one in my close circle of friends was interested in going. So I made the leap and decided I still wanted to attend.
Hubby was incredibly supportive and said “Go for it”. Not only that, he said, “If you are going to go, buy the VIP ticket. It is not everyday you get to do this.” I was hesitant at first, not sure if the extra $$$ was going to be worth it, but I’m so glad I listened.
I procrastinated everything for this trip. Usually vacations and getaways are fun for me. I plan, research, etc… full of excitement. This trip, I waited until the last weekend to start looking for outfits to wear at the different activities. Fear was the driving factor in my procrastination. I can see that now. I could feel the nerves beginning. All alone in a new city for 3 days.
I arrived very late at night, no time to think about the next day. The first morning, as I walked around the convention center I noticed women everywhere in groups. I wondered where all the women who stated they were coming alone were (a Facebook attendee page had many posts with women commenting on traveling solo). From my view it looked as everyone had a “group” to hang out with.
It was completely intimidating walking around such a large venue with so many women not knowing a single soul. All I could think was I hope I don’t look as scared as I feel. Now I wonder if I looked like a deer in headlights. It didn’t set in right away, though. There were nerves, but I began the first day with a sense of determination.
I began talking to people in lines for registration and the pop up shop. Everyone was very friendly. But we would chat and head in different directions with no connection. The conference begins and no real time to talk as we were busy listening and learning.
Lunch time came and I still had the determination of overcoming this uncomfortable, shy feeling. I walked into the room where they were serving lunch and I looked around at the tables of women already there sitting and laughing with each other as if they were old friends. It was at that moment I could feel my heart about to beat out of my chest, a panic attack looming close.
I picked up my lunch and began to walk to the back where there were empty tables. I could see comfort in the empty table, ready to take out my Kindle and become invisible. Each step I took to the back, I kept thinking I will never overcome this feeling if I don’t actively do something different. I stopped, looked around for a table of people with a few empty chairs. I picked a table and asked if I could join. I picked a table with three sets of women who all came together. Pleasant conversation took place and they each got up to do their own things and I was left alone again.
Feeling slightly dejected I headed out to walk around. I took a couple of pictures but also felt inadequate in the lines (backdrop locations) because everyone seemed to be taking pics in groups and I was the lone solo person. Can we all say “loser” now.
Luckily for me, the auditorium was opening again and I could go in and find a seat. I changed my seat for the p.m. session. I sat there alone for a few minutes before a woman came and sat next to me. I was pretending to be lost on my phone scrolling social media. It was safe. She began doing the same thing. I was acutely aware of our mirrored actions. We sat next to each other for several minutes never saying anything to each other except hello and exchanging names before programming began. All that kept spinning through my head is, “She is an introvert like me!” It was a weird feeling being excited to find another introvert, but never acknowledging it.
A party was held for the VIP ticket holders. I was nervous, but thought it would be better because it was only going to be 200 people. This and I was excited about meeting Rachel Hollis. I dressed, keeping the nerves at bay. When I headed down from my room, I was lucky to find a group of women (obviously extroverts) helping to organize Uber rides to the restaurant. I walked into the restaurant feeling a bit better walking in with a group. That held nicely until I lost them in the crowd. The panic came quickly again. I began walking around to not look out of place, I hadn’t brought my trusty Kindle with me.
As I was walking I spotted the lady I was sitting next to during the p.m. session sitting alone. I approached her and asked if I could join her. We exchanged names and began talking. During the conversation I asked her if she was shy also. Yes, she is. We had a chuckle about it. More women came and sat down and there was not a dull moment.
I wish I could say it got better as the days went by. It did and it didn’t. The tightness in my chest with a looming panic attack was always close by, but I kept it at bay and forced myself out of my comfort zone. I wish I had made better connections, but I know it is my closed, shy, introverted self that hinders me.
I did meet some amazing women though. To all those women who extended a friendly hand I am truly grateful. To the women at the hotel bar where I had ordered my food to go (so I could eat in my room alone), thank you for extending the invitation to join in dinner, drinks and conversation before heading back up to hide in my room. To the women at lunch the last day who welcomed me when I asked if I could join their table to eat. Many laughs were shared talking about our kids antics. To my fellow introvert who loved to travel as much as I do. Travel conversation is always fun. To the ladies I joined for the Shero Dance Party. Your positive, fun energy made the dance a fun activity, not a stress filled downer.
My main reason for wanting to attend this conference was the excitement of being submerged in learning how to continue growing into an unapologetically best version of me. What I learned by being slapped in the face by it was my inherent shy personality has been a big reason I am insecure and many times feel 'less than'. That’s the thing about growth conferences, you think you know what you want to work on and ‘BAM’ epiphany. Growth is a constant journey and you are never too old to begin.