I stepped out of my comfort zone this weekend when I attended a Sci-Fi/Fantasy literary convention, by myself. It was an interesting experience. I’m trying to decide if it was interesting – “good” or interesting – “let’s never do that again.”
What some people are surprised to learn about me is that I am a screaming introvert. Many people think that introvert equates to shy, and shy is one thing I’m not. What it does mean is that I need time to process input, and I tend to be energetically drained by being around people – especially in large groups and/or when I don’t know them, or don’t know them well.
I originally was going to meet up with some good friends of mine who were also going to the con and hang with them, but they caught one of the virii that’s running around D/FW right now, and weren’t up to the con. I peripherally knew some other people who were going to be there, but the reality was that if I went, I would be alone most of the event.
Generally, I don’t enjoy going and doing things by myself. In the past, I’ve always had a companion or three (romantic or otherwise) or was doing something with a group I was already comfortable with. So my natural inclination was to just skip the con. Then I thought about the fact that I’m trying to meet new people – including available men – and expand my social circles. In order to do that, I have to be willing to put myself out there and try new things. I had been to this con several years ago and knew the people would be friendly and it was a safe environment. So I decided to go.
I did enjoy the content of the con. I attended a number of panels that were informative and entertaining. I definitely want to go to more cons, as the content is the stuff I enjoy and the people are “my people.” I have started hatching costuming plans as well, which is something I really enjoy and will be a creative outlet for me.
I knew that I’d be a little bit like a fish out of water. I’m not particularly adept at the whole “making new friends” thing. I know how to do social chit-chat with people I don’t know, though that skill has taken a lot of time and effort on my part. Taking it the step further to make a new friend pretty much eludes me. I have had the same group of close friends with some additions and subtractions, for essentially the last decade, so I haven’t really had to exercise that particular social skill. I can never really shake the idea that I’m imposing myself on people, frankly.
Which explains how I ended up attending 5 hours of panels without getting to know anyone well enough to sit together for dinner, and ended up facebooking and pinterest-ing at a table for four in the hotel restaurant. I’ve been meaning to do the solo restaurant thing for a while anyway, since I’m a single gal and I have the notion that it shouldn’t bother me. I’m here to tell you, that is NOT an experience I want to repeat. I know there are people out there who don’t have any issue going to a restaurant solo, but I am not one of them. The entire experience was awkward for me and I felt completely out of place. If I’d not had my tablet so I had something to read, it would have truly been torture.
One surprising thing for me was realizing how much of a buffer my friends and companions have been for me in similar situations. I was not expecting the level of energy drain I experienced going solo. Halfway through Saturday, I felt completely frazzled and would have given anything for a quiet room and a soft bed for an hour or two in order to recharge. (I will from now on, even if I’m going to a local con, make canine care arrangements and book a room.) Sunday was uncomfortable from the get-go, because I kept pushing and pushing to get through Saturday and never really got that recharge time. Past events never stressed me like this, and I think it’s because having people I know with me changes the energy dynamic and makes it less demanding for me.
I am, despite my introversion, a social creature. While I do need my “alone time”, I also need to connect with people. Going out and doing things just isn’t fun for me unless I am with people I enjoy being with. So I think I’m going to have to still make more effort to get out and do things I enjoy and meet new people, but I don’t think it’s worth the stress of doing it by myself. I will just have to find cohorts in crime to accompany me in the future.