Today I moved out of my comfort zone in a big way.
I’m not comfortable talking to people I don’t know, and I don’t much like being in groups of people. Being around people for any length of time drains my energy. I need a lot of time by myself. I get incredibly nervous before any type of social gathering and have been known to refuse invitations and avoid events because of my fear of being around too many people I don’t know. I’m a classic introvert.
So when I heard there was going to be a tweetup for Twitter people (tweeps) living in my area to meet each other, I wasn’t really interested and didn’t think I’d go. Sure, it seemed like a lot of the people I chat to on Twitter would be there, but chatting to someone online is a lot different to knowing them in real life.
I know different snippets about the people I follow – their names, where they live, how many kids they have, what sort of work they do, whether they use a Mac or a PC, what TV shows they watch, what they think of current issues – that sort of thing. I know different things about different people. People share information they want to share and leave other stuff private. Just like I do.
But despite knowing a little bit about each person, the thought of walking up to a group of people I’d never met in real life absolutely terrified me. I didn’t *know* these people. I’d never met them. What would I talk about? What if we had nothing in common? What if they wouldn’t talk to me? What if they were smarter or more sophisticated or better travelled than me? What if I started saying stupid things? What if . . . what if . . . ?
I thought about it for ages leading up to today. Part of me was curious. I wanted to put faces to names. I wanted to find out more. Part of me was terrified. I couldn’t do this. I hate meeting new people. I can’t just march up to a group of people I don’t know and introduce myself. I just don’t do that.
My practical self reminded me that, regardless of whether I wanted to go or not, I have a list of jobs around the house longer than my arm that I really need to do. If I keep putting them off I’m never going to do them.
By this morning, I’d talked myself out of going. Too much to do was the official excuse. I even tweeted as much.
But to my great surprise, interest and curiosity won out in the end (plus it was too hot to do any of the yard work we had to do), and I went to the tweetup.
I took juniordwarf because some of the others said they were taking their kids and I thought he’d love the playground. I thought it would be good for him to meet some other kids his own age. And (to be totally honest) I thought it would be easier to meet people with a child in tow.
I’m so glad I went.
I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to many people, because juniordwarf wanted to go straight to the playground. That was fine. It gave me the opportunity to talk to a couple of Mums and a Nanny, all of whom I’d exchanged tweets with fairly regularly. I said hello to some other wonderful people that I’d met on Twitter, even if it was just a quick introduction.
And none of them were scary. And none of them laughed at me. And if they were smarter, or more sophisticated, or better travelled than me, it didn’t matter.
When it all came down to it, we were all people happy to be meeting up with people we knew, but we didn’t know. And some of them might have been just as nervous as I was - I don't know. And that’s something I have to keep reminding myself every time I’m tempted to avoid talking to someone, or to not ask for something – in the end, the person I’m avoiding is just a person, just like me. And the world won’t end if they don’t respond, or I don’t get what I want.
I know, because I have absolutely no ability to recognise faces, that if I see many of the people I met again I won’t recognise them and hope that if they recognise me they won’t think I’m snobbing them if I don’t say hello.
The day has taught me – just like several other things I’ve done recently have taught me – that I am not a shy person. A shy person would not have gone. A shy person would have stayed home and sorted through her clothes cupboard or the
junk room study.
Shy is a label I’ve carried all my life. It’s not a helpful label. It never has been. It’s held me back from doing a lot of things that I might otherwise have done. It’s a label that doesn’t apply to me. It hasn’t applied to me for quite a while now, but I’ve only realised that over the last couple of years.
This was another thing I’ve done to convince myself of that fact.