Monday, May 30, 2016

things i learned about myself at the conference(s)

I love conferences. I have always loved performing. People often say that they enjoy my performances, so I like to think it's time well spent, and, lucky me, getting to do this thing I love! Also, I like people. I enjoy my professional relationships; however, I am a trained extrovert, so it doesn't always come easy. That's what this post is about.

Over the last 2 weeks, I've presented 3 times in 2 different cities. It was a lot of travel, bingewriting and freakout editing, and it was all jammed togeth in a tough schedule. These are not ideal conditions for anyone, but for a trained extrovert on the tail end of some difficult personal losses (both parents, both very recently) and in the midst of career uncertainty, it was extra tough. I learned quite a bit during this tough time. Rather, I re-learned many things about who I am, how I am, and just what I think I'm doing as a social, professional being. Because this is about the learned/re-learned stuff, please know that these lessons have been a long time coming, have a long history, and may have nothing at all to do with these particular conferences and the lovely people in attendance; it's more about me in social/professional life, in general. So, what did I learn?

1.) I learned that I really, really care - a lot - about what I present, and how. I love live performances, and I want to move my audience. I read often the social media posts of colleagues who are "writing it on the plane," and my head explodes. I mean, that is really so nice for you if you can do that, but ME? Impossible. It's true that as a university professor (and actor), I can "think on my feet," but there are limits. Knowing my limits is good. So no shame. No shame if you can't dash off a brilliant performance script. Also, not everyone wants to hear about my process of composing. I too share on social media the nature and status of my projects, but, again, 

 2.) I learned that I have some particularly awkward relationships. When in proximity with the person(s) with whom I experience strained co-existence, silence is my best friend. See, I'm a person who can't stand to think that I've wronged, annoyed, or upset you. I also want to be liked. This sometimes translates into MY DUMB VOICE filling a void between us that really, really, really just wants to be a void. I can do silence. It's not easy because of all that longing and, well, once a hairdresser (see "trained extrovert") ... But yeah, silence. More silence. Because, like weirdly gushing to a celebrity you happen to meet, this strange bleating is never well met. If it's weird, just zip it. 

 3.) I learned that if I am seemingly neglected in some group situation, I am still amazing. I enjoy a cocktail or a meal, even alone; I can step out of the flow (and demands) of embodied sociality for a bit. Chill. And if, in that moment of feeling/being so alone, someone or a small group invites me to their thing, I have learned to give it serious consideration. I may, in some momentary bout of sadness-distancing bravado think, "Sure! Yes! ... Let's do this!" and it may go well, but if I am very deeply troubled by the current state of affairs, I may end up whining rather than being my lovely and amazing self. So, be amazing, alone or with others; if I'm too troubled, solitude is the answer. Hopefully, I can go and be amazing (hint: I can*).

These are just a few of the things I've learned. I think that if I am able to internalize this learning, I will do better socially and professionally. Yes, I'm unhappy to have to re-learn this stuff at all, but when your life throws you around for a while and you're generally untethered due to chance operations that leave you not quite yourself, you will have to re-learn, as well. I'll be here. I want to close with some hip, podcasty-slash-oldtimey radio voice of wisdom, to tell you that you will be okay. I hope I will. I hope you will. And remember:  

1.) Limits are good. 
2.) If it's gonna be weird, just zip it. 
3.) You are amazing. 

* originally drafted with an exclamation point but bonnie.
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