I was worried when I married my husband. He was the camping-in-a-snow-cave, interested-in-sky-diving, drive-to-Vegas-for-New-Year’s, sit-in-The-Price-Is-Right-studio-audience type. I was so very not. I was afraid that life with me would be too boring for him. He’s not an adrenaline junkie, but I’m a why-leave-the-house?-I-would-have-to-get-dressed kind of girl. A would-you-call-for-pizza?-I’m-too-shy-to-talk-to-the-pizza-guy kind of girl. Lucky for me, my husband knew that and was okay with that—even with the I-like-everything-about-camping-except-the-whole-“outside”-part girl that I am.
Also lucky for me, after the birth of our son, I was able to work from home. The extra income was nice, and so was the fact that I didn’t have to get dressed, leave the house or overcome my extreme shyness to talk to new people.
With that in mind, I have no idea what came over me that Friday in June. I was reminded left and right that a conference—possibly the most important event of the year in my industry—was only two days away. And I wanted, desperately, to go. I’d planned on buying a conference pass, but a combination of shyness, a reluctance to leave my toddler and frugality won out.
And then my boss announced he had come across an extra pass. It would be free to someone who could go. I was the first to volunteer, but as an employee, I didn’t feel quite right about taking the prize. My boss said he’d wait to see the other responses.
By 9 PM, he informed me that I deserved the conference pass. I now had less than 48 hours to make my travel arrangements, pack and finish all the incidental chores that always pop up before a big trip.
Less than two days later, I stood in line at the table to write my name badge for the opening reception. I, the can’t-we-just-email-and-text-message? girl that I am, was terrified. I’d promised myself and prepped myself to play the outgoing version of me while on this trip. A thousand miles from home, a stranger in a strange land, my first event in the industry—why not pick a new persona?
I got as far as the door before I was practically in tears. I desperately wanted not to cry. I hung around the entrance for a long time, anxiously glancing in at the crowd milling and the band playing. I took a deep breath and then another and forced myself to circulate through the party. I saw three people whom I’d never dreamed of meeting, but the idea of actually talking to them brought on another wave of panic.
I did the only thing that a I-would-go-to-the-party-but-then-I’d-have-to-socialize girl could do: I retreated to the entrance and called my husband. Mostly, it was to repeat to myself aloud the mantra I’d clung to for two days: “I deserve it. My boss said I deserve it. He’s an expert in the industry. He said I deserve to be here.”
Finding no more courage than I had before, I quickly headed back toward the registration table. Besides, I told myself, I needed to add the name of my company to my name tag. I was replacing the name tag when I looked up and saw the very celebrity that my husband had told me to introduce myself to standing just a few feet away. Looking at me. And talking. To. Me.
“I feel like I recognize you,” he said. “Where do I know you from?”
Less than two days later, I stood alone in downtown Seattle, waiting for the bus to the airport. In the intervening hours, I’d met my boss for the first time, taken extensive notes, witnessed a product preview (and let many other people think their premiere hours later was exclusive), and actually gone to two more parties. Yeah, me, the I’m-WAY-too-shy-to-socialize-but-I’ll-say-that-I’ll-go-so-you’ll-stop-telling-me-how-cool-it-will-be girl that I am, went to not one but two more parties.
I had navigated downtown Seattle on foot with confidence (though perhaps not always with accuracy). I had met nearly everyone I’d never dared to dream I’d meet. I was a lone woman in an unfamiliar city, and I’d taken charge and overcome my fears and proven to myself and the world that I was truly a professional in the industry.
I had realized when I confidently strode through the airport upon arriving, that this was a big deal for me. At the end of the trip, I called my husband once again.
I, the copious-note-taking-professional-blogging woman, the I’m-here-on-business woman, the empowered-confident-in-control-seasoned-(but-still-too-shy-to-call-a-cab) traveler I now was, told my husband, “This is the most intrepid thing I’ve ever done.”
And I can’t wait to do it again.