Sorry I’ve been MIA. I was in New Orleans at the Mom 2.0 Summit where I spoke about the time I got crabs of the hand from a Japanese sex dungeon. (FYI…when I got back to America I found out that it was just a rash from petting some rabbits but I never actually clarified that in my talk and afterward no one would shake my hand. This is a helpful life-hack for germophobes.)
I only go to one or two conferences a year because it’s too hard with my anxiety disorder but I can usually push through it and come home with a lot of ridiculous, fun stories to write about. This time, however, my anxiety moved to full-scale paralyzing panic and I spent more than half of my time in my room. It was fine because the conference was wonderful and I still got to meets lots of amazing people and spend time with old friends but by the second day of spending 75% of my day locked alone in my room I started to feel like a gigantic failure and I may have cried the ugly cry just a bit. Then my friend Karen called to say “You’ve been missing for days. I’m coming to get you” but when she got there I was all “No, I’m fine. I think I just really need to cry and sleep and I need someone to tell me it’s going to be okay” and then our other friend Maile called Karen and was all “I’m feeling overwhelmed and I just need to cry for no reason at all and for someone to tell me to calm down” and then Karen looked at me and wondered what she did to attract all the crazies to her and she was all “Okay. We’re all three going to my room to have some wine and do a ridiculous photo-shoot with wigs and fake cigarettes and masks.”
And that’s exactly what we did.
And it was perfect.
But here’s the thing… I’m a huge fan of conferences. They are amazing and wonderful and everyone should go to one at least once, but I think what I finally learned this time around is that it’s okay to give yourself permission to stay in your room, or to not go to all the parties, or to skip the conference altogether and just have dinner with an old friend. What I learned is that (for some of us) the best way to enjoy a conference is to not actually go to the conference. And that’s okay. And a few hours later when Karen and Maile got ready for the late night conference party I decided to skip it and slip back to my hotel and order room service again. But for once, I didn’t feel hopeless and I didn’t feel like a failure.
I felt lucky.
PS. I still adore conferences and I will probably always go to Mom 2.0 and Blogher but I think what I learned is that it’s okay to look at a conference as a buffet and you don’t have to eat everything on it. It’s okay to go a party and a few panels and then to give yourself permission to spend the rest of the time relaxing in bed or exploring the city. It’s okay to be alone. It’s just as fun to spend a night in with one friend as it is to be at a fancy party with hundreds. It’s okay to be a conference junkie and go to them all. It’s okay to never go to one. Either way? It’s going to be okay. And that was all I needed to know.