What is the measure of connection?
Right now, laying in my bed alone in my hotel room, keys clacking mercilessly on my laptop as I try to get every last thought out of my head that has built up from a day of amazing workshops, connections, discussions, deconstructions, introductions, and life-changing work on a massive scale I feel so much more connected to every single person here at this conference than I do when I’m with them in the room.
It’s strange. It’s like I’m with them at the dance as I type this, jumping, bumping, grinding, singing myself hoarse to the music while I keep my eyes closed in an ecstatic synergy of music, energy, and movement.
But I’m not.
I’m alone in my room, relatively quiet in order to decompress from the massive buildup from the day. I’m doing the work that I need to do to not only maximize my experience tomorrow for this too-short conference, but to maximize my impact on others as well. This is something that I know others have difficulty grasping. Indeed, friends will tell me that they don’t get it point blank. They don’t understand why my maybe is actually a maybe. Don’t I enjoy going out, being with people, having new experiences? What do I gain from staying at home, writing on the internet about who and what and why I am?
And it isn’t something that I can readily quantify, that I can readily answer. As you know by now, dear reader, this experiment for the diary of an introvert was focused around coming to grips with what that looks like in my life and in how I interact within the lives of others. While I can communicate that here… how do I do so in person?
I have trouble making, supporting and growing authentic interpersonal connections. I connect with people but these are brief, pointed, and superficial connections. From those who hunt me down with glee to thank me for my talk (whom I thank with every fiber of my being), to the person who asked me tonight “are you a hugger?” (yes!) before asking me for a hug as a thank you, to the feedback forms I got on my talk “Best. Talk. Ever.” “Exactly what I needed.” “This went over my head” “Why not move this slide to there” “Such wow. Much beautiful” etc. etc. etc. and the people who continue their search for understanding and knowledge and ask me questions or pick my brain… I feel connected to each of them deeply. But what’s a deep connection to and for me, I fear, is really skin-deep or, should I say, conference deep.
Coming to a conference alone has been a really eye-opening experience in that regard. Being alone (which is generally my preferred way of being) means that I have only myself to bounce my ideas off of, that I can’t co-create experiences with others by purposefully planning our schedules, that I can’t put theory into praxis from a lot of these presentations, that I can actively engage with the material, yet, because for me that takes a certain aspect of discussion around it. In short, being alone is limiting.
But limiting is comfortable for me. I recognize that and, despite desires to “step up” and out of my comfort zone I don’t. I don’t really pointedly know how. On one hand I could say age is a factor but that’d be a lie. The average age this year at this conference actually seems to hover around my own which is tremendous to me. I could say that the busy nature of the day makes it difficult but I would be fibbing. The connections that I’ve made and people that I’ve spoken with DO endure across sessions and I have a few ongoing conversations so far that I fully intend on continuing in the next ten-minute interval that I see the person.
What it comes down to, of course, is accepting those limits because I want to.
It’s hard to say that. It’s hard to articulate that. I don’t want to grow. I don’t want to change. It’s something that I know I should do, could do, I even know (abstractly at least) the steps it would take to enact that change but I still don’t because I don’t want it bad enough. Indeed, I don’t want it at all.
Looking at myself and my life and putting that into context makes me feel squeamish. Between school, work, my trip planning to Israel, my PhD searches for the year afterward I am truly conflicted. All of these avenues focus on leadership with an emphasis on personal and professional growth.
And how do I account for that? I don’t know the answer to that, dear reader, and maybe I never will. But only by trying will I ever get close.
Until then I suppose I will stay the untouched public face, the unlovable person who is a lovable figure, the educator and rarely the student. Alone and in a crowd.
Connected but not.
NOTE: Obviously I have yet to come out with Episode Seven. I’ve, er, clearly become quite loose about the times and dates that I’ll get these out. Eventually I’ll finish seven. It’s just a weird topic for me.