Recently I went to my first big writers’ conference. A really big meet-up! It was in a magnificent hotel. When I entered the hotel lobby, I was spellbound by the lavish decor. And a pang of guilt enveloped me-The guilt of splurging on this luxuriousness!
So, when I went to check-in, I requested the lady at the front desk to give me a small room, provided it reduces the damage to my wallet. The lady looked at me as if I was eccentric, and said,
“The room price for the conference attendee is fixed, and this is all I can do!” And she handed me the room keys.
I took the keys and entered the elevator. When I looked for my floor, I realized that my room was on the top-most level. Probably, the hotel has small rooms on the top floor, was my thought.
With my mind consumed by guilt and first-time attendee anxiousness, I swiped my key and entered the hotel room.
The room was expansive! It had a king bed in the center, a couch on the side, panoramic windows, big cupboards, refrigerator and the usual utilities. I could have very well slept comfortably on the couch. The big bed seemed redundant at that time!
I drew the window curtains and looked down. I was Gulliver in the land of Lilliput! The swimming pool looked like a tiny blue splash pad with balls popping up and down, and the cars on the road were dinky too.
As I gradually embraced the extraordinary situation I was in, my guilt subsided, and I was joyous. I felt like a child who’d asked to taste the ice-cream but was handed the entire bucket.
The conference was the next morning, and with nothing else to do, I started following the event on social media. I saw an invite from a veteran attendee to come and say hi in the lobby. Nervous to the core, but eager to make the most of this event, I accepted the invite. And, it turned out to be the best decision ever! I met some lovely industry people and thus began my networking journey.
The next morning, I attended the orientation, and then the sessions after it. I looked around. It seemed everybody knew what they were doing and had somebody to talk to, while I was alone. It was not the best feeling!
With my heart jumping like thousand tadpoles in the swamp, and business cards stuffed in a pocket, I toted a brave face (or so I thought) throughout the conference. I did not have a buddy saving a seat for luncheons or meetings. I had the freedom to sit next to any stranger I wanted to, and I learned to enjoy it. Even though reaching out to unknown faces, and introducing myself was way out of my comfort zone, I made an effort to show up.
Once I got past my inhibitions, I truly experienced the freedom of being alone- Intimidating at the start, nonetheless so empowering. I was me! There was no one judging me, no past followed me, and I had come with no big expectations. I felt liberated!
My experience at this writers’ conference was equivalent to reading a good book. The beginning hooked me right into it. The middle was action-packed with some dark moments when I felt lost. I as the main protagonist had to gather myself and continue my journey until the event’s ending which was immensely satisfying with ample of takeaways.