[WARNING: This is a self-indulgent series of posts in lieu of getting actual help. It’ll probably just be irritating to anyone else]
I went to a writing coference last weekend. I’ve been to a few one-day ones before, but this was the first multi-day one. I’m never sure what I hope to get out of these. Connecting with people who should be the same as me, I think. Finding someone to talk to. Not feeling so isolated.
They’re never satisfactory. Yet I keep going, somehow convincing myself I can make more of an effort to make a connection, that next time things can be different.
Maybe the extended period of this convention let the feeling build up that much more.
Many writers claim to have impostor syndrome, and more than a few of not being the most socially adept. But I saw little of that. Just cliques of people happily talking around me. So either they’re better at hiding it, or not as badly off as I am.
These are mainly social events, and being unable to connect socially means I’m probably not getting what I should from them. There are panels, of course. But in those I’d never be able to ask questions. My mind just freezes up, and any hint of audience participation flip me into panic mode.
I did manage a few conversations on the last day, though only when people spoke to me. I managed polite responses, but felt too reserved. I’m always worried my desperation for connection will make me overshare, so I probably overcompensate by being totally unmemorable.
The night before I’d actually initiated a conversation. I’m not sure when last I did that with someone I didn’t already know. Maybe never.
It was someone with whom I had only a casual acquaintance, from a few exchanged emails. I knew she was there, and had been wondering whether it’d be polite to introduce myself, or politer not to bother her while she was with friends. The anxiety attacks when I considered doing so were almost crippling, leaving me almost in danger of throwing up.
When I saw her alone at the bar later waiting to be served, I somehow, impulsively, managed to go up and introduce myself. I don’t think I said where she’d have known me from, so can’t be sure whether she recognised me.
It passed quickly, without me freezing. Though I have no idea whether I came across as some kind of freak, but that was hopefully just my anxieties. More likely I was instantly forgettable.
With social interactions so infrequent, I find I over-analyse every little thing I may have done wrong. (Should I have offered to buy her drink? Would that have been polite, or too pushy?)
There were, of course, others there I’d have liked to have talked to. But I have trouble talking to people I’ve known for years. I can respond to them, but actually going up to them is another matter entirely. Approaching someone I vaguely knew left me an emotional wreck for the rest of the night, and I achieved little sleep.
It was one small victory over my anxieties, but nowhere near as much as I’d have liked it to be. And I so rarely interact with others that seeing it a first step in anything is ridiculous. It made the enormity of what I’d have to overcome to get anywhere that much more obviously insurmountable.
By the time I got home I was suffering bouts of almost collapsing in tears, and I’m still not entirely sure where they’re coming from. It’s not like staring down at the nihilistic end of everything isn’t a regular sight every time I consider the future.
I think maybe it was just me finally acknowledging reality, and accepting that all the daydreams I have about connecting with anyone are just that.
I’ll always be apart, alone, never having even the illusion of connection.