And I’m home! (I know what poor blogging of me to use ‘And’ at the beginning of a sentence: I live to be rebellious!) But home from where I hear you say? From a staff development event which didn’t just last one day but two! Two days of introvert horror of socialising with the other 400 odd employees at the event.
The fear stated the night, if not the week before, the gut reaching feeling of being a lost soul, witnessing everyone mingling while you’re there on the sidelines trying your damnedest to fit in but failing miserably. The sinking feeling of knowing that you’ll have to have copious (you have no idea how many times I tried spelling this word before getting it right!) amounts of small talk. Wondering if the conversations would fall flat on their face once you’ve reeled off your backlog of “general questions to ask strangers” which of course includes the weather!
I think, however, the worst thing that happens to me in conferences is what I call social deafness where you’re in a crowded room, everyone is chatting away, the room is full of noise, so much so that you switch off, like a computer that’s just had a power surge. The person next to you might be talking to you, but it doesn’t matter how loudly they speak, I still won’t be able to hear them. I usually go on autopilot, hoping I’m nodding and smiling in the right places while trying my hardest to read their lips. I’m not deaf; I can hear perfectly fine when I’m not in this setting, that’s why I think it’s linked to my introversion, overstimulation sending my brain into meltdown. I guess the easiest way to describe it is as a fuzzy TV, plenty of noise but nothing of significance coming through.
Day 1: What have I said yes to?
The event kicked off at noon on Monday, the location? Cardiff (why is it never in North Wales?) So naturally I had to travel down from North Wales to South Wales on Monday morning. I can’t complain though, because luckily for my manager and me we had a meeting to attend to before the event started (I’ve never been so grateful to have a meeting before in my life), therefore had to catch the flight from Anglesey to Cardiff. My poor colleagues had to wake up before the crack of dawn to hop on a coach for a 6-hour journey along the A470 (possibly the least loved road in Wales!) to get to the Capital of Wales. While my flight only lasted 50 minutes – with complimentary drinks and snacks on the plane too (now I’m just bragging).
The event started with lunch of sandwiches and cake (because all events should kick off with food is you ask me!) with a chance to network with other people. Of course, what happened is that everyone huddled together, in their usual groups, without much interest in mixing with the other 400 odd people at the event (much to my relief). One of my Instagram followers, however, which I had no idea worked in the same organisation as me (he works in South Wales, I work in North Wales), came over to say hey, which brightened my day!
Then the speakers came on; it was all fun and games until the fourth speaker came on. We had a quiz (I don’t think I’ll go on The Chase anytime soon!), we blew up balloons (okay I didn’t, I’m allergic to latex – the balloons were latex in case you’re wondering what kind of event this was).
But then this woman came on. I think the best way to describe this person is a hyperactive extrovert that patronises anyone who wasn’t as social or as loud for that matter, as she was. Don’t get me wrong, I love extroverts, and I don’t think anyone is 100% introvert or extrovert, its fluid. But the way she was shaming people and her passive-aggressive approach of “I’m not going to tell you what to do, it’s up to you if you want to be miserable and not join in.” Now you might think she has a point, but wait till you hear what we had to do (remember this was a works event, not a child’s birthday party). She told us to all stand up, wave our hands in the air, and then run on the spot. Some people didn’t join in the first round, so she shamed them and made us do it all again. I was pretty annoyed with the whole fiasco, and this was meant to gear you up for the rest of the event, I frankly wanted to disappear under the table.
The next 10-15 minutes consisted of finding two interesting facts about a person three tables down, Irish dancing, and standing on stage for no particular reason, basically an introverts version of hell.
Thankfully my manager and I had to leave early because of another meeting; I think I would have gone into an introverts coma if I stayed until 5:30!
There was, of course, an evening event. Still, following the horrors of the afternoon antics, I gave it a pass and delved into my work instead (I didn’t feel guilty about it either, which I usually do).
Day 2: Can I go home yet?
The second day started at an earlier time of 9:15; we again had some speakers on to welcome us. This time we had a man talking about how he made it through life, using other people’s negativity to drive him forward. If I’m honest, it was inspiring to hear him speak, and he added a touch a humour which everyone appreciated — a completely different tone to the previous day.
We then went and did some craft workshops (we had a choice of either, crafts, walking tour, yoga or mindfulness so of course, I chose crafts), I threw a pot and made a wreath – my wreath is tiny, and my pot had a hole at the bottom thanks to me being too eagre, but hey imperfection is a beauty! My only concern was transporting these back home on the plane. Luckily I had room to stuff my wreath in my hold luggage (thank goodness!) and carried my wee fragile, still wet pot through security and on to the plane.
The sessions lasted 2 hours, and if I’m honest did drag a bit by the end (there’s only so many branches and berries you can wrap around some willow twigs), we were all starving by the time the 12:30 closing speech came and we all quickly rushed to get some grub before we passed out. The taxi man was probably oblivious to how excited I was to see him pull up to take us back to the airport at 1pm, signalling the end of the event (and a massive sigh of relief escaped my lips).
There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.
After all that you could say I was glad to get home and sleep in my own bed. I think the second day was a lot more enjoyable than the first, the woman shouting and belittling us – I think her voice will stay with me forever (don’t you wish you could delete some memories like a picture from a camera). The event itself wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be (it usually isn’t). Although I would have preferred to be doing work in my office, at least my name got ticked off to say I wasn’t a party pooper (like usual) and attended, albeit not all of the event.
And my social deafness? It wasn’t too bad; I only had it at one point when I was eating lunch on the second day. A kind fellow next to me was trying to talk to me, but half the time I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Maybe I need to invest in some noise-reducing earplugs that festival-goers wear (now that’s an idea!)