This week: Crowd
Hi. My name is Rebekah. I’m an INFJ.
I’m going to lead with that – especially the “I” part, because I’ve had it mentioned to me on more than one occasion that I may appear more social, conversational, and dare I say – extroverted – in print than I am in real life. The “I” in that string – for those not familiar with the ubiquitous Meyers-Briggs personality test – stands for introvert. Contrary to a sometimes popular belief, introverts are not always shy. We often are, but on a very simple level, being an introvert has much more to do with where you draw your energy from: being alone, or being with people.
Crowds stress me out. They suck the life out of me. They do anything but give me energy. And by crowd, I can sometimes mean: company in my home, more than three people – even if I have invited them there. On purpose.
Over the years, I’ve learned to balance this part of my personality. I function just fine in the world – I move in and out of crowded spaces – and unless you really, really (really) know me, you probably won’t notice when I start to fray a little around the edges. But I don’t generally put myself in really crowded spaces, full of new people, with unknown layouts, where lots of surprises can occur – if it all possible.
Except for this past weekend where I did.
A couple of months ago while chatting with friends on Twitter, I threw it out there that we should get our One Word necklaces together for a photo. That led to the discovery that several of them were planning on attending the third annual Faith and Culture Writers conference in Oregon in March. It was really too good of a deal. The price was right and it was close to home. I was in.
And then I realized what “in” was going to mean. I was going to see people. They were going to see me. That’s when I started having a moment of panic. I’d like to be able to say that I’ve moved past the point where appearances mean nothing to me; that I look purely at the inside; that it’s inner beauty that counts. Generally, I think I can say that for anyone else that I meet. I just can’t say that for myself.
It’s an odd paradox – mainly because I don’t acknowledge it or think about it if I can help it. I feel well loved by my God, my family, and my husband. I know I have talents to offer and things that I’m good at. I’m comfortable and confident in who I am as a person. As long as we’re not talking about what I look like. Let’s just not talk about that at all. Ever. *
You don’t look in the mirror and see your inner beauty. You don’t see the things you’re good at. So I don’t see a reflection of a good writer, a designer with a sense of color and space. I don’t see a computer technician who can banish viruses and malware off computers and make people’s lives easier. I don’t see a creative gardener, good cook, or gentle mother. I don’t see anything of these things that I know I am.
I just see a mess. The size I don’t want to be. The face I’m afraid to bring into full view in selfies. The hair that I hate because it’s too thin. The swollen joints and perpetual limp now that chronic disease has set in. There is nothing here that I want to see twice. And I usually convince myself that no one else does either. Never mind that I have kind souls for friends who are so quick, sincere, and adamant to tell me otherwise. I don’t know how to hear them. I just see an ugly mess.
But that’s all I had to take to the conference. Just me. No time for diet, surgery, or a miracle visit from Tim Gunn. So when I walked into the crowded church on Friday night – full to the brim with amazing, interesting people I couldn’t wait to hear and meet – I was both excited and terrified out of my mind. This crowd was supposed to be my tribe. Writers. Faith chasers. Truth tellers. But what if they took one look at me and laughed? What if they turned away and didn’t see me?
In some ways, this past weekend was an exercise in redemption for me. No one in the crowd laughed. No one turned away. Friends I had written with online for over a year-and-a-half saved seats and drifted down staircases to say hello. Warm hugs enveloped me. My Twitter feed exploded with demands of “where are you? I can’t wait to see you?” In one instance – one of my favorite memories – my friend Marcy and I (who, again, had ever met) connected via Twitter in the main room, looked up eagerly scanning for each other, and then raced through the crowded tables to fling ourselves into each other’s arms in a long hug. I need you to hear me say that this happened over, and over, and over again. I got to connect with a speaker and author who had impressed me so much on Friday night – I finally worked up the nerve to say hello. And he chatted with me so freely and generously as though he had all the time in the world. Even the one author that I missed – and had wanted to desperately to see – she sent me a Tweet saying, “I had an eye out for you. Sorry I missed you.” I was seen. From the inside out.
This crowd of creative and fellow writers enveloped me this past weekend. They encouraged me, uplifted me, and inspired me. I made brand new friends, and connected in real life with ones that I had been waiting to meet for months.
Sometimes the crowd can be an exhausting drain. But the right one? The right mix of people, interest, and intention? And it’s like a long, healing soak in a hot spring. I’m not running off to another crowded convention any time soon, but for the right one? You bet I’m going to be there.
Stay tuned for more reflections from the Faith and Culture 2014 Writing Conference
*To be fair and stick with the rules, I need to add this here. I’m trying to be better about timing myself on these writes. So this is where five minutes ended tonight. But this post has been percolating for a while, so I’m gonna keep going. I hope you’ll read the whole thing.
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