Cons (that’s “conventions” to the uninitiated) are not for introverts. This I discovered in January at RustyCon (Seattle). As I discovered this weekend at Norwescon (also Seattle), the key—for me, at least—to having fun at a con is coming out of my shell and making myself interact with people.
I’d done conventions before RustyCon, but I’d spent them sitting behind my table selling my prints and notecards. Not that I have a problem with that. It’s actually where I’d rather be—it gives me something to do all day and puts me in a position where I still get human interaction, but the humans come to me. I don’t have to make any moves besides saying, “Hello,” and talking about my art—which I do anyway.
You see, I’m an introvert who loves people. Call it a contradiction in terms; it’s not. People are easily the most important thing in the world to me—be they my best friends or a stranger walking down the street. Part of it is simply my value system. If you believe that God Himself came down from Heaven and offered His life out of love for people, it’s hard not to place people at the top of the priority list.
But another part of it is that I really do enjoy interacting meaningfully with them. By meaningfully, I don’t mean that every conversation has to delve deeply into truths that knit the universe together. I mean that people are talking about what matters to them and listening to each other; that the conversation is more than just the throwaway questions we feel the need to ask each other at the beginning of a dialogue, and that everyone is enjoying themselves.
A tall order. But a geeky convention is so very much the perfect place to have such conversation. Let’s face it, we’re all there because we have passionate interests. And most of us are wearing those passionate interests on our sleeves—or printed on our fronts—or around our necks—or from head to toe.
But there the Introvert chimes in. The part of me that won’t speak up, that somehow deems myself both above and beneath everyone in the room. That sits, when possible, NOT next to anyone, and that hates initiating conversation with people she doesn’t know. For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong, per se, with her. But she does not have fun at cons.
So there I stood, in line to get my badge at Norwescon last Thursday. The familiar grip-around-the-lungs of the Introvert began clawing at me. There were people behind me I didn’t know and people in front of me I didn’t know. I was about to spend a weekend with people I didn’t know. Why, again, was I doing this? Oh, yeah. Because to hang my art in the art show, I had to buy a membership to the con. And like a good daughter of my mother, I wasn’t going to throw money away. Besides, that hands-on Roman combat workshop on Friday morning sounded awesome.
But I didn’t want another RustyCon. I didn’t want another weekend of self-induced loneliness.
So I made a resolution with myself, then and there. And to solidify that resolution, I turned around, introduced myself to the guy behind me—who turned out to also be a teacher—and we had a lovely, genuine conversation until it was time to sign in.
Turns out, I had a fantastic weekend. I terrified people in the combat workshop. I got some good tips in the art panels. The writing panels encouraged and challenged me. I bought a hat pattern from a steampunk clothing stall. I even sold a little bit of art.
I also sat with strangers at meals, sat with an acquaintance from a previous show during a panel, hung out with yet another teacher on Saturday afternoon, talked with bystanders, and generally forced myself to be sociable. And much to my delight, I enjoyed myself.
I’m also happy to be home by myself right now with my books and my cat and my lesson planning. The Introvert is no enemy of mine. But sometimes, when she threatens to get in the way of a good time, she does need to be shown who’s boss.