You guys, I’m buzzing.
No, not like that…I’m not on anything. My brain is just FREAKING OUT because I have so many ideas and dreams and plans to get going and I want to do them all RIGHT NOW! I cope with this by making lists and writing everything down and planning it out, but it’s deeply unsatisfying. I think maybe because I know how long things take to get done around here. Between dishes and laundry and regular life, dreams move slowly.
But I’m here to tell you that THIS. IS. HAPPENING.
It occurs to me that perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about. Let me back up.
I’ve been at Imaging USA (the annual conference put on by Professional Photographers of America) for the last couple days. I’m here to tell you that I believe in this organization. There is absolutely no way I’d have gotten to where I am today in terms of photographic skill or business acumen without them. But I digress…
I was able to sit in on six amazing talks and took something useful away from each and every one. But, as my husband Jason pointed out, the real beauty of a conference is getting seeds planted in your mind and then having room to grow them. I drove home for 4 hours, largely in silence as I brain went to work on how to make all this new information work for me.
… Sorry to interrupt this train of thought, but I’ve got to back up even further to a few weeks ago to set the stage.
Jason and I went out to dinner to celebrate our 13 year anniversary. You’d think we’d spend time reminiscing on falling in love, marrying, and making babies, but unfortunately for Jason’s sake, he decided to marry me which means he was stuck at dinner as I discussed my midlife crisis. (Bless him… he does love me so.)
Maybe crisis isn’t exactly the right word, but it’s the closest I’ve got. I am a huge advocate for understanding and accepting yourself, but I’m also an advocate for becoming a better person. It’s a hard balance… to know when to love and accept and when to push beyond what comes naturally. I find myself wanting to do things that my natural tendencies get in the way of. In some ways, I want to be somebody different. Not because I don’t like who I am, but because I have dreams, dangit, and I can’t accomplish them in my current skin.
I think my crisis largely comes down to social awkwardness. Talking with someone new is INCREDIBLY difficult for me. Intellectually I know that it’s no big deal, but my body has a very real reaction that’s hard to control. I’ve managed to identify that the initiation and exit are what hold most of the stress for me. Well, that and I tend to say completely inappropriate things without meaning to. And I offend without meaning to. And I ramble when it gets quiet. A lot. It’s an issue.
This stress is amplified when I meet people who are different than me. Different culture, different socioeconomic status, different “clique”. I hate typing that sentence because I wish it were different and I feel some shame around being that way. But it is what it is, so I have two choices: Stay the way I am or push past it.
… Ok, fast forward… back to imaging USA.
Shawn Lee, one of the speakers I had the privilege of hearing, is one of those guys. You know who I’m talking about. The kind of people who are uber charismatic, exude confidence, and just draw people to them with some sort of super magnet? That’s Shawn. Now, I don’t know if he’s always been that way or if he’s trained himself to be that way… maybe it’s a bit of both. But somehow when he speaks, barriers go down, people relax and engage, and most importantly, he connects with people.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be the kind of person who can make people feel relaxed, but I do know something that Shawn and I have in common… passion and authenticity. Sometimes I’m a little too authentic, if you know what I mean.
I left his talk feeling both jealous and inspired. I want to be that person. Can I be me and that person? I don’t know.
What I do know is that during my two day stay at the Grand Ole’ Opry, I spoke to two people. TWO! And I didn’t initiate either one. It’s not like this is a small conference, either. I had plenty of opportunity. I even wanted to go up and talk to several speakers, but the stress of it keeps my feet pointed out the door. (Remember when you were a kid and the teacher called on you for an answer you didn’t know? That’s what it feels like.)
I also know that I’m DONE. I’m done sitting in the back and being silent. If I want to accomplish my goals, I’m going to have to change. And as soon as I type that, my body goes into major fight or flight mode… the adrenaline is insane. Time to face my fear… hold the spider… jump off the cliff… (pee into the wind and stare down the barrel of a gun for you Friends fans).
One more thing I know about myself… I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. It’s not my best quality, but it is what it is. In this case, I think I can use it to my advantage. This conference, I was nothing. Next conference? I’m all in.
I’m putting this out into the world, because it has a greater chance of success that way. Here’s my plan:
100 selfies with people I’ve never met. I’ll get a t-shirt that says “#100seflies. Hi, my name is Lauren. Can I take a selfie with you? #imagingusa.” I’ll take to social media and post the images and (hopefully) tag the people I meet.
One advantage to this approach is that I have an intro… I have a reason for saying ‘hi.’
Will it still be awkward?
Will I have a heart attack as I try to approach someone?
Will I become known as “that weird selfie girl?”
In my daydreams, this becomes “a thing.” I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t talk to others. The last speaker I heard asked the audience if they had introduced themselves to their neighbor… only a handful of people raised their hand. It’s hard talking to a stranger. I’d love to turn it into #meetyourPPA and help everyone have an excuse to interact.
For the time being, I’ll try it out on myself and we’ll see how it goes. I’ve got a year to prepare (or panic, as the case may be) to come out of the corner and into the selfie spotlight.
Here’s to never being too old to reinvent yourself and chase your dreams.