The first professional conference I ever attended was held by the Texas Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators – there’s a reason we shorten it to TACUSPA (ta-coo-spa). It started on a Sunday night in a rustic resort outside of Wimberley, Texas. The location meant I didn’t have any meal options. There was no room service, nor was there a food service option anywhere near by. Therefore, the only way I was going to get food that night was to go to the opening dinner. And I didn’t want to go. Sitting around eating with a group of complete strangers was not my idea of fun. In fact, it seemed like the worst idea in the world. Instead it was the best thing that could have happened, though I certainly didn”t think so at the time. I had no idea that years later some of the people I met at that conference, starting at dinner, would become some of my dearest friends.
The first time I went to NASPA, it was overwhelming. So many people! Luckily for me, I attended this national conference with my supervisor – who by the way, I met at my second professional conference, TACUSPA’s law conference. If I hadn’t been trailing around after her, I wouldn’t have met a single person at that trip. Because the conference was so big, left to my own devices I would have eaten by myself and gone in and out of sessions without talking to a soul.
I went to a nursing conference in Las Vegas last week and I was back to those early years of entering rooms full of strangers. Some of my reactions are the same, I didn’t go out of my way to meet people in the sessions, though I learned a lot. I skipped the ending gala in favor of a flight home. However I did do something that I would never have imagined doing at any of those early conferences. On Wednesday night I opened the website for last minute tickets to see what show what might be available for Thursday. And that’s how I found myself at Harrah’s watching Donny Osmond perform. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the people sitting near me. But half the fun occurred the night before when I explored the website, chose a show, and then enjoyed the fact that I had done something so completely unplanned and unexpected. However, it was not longer completely out of character. I do better at getting out of my hotel room during conferences and while I rarely just dive in to new experiences, I do wade in much more frequently.
I’m still an introvert and walking into a crowd of strangers still isn’t easy for me, But even if I’d had the choice at the first conference I never would have chosen to go to a show by myself. And I would have missed a fun night. Go to a Las Vegas show by myself? Didn’t fly out there planning it. Wouldn’t have expected it. But, I did that.
Is there something you’ve learned to do that you would never have done in the past? Is there something you’d like to do if you only had the nerve? If so, what are you waiting for? Wouldn’t you like to be able to say, “I did that.”?