The global pandemic had significant impacts, but isolation was not one of them for me. Working from home for over 20 years, being alone in a small space is just another day at the office.
However, the pandemic did affect me outside of work. I haven’t attended an in-person industry event in a few years, and I suspect many of you have faced a similar fate.
But that is about to change. I have plans to attend WordCamp US this summer, and while it is an exciting event, it also brings some apprehension for this grumpy and introverted designer.
I wonder how I will cope with the crowds and small talk. Will I feel overwhelmed? Will I be able to find my way home afterward? These are the questions that occupy my mind.
To prepare for this experience, I need a plan. And perhaps sharing it can help others who feel the same way. Maybe we can reenter society together!
Coming Together After Being Pulled Apart
I don’t attend many events, even before the pandemic. My lifestyle and freelance work make it challenging to travel frequently. However, I usually made it to one or two WordCamp events each year, which provided a balance between socialization and isolation.
The pandemic disrupted this balance, taking away the ability to connect in person and learn in a laid-back setting. Virtual events didn’t provide the escape I needed, so the return of occasional road trips is welcomed as a healthy distraction from my everyday routine.
A Tale of Two Extremes
WordCamp US will be my first “flagship” event. Previously, I stuck to local and regional gatherings, which offered familiarity and the chance to see familiar faces each year – a big bonus for introverts like me.
Unfortunately, these smaller events haven’t returned to my area due to the pandemic’s negative impact. This year’s WordCamp US is within a few hours’ drive, so I decided to embrace the opportunity and make a long weekend of it.
However, this also means stepping out of my comfort zone. The number of attendees will be significantly larger than what I’m used to, and I’ll be meeting dozens of online friends in person for the first time. It’s like a science experiment, releasing a web designer from relative captivity into the unknown.
Preparing for the Onslaught of Socialization
So, how does one prepare for a return to in-person events? Maybe treating it like the Olympics and training is a good approach. Here are a few ideas to deal with overwhelming feelings:
1. Don’t Try To Plan Every Moment: Having specific goals is important, but remaining flexible is equally crucial. A rigid plan can cause unnecessary worry and prevent you from fully enjoying conversations and experiences. Have a general outline but go with the flow.
2. Have an Escape Route: Socializing can be exhausting for introverts, so finding solitude is essential. Identify quiet spots where you can take a break and recharge, whether it’s your hotel room or a brief walk outside. Taking time for yourself will help you navigate the crowds.
3. Realize That You’re Not Alone: Sensory overload is common during events, especially for those accustomed to a more subdued environment. Remember that others may feel the same way. Seek support from friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. Making connections is one of the reasons you’re attending, so take advantage of the opportunity.
Just a Designer Stepping Out Into the World
When it comes to attending events, I’ve noticed a pattern in my behavior: excitement, registration, panic and regret, showing up anyway, and ultimately benefiting from the experience. Overcoming the fear of attending is always a challenge, but things tend to improve once you embrace it.
Getting out of the office is healthy, even if it feels frightening. Sometimes that fear can be a great motivator. If you’re in a similar situation, don’t be too hard on yourself. If this grumpy designer can do it, so can you!