One of the most common questions I get is, “Will you be at GRL this year?”
For the last couple years, my answer has been the same, “I don’t think so. I can’t really do cons.” In the last six months, I’ve tacked on, “Never say never, though.”
While most of the people who’ve been around my blog/social media presence for a bit will assume that’s because of the fictional identity issue, it’s not. Some of you know I have pretty significant anxiety. There was a blog post that I floated talking about my inability to retain friendships without spazzing out (though there are a tenacious few who have managed to like being my friend despite my complete ineptitude, and I love them fiercely) and how meeting new people is one of the scariest things I can imagine. That blog post was live for about six hours before my addled brain said enough and I had to pull it down. My fleshy underbelly was too exposed. So I’mma try to get through the rest of this post without getting too emo so I can leave it up.
I want to go to cons. I see you guys all having fun, the facebook updates squeeing about having met this favorite author or that awesome internet friend, all the bookporn, and Edmond Manning, and I want a little piece of that. (Well, I don’t want a piece of Edmond Manning himself, because who knows when his expiration date is and I’d probably get food poisoning, but maybe a piece of his attention? Hell yeah.) But the truth is this:
It fucking terrifies me.
It’s not that I don’t want to meet readers.
It’s the noise.
It’s not that I don’t want to meet other authors.
It’s the unknown setting.
It’s not that I think the information from panels and such isn’t worthwhile.
It’s the crowds. No matter how friendly, I have major problems with crowds. And hugging. OMG I cannot hug you no matter how much I like you, unless in that moment, I feel it will be okay. But I won’t know until I’m there. Hugs are too much.
It’s not that I don’t want to stand side by side with the people I’ve come to care about and take pictures or mug funny faces for the camera.
It’s the idea of my face going online and it freaks my fucking shit out so hard I feel the need to go fetal in a dark corner and rock a little.
That’s not hyperbole. I really think about my picture being posted online and want to curl in a ball in a corner of a dark room.
My anxiety is crippling.
The only reason I can work outside my home at all is because everyone around me has assigned seating. I joke about hating my cubicle at work, but it’s my space and no one invades it without my permission. Cube = hamsterball. Anything else where there are a lot of people? Nope. I skip if I can, and if I can’t, I hide out in a bathroom more than I should. I can handle errands to the store and such because I have a cart to wield like a shield. And people have assigned roles. Shopper. Checker. Shelf stockers. I can plaster on a smile and speak to strangers without much trouble because we all keep to our roles.
But I’ve done a lot of thinking the last couple weeks. I know GRL is in San Diego next year. I am also well aware that I probably can’t gear up by then to go, no matter how much I want to. The thing that makes me the angriest is the anxiety is winning when it comes to this subject. This is my dream job, goddammit, and I’m missing out on part of it because I’m so twisted up about stupid stuff. I hate it. I hate anxiety so much. SDLKAHOERGHQOHR(key smash)
What am I gonna do about it? I’m going to overcome it. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not even next year. But I’m taking steps. I just want you guys to know, I am taking steps. There’s another con. Smaller. It has a policy about whose photos you can and can’t post online. And because of its location, I can make the trip part of a bigger trip with an entirely different focus than conference! Crowds! Unknown setting! Also, the attendees in this location are (possibly) less likely to hug me.
So I signed up (with Kate’s promise to never ever leave my side). I put down the deposit for the ticket, and hope when the money’s due, I can still see myself going. I hope when it’s time to make up the swag and ship the paperbacks, I can still keep calm. I hope when it’s time to fly over and show up, I can get over myself and actually register at check-in. And maybe then, when I set up my table to sign books, I can do it with a smile on my face, and you all won’t see the terror in my eyes.
Holy shit, people. (I think) I’m going to the UK Meet.