OMFG, or What Have I Done??

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.

32 thoughts on “OMFG, or What Have I Done??

  • I totally understood and related to every word of this post, – I could’ve written most of it, just not as well – so, trust me when I say, I’m proud of you for even considering it. YAYZ for you! You can do this, AJ. And, if you can’t, that’s okay too. But, I think with Kate by your side, it’s possible.

  • I’m impressed by your desire to overcome your social anxiety, and salute your courage and determination! 💜

    I sincerely hope you’ll make the trip to Bristol next year as it’s a wonderful event plus you’ll have Kate there as buffer/support, and you’ll find that people will respect your boundaries.

    *hug between our two hamster balls* (& then I silently squeee) 😊


  • Congratulations on taking the first steps! I am sure you will have an amazing time. And if it doesn’t happen this time there are always other cobs or other years. (( Hugs. )) (that would be the non-touching type of hugs. 😉

    • While I’m sure there are other *cobs* I clearly meant *cons*, smdh. And while I’m at I’ll just close that parentheses too. ) Sigh.

  • I can’t say I know exactly how you feel, but I do know a tiny bit. Social settings for me are work, hard work. I don’t feel secure enough to put myself out there unless I have to. To meet people, to know what to say, to take a chance. So I avoid those situations as much as possible. (Even this is me stepping out on a limb.) That you’ve thought about such a big step and even made plans to do it is something to be HUGELY proud of. You’re so brave! Great job! (And as for Kate, a heartfelt appreciation – based on having my own rock to lean on.)

  • I feel I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from (not as bad, but similar). I’m a social recluse, and have been for a long time. I HATE talking to strangers; but since I opened my bookshop 3 years ago, I’ve got better! The people who walk through the door WANT to talk about books – and THAT I can do 🙂
    I’ve spent nearly 40 years in office work, and HAD to deal with people who didn’t ‘know’ me. Psychologically, I had my ‘work hat’ and my ‘home hat’ and that helped me cope – two personalities, totally different! I never attended any work socials (even office Christmas parties); they just scared the living daylights out of me – I CANNOT make small-talk, however hard someone wants me to engage; I also found certain aspects totally boring and not worth my time or effort.
    So, like you, 🙂 I’ve ‘girded my loins’ and booked in for the UK Meet next year. I panicked when I booked the reservation; I panicked when I booked the hotel; but I assured myself that by the time next September comes around, I will have ‘resigned’ myself that it’s something I really, really want to do! It’s also fortunate that I know Bristol, having lived nearby for 30 years; so it will be familiar to me. That helps me somewhat.
    I’m really proud of you for trying this (I know, ‘trying ‘is my way too!) but if we both achieve something SO MUCH outside our comfort zones, then we both deserve a pat on the back.

    Ha! This is me – Carole-Ann – looking forward to meeting AJ – whose books I admire terribly – and being able to say so face to face is something I anticipate very much! {{hugs}}

  • Oh my, WOW. That is huge. And trust me, I get it. When I went to the one day meet in London not too long ago I nearly killed myself several times over. I was a nervous wreck before I even got on the plane just thinking about all the strangers I was going to meet. I was a nervous wreck coming off the plane because a (absolutely wonderful as it turned out) complete stranger was picking me up and putting me up overnight. And needless to say, I was a nervous wreck when I got to the venue where I managed to more or less ignore everybody for most of the afternoon. I hated myself but couldn’t bring myself to crawl out of my corner and stop watching from the sidelines. I had to talk to a few authors because I’d asked them to bring me books, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk more than was necessary to get those books and pay for them. By the time the day was over I was both relieved (I had survived) and severely disappointed (so many missed opportunities). Thing is, if it had been a two (or more) day event I might well have been fine the second day.

    Next time I’m doing something like this I’m bringing Dermot. He’s brilliant in situations like this, happy to talk to strangers and, most importantly, doesn’t mind me tagging along and hiding behind him. And, the next time may well be Bristol. We really want to cross the Atlantic next summer. Realistically the chances of us making to the UK are far better. If we do both make it AJ, we can wave at each other from opposite corners.

      • If Dermot’s with me (and he will be) he won’t let me hide. But, on the up side. I can hide behind him, you can hide behind Kate and we can suss each other out in a relatively safe manner. And, Bristol will give me the extra day(s) I need to find my feet. Yes, if we do make it, I will find the courage to do more than wave 🙂

  • Holy Fuck AJ this is awesome! I will get to meet you. I promise not to hug, we are the reserved British after all. But wow, it’s great that you’ll be at the meet. It is a great con. See you next year in September!

  • I’m SO glad you’re coming. 🙂 I love your work but I promise not to fangirl. I saw Kate in Manchester and was too scared to go say hello.

    I really get what you say about liking to stick to roles and scripts. I have to MAKE myself step out of those comfortable grooves and UK Meet is the big one each year and takes some getting over. Luckily the community tends to be respectful of people who need a good bubble of personal space and nobody will think poorly of you for wearing your white no photos please lanyard nor for slipping away to your room to read for an hour or just to lie on your bed luxuriate in the glorious silence. I did that a lot last year.
    I’ll look out for you and give you a respectful nod.

  • I think the nice thing about UK Meet is that if you want to find a corner and just sit drinking coffee, it’s not a problem. Our watchwords are that everything at UK Meet is an opportunity, not an obligation.

    Looking forward very much to meeting you.

  • Oh my! And we had that conversation just last week. I’d love to come to Bristol to meet you. Can I ? Please? No hugs – I promise!
    Jack. xxx

  • While I don’t have the anxiety of meeting new people…that is actually part of my job :), I definitely understand the “hugging” although I do have to do that sometimes when I meet people from different parts of the world and it is considered rude if I didn’t! I definitely feel for you AJ. I so wish I could be in Bristol to meet you as I love your books and your honesty! The very best of luck and keep us posted……if I ever do meet you….I promise as well….NO HUGS…unless you are ready :).

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