EXCITEMENT AND ANTICIPATION
On the day that TEDxOdense launched the ticket sale, I grabbed my ticket as fast as I could. That was 30 Jan; I also purchased the lunch pack since the event was seemingly long. I had been excited and was looking forward to the event.
Three days before the event, the organizer sent out email with the program for the event.
The second sentence murdered my excitement mercilessly. “There will be 3 sessions with networking breaks in between”. Did they say NETWORKING? I really just wanted to sit and listen to the talks, and take small “personal” breaks in between.
I had been stressed out since. What’s there to be stressed about, you ask. Well, I am highly introverted. Many introverts meet people from time to time too, you say. Well, I am more than that, I am autistically introverted. What does that mean, you ask. Well, we must not be presumptuous to assume that all autistics are introverted, there is a smaller group of people on the autism spectrum with extroverted inclinations. I am most certainly not one of them.
To function as efficiently as I can in public, I take steps to identify and understand my weaknesses and triggers that may send me into a sensory overload. I develop and adjust coping strategies to manage my anxiety and difficulties so that I could accomplish the tasks that I set out to achieve. It’s a continuous work and effort, and I am fine with it. When I compare my struggles with the other people, I don’t feel that it is all that unfair. Others could be dealing with other challenges such as health related conditions, abusive relationships, lower ability to comprehend and manage school work, etc. Challenges are conditions of life. They strive their best efforts to make life work; so should I.
I may have to “sacrifice” social life in order to free up time to prepare myself for upcoming events such as a field trip or just to get to the University for classes, and also take time to regulate the stimulated and heightened sensory system from the day. Even on days that I don’t have to attend a class, I may still be susceptible to stress or emotional stimulation, which compromises my ability to maintain a well-regulated mental and emotional state.
SOCIALISING IS A LUXURY THAT I CANNOT AFFORD
Imagine that we are all given some emotional currency to spend each day, some of us have a bigger account that holds and generates more currency; some of us only have a tiny account that suffice to see us through the day, but nothing more. Social event in my world is like an executive suite in a high class hotel, something that I may desire but not within my budget. That is okay too. I prefer to count the blessings. I feel that I have been quite fortunate to live in this generation of rapid technology advancements. I socialise online or through technological conveniences of texting, voice and video chats. People may think that social relationships that are formed in these formats are less authentic. I beg to differ. Many or most of the friends I keep for years are friendships first built online; I have not met most of them, but they moved mountains to get me the help they believed that I needed (even when I didn’t it myself).
DON’T THROW GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD
My stress about the “networking sessions” continued to build up over the days. The boyfriend had encouraged me to attend the TED talk, however, he understands and trusts me enough to know that I have been doing my best to work out a strategy to overcome the social anxiety. Very gently, he implored me to consider the option of giving the event a miss. I was trying to push myself harder and thought that I would adapt accordingly once I got to the event; I am tenacious and resilient. I felt bad (still do, a little) about wasting all the money that had been paid toward the event. The concept of money has always been difficult for me to grasp, so it makes me nervous regardless of how much money I have in my bank; I get anxious about things that I am less capable of managing or controlling. The supportive boyfriend said, “Don’t throw good money after bad” – cut the losses by not investing more money. I was still striving on my last effort to make it work, alas, I knew it’s time to cut the burning rope loose when I become too anxious the night before the event.
(Photos credit to TEDxOdense)
After looking at the photos from the event and the colossal number of people, I genuinely have no regrets that I did not attend. I would not have considered getting the ticket if a tentative program was available on their website where people get their tickets, but it was not.
It is prohibited to stream videos or take photos of the talks, but some audiences might have been so inspired by the theme of “Firsts”, it is possible that it is their first time breaking the rule. 😉 I guess the event has been a successful one with audiences filled with excitement that they yelled and screamed from time to time in the video streaming.
I would not survive that. Given that I have to spend some mental energy to navigate my way to the venue and cope with the crowd and noises, I would be left with very limited mental resources to regulate my sensory fast enough to survive the entire event, let alone the networking sessions.
This would have been my first TEDx event.
This is my first paid event that I don’t show.
There, my firsts.
INTERESTINGNESS BEHIND THE CROWD
I think I am not necessarily a boring person with a dull personality just because I don’t go out much. I believe I have layers of interesting profiles that reveal themselves through the course of time, ambience, and patience. Afterall, I am the Quirky Missy.
My boyfriend and I are the same people, so we make the perfect companion for each other. Together, we are stronger, and together, we will be able to enjoy some level of social networking. We do love to engage in intelligent discourses with like minded people, but we can be overwhelmed by the surroundings. Together, we provide a safety net for each other. If the event is too boring, we could always talk to each other, and be quirky together. We don’t have to feel alone in social situations.
I also rely on my dependable bestie to help soothe my tension. Even though she is completely lorded by her newborn, she never fails to provide support to me when I need it. Like I said, despite the challenges, I choose to count my blessings. Some people choose to waste their lives fighting the world of normality (or abnormality, depending on which perspective you are taking); I choose to find comfort within the chaotic world and be content with it. They choose anger as life companion; I choose to be grateful and appreciate the small things that people do for me.