Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Last week, when I was busy not posting my blog on time, I was preparing to give two presentations at a business conference. One of them was a co-presentation, and one a solo. I think I managed to keep myself from thinking about the fact that I was presenting at a national - no, international - conference before I finished. It's only since I've been back home that the reality of having spoken in such a context is really sinking in.

I mean, my sessions were not well attended. 20 to 40 people, crammed into a small room, all staring at me. But the sessions were also recorded, so unknown numbers of people in the future could also access my presentation and listen to my words. And I knew this, beforehand, but I refused to think about it. A form of self-preservation took over and prevented my mind from wondering into the future possibilities stemming from the presentations.

I knew that if I thought about it that way, I'd freak out.

Not that I didn't freak out, a little bit. Just getting up and setting myself up as a knowledgeable expert in front of people was hard enough. Standing there, talking and pulling confidence around myself like a cloak, a fragile one, ready to tear at the slightest hint of attack.

I spoke more at that conference, not just in my presentations but elsewhere, than I have in any previous conference for sure. Maybe more than I've spoken in the month leading up to it as well. I don't get out into social situations very often anymore. I've found my comfort zone of solitude and wilderness.

And it takes reflection on the magnitude of what I actually did, presenting at a conference with participants from over 30 countries (even if not all of them watched me in particular), to remind me that even if I feel more comfortable not being social, not putting myself and my knowledge out where others can hear them, that doesn't mean that I can't.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Room of One's Own

First of all, I know this isn't Wednesday, but I am still going to count this as a post in the current week. I should have planned better, knowing that I would be out of town and busy this past week, but I didn't.

I attended a conference this past week, from Sunday to Wednesday, a whirlwind of sessions, networking and socializing. And, for the first time that I've attended, for a brief time, I had a hope of spending the conference with my very own room.

It is the policy of my workplace, or rather, the particular section of my workplace in which I work, that rooms are shared for travel. And so, the previous years that I have attended, I have shared a room with my boss.

We both find this situation to border on the unprofessional, but we have managed to share a room with minimal discomfort. But this year, she planned on bringing her family to the conference, and so work was going to have to pay for me to have my very own room.

But that plan was foiled by another department having an odd number of female employees going to the conference. While apologetic, my new roommate let me know that she was told in no uncertain terms by her bosses that she had better find someone to share the cost of the room.

And so, the room of my own became the room to be shared with - not a stranger, but someone that I worked only tangentially with, someone I had before felt socially awkward around, socially awkward being a default state for me. In previous years, such a situation might have been a great cause for anxiety for me before the conference, but this year I was presenting one mini session and co-presenting another one. My nerves were focused on those.

And it was a good thing that I didn't spend time on worrying about sharing the room. It was, in my opinion, the least awkward that it could have been. I got to know a co-worker a little better. I had a workout buddy for Monday morning. There had been nothing to worry about.

And, for once, I hadn't worried about it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


The other day I bought a pair of exercise pants. They were tight pants, tights, technically, and were a bright blue color, in a stripey pattern.

I almost bought a pair in black and white instead. Most of my exercise bottoms tend to the darker end of the spectrum, blacks and grays. Designed to blend into the background of any gym environment. But I like blue, and the each pair of pants fit equally well.

The thing about the blue pants was that they were not designed to blend in, except maybe in an anime. I didn't think much of that at first. They were blue. I like blue.

But when I wore them for the first time, I walked up to my running partner to find him swallowing hysterical laughter. His whole body moved as he exclaimed, "Girl, those pants are loud!"

I didn't take the words personally. I bantered about how they would make me more visible to cars, since we were running outside. I still like the pants, and the way that they look on me.

But, perhaps influenced by the Women Writers class that I'm taking, or even specifically by Nancy Mairs, whose essay I am preparing to lead the discussion on, the choice of wording stuck with me.


And, by his behavior, inappropriately so. It seemed as if my pants caused him discomfort, or, at the least, surprise. Was that because the color was out of character for me? I've worn bright pink tops to our runs, and bright purple. How were the tops beneath his notice while the pants drew such a strong reaction?

Loud. The way that women are not "supposed" to be, the way that I have rarely, while sober, been. In my class, I speak rather more than most of the students. Conscious of having been a silently fuming student while another dominates the discussion, I try not to talk too much. But this class does not seem, as a group, compelled to speak much. I speak because I have taught myself, trained myself to do so, in this kind of setting, at least, where class participation is a part of the grade.

I keep waiting for the instructor to pull me aside and ask me not to talk so much, not to be so loud. I expect it, though that's never happened, because I put so much effort into the act of speaking aloud. Breathing my thoughts into the air, for all to hear, misunderstand or reinterpret does seem an act of transgression to me, one for which I'm still waiting to be punished.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


My husband, who was in the Navy, has told me that Navy stands for "never again volunteer yourself."

I've been in the habit of not volunteering myself in the first place, let alone going for a second try. But, in a couple weeks, I'll be giving not one, but two presentations at a work conference. Of course, one of them will be with a partner so that's a good thing, but the other one I will be flying solo.

And I volunteered for this of my own free will.

What was I thinking again?

It seemed, at the time, that it would be prestigious for me to give a presentation, yes, but there was more to it than that. I don't need a pat on the head as validation for my knowledge in my field. But I do have a passion for that knowledge, and I want to share it.

That's why I volunteered, really. Because I know that I know this subject very well, and I want to help other people who are going to need to know this subject. Out of the several proposed sessions on this subject, mine was one that was selected - and I can't entirely claim that it was the catchy title that made that happen. I also demonstrated in my proposal that I know this subject matter and treat it seriously.

I remember that one of the other proposals didn't even give the correct name for the process around which the presentation would center. Words can be slippery things, and so when one is speaking technically, one must be precise. A file is not a record is not an id.

And when I present my session, I hope to bring my enthusiasm and my knowledge to the room, spill it out on the attendees and then go weep in relief at being done.

And only then will I decide if I never want to volunteer again.