Oh, the conference. The time where I may be able to gain some invaluable tools and ideas for my classroom. I may also be faced with realizing I’m in a completely inapplicable session and have to debate whether to face the embarrassment of walking out halfway through, amid the stares of the other attendees, presenter, and presider. But most likely, I will be faced with the negative side of being an ambivert. From what I’ve read (mostly in title of articles, I’m not gonna lie), ambiverts are supposed to get the best characteristics of both introverts and extroverts, but I’m pretty sure I got the worst. Walking into the registration area, I was suddenly back in time, walking in on the first day of school in a new class, where everyone else seems to know one another, and I’m the outsider.
It’s dumb, and I know it’s probably just because of the way I’m awkward with people, but I’ve just always seemed so alone in the music education world. I think it all started with my not-so-welcoming experience in undergrad music. So many music educators I know are still friends with others from their undergrad program. The conference is an opportunity for them to get together and catch up. Hardly any of my friends in college were music people. Dalton just felt uncomfortable to me during those years -- fifth grade all over again. All the girls had already been in a choir together their freshman year, so they had bonded, keeping me out of the loop once I was in ensembles and classes with them. Everyone seemed to know more than me about almost every facet of music, and there was SO much competition, which is not my thing when it comes to music.
Luckily, my masters program in music education made me appreciate Dalton SO much more, and I was able to meet many more people with whom I could better connect. Still, it takes me YEARS hanging out with people before I really become comfortable with them. This is where the worst sides of my ambivert(?) personality come in. Like extroverts (I’m guessing...I’m really not an expert at all), I enjoy being in social situations. Or, at least, I enjoy feeling comfortable in social situations. I like hanging out with people. Sometimes when I’m by myself, I search out people with whom I can spend time because otherwise I feel lonely. However, like introverts (still, guessing), I feel anxiety in social situations in which I am not extremely familiar with the other people. As you can imagine, this makes things difficult for me. I love having friends and having things to do outside of my home, but I also have no idea how to meet new people or, heaven forbid, actually become friends with them. I really have no idea how I already have friends. It’s a bit of a mystery to me.
This inconvenient dichotomy of my personality makes things like large-scale conferences in which hundreds (thousands?) of people in varying aspects of music education are milling about, socializing, learning things from one another, extremely uncomfortable for me. I find myself trying to stay with people with whom I am somewhat familiar but not at all comfortable, but that just leads to wasted time and more feelings of inadequacy (can anyone say “middle school”?) The second day of the conference this year, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place. I chose the sessions I wanted to attend, avoided trying to plan out my schedule to have lunch with others, resigned myself to being happy eating alone, and, miraculously, had a wonderful time. Without the pressure of trying to fit in, I was able to be more authentic, more like the real me. As we all know, but we don’t always act upon, being ourselves is really the best thing we can do. That doesn’t mean I didn’t still have very awkward moments in which I tried to greet people I knew, only to say something ridiculous or trail off into awkward silence. (By the way, if you were with me at the conference and are reading this, and I happened to say something really awkward, it’s not you. It’s me. :) ) And that doesn’t mean I actually made any new connections (because I found myself just not talking to people unless they made contact with me first). However, I was able to learn things to bring back to the classroom with me, and I was able to feel more confident in my abilities and actually enjoy the experience.
I know there should be a take-away from this. I should learn to just be myself, not worry about how to interact with others, and simply live. I’ve been trying to tell myself these things for years. I hope that I’ll finally be able to live up to these ideas. It would make life SO much less uncomfortable.
Please share any awkward situations you’ve had. Reading about the shared awkward will make us all feel a little better. :)
This awesome article slightly sums up some of my issues: