Thursday, May 29, 2014

My tribe

Earlier this month I attended the Studio Art Quilt Associates annual conference in Alexandria, Virginia. I had never considered attending before but I am now a regional representative for Atlantic Canada and wanted to attend the all-day reps meeting that preceded the conference. I had a great time at that meeting and the presentation that I made to the group was very well-received. But that's not why I am already considering going to the next conference which is far far away in Portland, Oregon.

What was special about my experience at the conference? Not me, for sure. I was sick and had to drag myself through the weekend. It wasn't the meals or the facility - they were standard mid-level quality. There were some interesting sessions at the conference but they weren't really worth the investment of time and money. The one thing that stood out for me was the people. I have never really understood the statement "It's the people you meet and the networking you do that makes it all worthwhile." because I had never had that experience. But this time I did.

Very few who meet me understand that I am a true introvert. I am using that term as originally defined by Jung. I could write my own definition of what it means but this article contains a good description of introversion as I understand and experience it. Note that the definition suggests that 25-40% of the population are introverts. My best guess, based on observation and conversations, is that 75% of the conference attendees fall into that category. It was not unusual for people to bring up the issue directly with statements like "I am an introvert." or questions like "Are you an introvert?" This led to meaningful exchanges about the challenges of the conference setting and discussions of coping skills. 

The majority of those attending understood just how draining the experience was for them, and by extension, for those around them. I think that's why I saw many instances of strangers caring for others. People were not isolated at tables or during coffee breaks. Careful and gentle approaches were made to bring every individual into the mix without overwhelming them. After hours there wasn't extraordinary pressure to join one group or another for dinner and socializing. Everyone was free to do as much or as little as they could handle.

I have organized and participated in many group activities, both professional and recreational, but I have never felt so much at home. I have found my tribe.

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