I remember being absolutely terrified to attend my first Allume (it was called Relevant) in 2011. I knew no one. I had found my roommate via Twitter and was just crossing my fingers that she was legit. I had a blog but I wasn’t some super serious blogger. I was mostly attending because I was watching Christian woman connect via the interwebs and I liked what I saw. Sure, there were also selfishly motives. I wanted to learn how to get the word out about my daily devotional for moms, grow in my writing skills, be challenged by new view points and maybe (just maybe) create some new friendships with people who liked things I liked.
The shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport set the tone for weekend. It was filled with people “I knew” or had at least seen comment or guest post in cool places. In my head I had a zillion questions to ask and while I wanted to be chatty and connect that just wasn’t in my nature. I am shy. Plus I am an introvert. Not a great combination for an overcrowded van of women and their luggage. It felt as if I was sitting on the outside of a glass enclosed room, watching all these woman be fully capable of diving right into diverse conversations, and I was unable to get it. It was lonely and I knew I was in for a long few days. I was totally wishing I was moving to Australia. Arriving at the hotel I watched as women hugged, squealed and did the happy dance all over the place for each other. It looked like such fun. Women gathered in groups and took silly pictures in the photo booths and sat in circles on the lounge floor having deep and meaningful conversations and while I longed to be a part I really wasn’t sure how to do that. I mean seriously, do you just walk up to a group of strangers and say “you sure look like you are having soooo much fun. Can I crash it?” I remember being thankful that the lounge was filled with lots of decor so I could walk around looking at the walls and not just seeming desperate and wishing someone would have asked if I wanted to join in their floor gathering. (I was having horrible flashbacks to the 1st day of 6th grade lunch room. Ug!)
I can remember standing in the stairwell of the hotel texting with my “in real life friends”, tears streaming down my face, and just wishing that someone there knew me so I didn’t seem so invisible. It was terrible, horrible, no good and I was definitely having a very bad Allume. I promise, I don’t mean to scare you! Hang with me.
As we enter our new July series: Friendship I wanted us to take some time to examine friendship in the context of the conference. For some, attending Allume is a reunion of friendships that they look forward to all year. Girls stay up all night and have oooh so0000 much fun! Others meet their table mates at Thursday night dinner and have instant new buds that become lifelong friends and then there is the “me” type. Are you the “me” type? Are you coming alone, desiring to be brave, but needing a little kick in the cute jeans to get there? If that is you will you allow me to provide you some ideas so you don’t wind up in the fetal position?
1. Volunteer, Volunteer, Volunteer!
After the 2011 conference I had zero plans to attend again. I mean why would I fly across the country to spend 4 days feeling insecure and crying in a stairwell? But as the 2012 tickets went on sale I found my heart wishing I had a “do over”. I wanted to try again. This time with my best foot forward. I bought a ticket. A few weeks before the conference I saw a tweet that said if we wanted to help volunteer with decorations we should email this gal named Logan. I sent her an email and told her that I was happy to help. In my mind it would give me something to do rather than sit around wishing someone was going to invite me into their awesome pow-wow circle. When I arrived someone pointed me towards Logan and it was clear that there was LOTS to get done. I could tell she had a plan but she wasn’t sure if she could trust me to execute it to her liking. Attending to details of decor was something I knew without a shadow of a doubt I could handle. So I grabbed the face of this woman I just met, looked her straight in the eyes, and said “I can do this! Just tell me what you need.” The rest is kinda history. After the 2012 conference Sarah Mae gave Logan ownership of the conference and Logan asked me to come along side her as the Creative Director. What a ride! If you have any fears about connecting at the conference please choose to volunteers. It gets you outside your own head and it is super helpful to us!
P.S. If there is ever a moment of loneliness for you at the conference will you make me a promise? Will you come to the registrations tables, ask someone to point you towards Carey Bailey and then grab me by the face and tell me you need a place to volunteer. I will 100% get it.
2. Create a Be Brave Moment.
At the 2011 conference I can remember listening to Sara Sophia share during one of the writing panels. I was enamored. I connected with her style and wanted to know more. Despite the whirlwind of insecurities happening inside me that weekend I decided to send her a private message via twitter thanking her for all that she had shared during the session and I asked her if she might have any time to connect. To my surprise she replied back and said “sure!” We sat in the lounge and I got to have some one-on-one time (much more my comfort zone) to just explore more of what she had said during her session. We didn’t become new found BFF’s and she probably doesn’t even remember that but for me it was a brave moment in which I took a risk that I look back on fondly. What will your be brave moment be?
3. Do Unto Others as You Wish Others Would Do Unto You.
Are you wishing someone would invite you to jump into their photo booth shots? Then invite someone else flying solo to jump into a shot with you. Are you wanting to dive deeper into some of the topics hit on? Then ask some of your meal table mates to meet you at a certain time to keep the conversation going. Are you longing for a buddy to sit with at meals? Then ask the person next to you at Friday morning breakfast for their number, let them know you will save them a place for lunch and then text them where you are sitting. I have learned that no one is intentionally trying to leave anyone out and that the famous lounge floor circles are open to any and all but for those of us who don’t excel in the land of lots of people we either have to be willing to tap on a shoulder of someone we don’t know and ask to come in or be okay with alone time. Allume can feel like a terrible, horrible, no good , very bad weekend for those of us shy people coming alone or we can be willing walk forward in confidence trusting that God will put the right people in front of us at the just right time.
This will be my fifth Allume and that is coming from a girl who swore to never go back again after my 1st year. Every year I learn something new. Every year I grow. And every year God pushes me way out of my comfort zone. And for that I am thankful.