can i write ‘alcoholic’ on my name tag?

I am sitting in a conference to earn continuing education credits toward my professional license. These things always bring out some of my weirdness. In the morning, I walk into the room and immediately feel like an outsider. Who will I sit by? Who will I talk to? Will I meet any interesting people? What will people think of me? I like to look disinterested in a learning environment. In the fifth grade I got a C- in music class for having poor body language. I used to slouch, put my feet up, tip my chair back. Sometimes I poured white out into a carefully crafted note card and inhaled. I desperately wanted to be too cool for school. Back to today’s event. I choose to sit at the very back of the room where I can plug in my laptop and escape as needed. We are only 15 minutes into the day. No one else in the room is paying any attention to me. I have a whole drama playing out in my mind.

An hour into the conference I still present externally as disinterested but internally I’m sitting on the edge of my seat and throwing my hand in the air. Another 30 minutes pass and I am actually sitting on the edge of my seat and throwing my hand in the air. I have questions. I want to know answers. I want to be in the thick of the learning and discussion. I want to get to know the presenter. Does he have lunch plans? Maybe we could eat together and I could pick his brain and share all the really cool thoughts I have in my head with complete abandon. I’m revved up and excited and thinking I should probably go back to school to earn a law degree so I can become an expert on the day’s topic which yesterday wasn’t even on my radar.

Something is happening. The presenter isn’t calling on me as soon as my hand flies into the air. He seems a bit irritated that I keep asking questions. I don’t think he really likes my questions and he does not seem to appreciate the complexity of thought I’m throwing down. He sure loves the guy in the second row with kind of cool shoes and a strange green canvas vest. His questions are lame. He loves the middle-aged woman with blackish/grey hair and funky/chunky glasses. She does seem really knowledgeable. She probably thinks I’m a total idiot. Oh my God… he just chose the vest guy for a role play!!!

It’s not quite lunchtime and the pendulum has swung. I’m retreating back into myself and starting to shut down. I wish I had that note card with the white out right about now.

Like I said, these things bring out my weirdness. I feel small, I feel big, I feel small. I want to be at the center of the community in the room and then I feel so rejected I can only exist on the outskirts of the pack. I take things very personally. I am hyper-aware of myself in the room. The torment of the morning agenda. It should have read like this:

Agenda

8:00 am – Registration [don’t forget to check your ego at the door]

8:30 am – Introductions [My name is Annika and I’m an alcoholic]

9:00 am – Feigned disinterest

9:30 am – Complete absorption

10:00 am – Verbal diarrhea

10:30 am – Shame, embarrassment, retreat

11:00 am – Anger and irritability

11:30 am – Feigned disinterest

12:00 pm – What’s eating your lunch?

Thank God for the 12-step program that keeps me sane… at least for the second portion of the day. A quick inventory of my character defects and an ego check and I can get myself right-sized for the afternoon. I have to get out of my brain. I have to get out of myself. Great conference. Great topic. So glad I was able to recover and participate fully the second half of the day.

Now I can’t wait to get home to my baby.

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