The Convention-Going Introvert’s Lament

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Before I go any further, I’d like to thank everyone who came out to my Extra Life charity stream this past weekend.  Thanks to you, I more than doubled my initial goal and raised over $500 for All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL!  Now that I’ve gotten the hang of streaming, I hope to be doing it way more often, so you can probably go ahead and bookmark my Twitch channel or follow it or do whatever you kids do nowadays (except for that, you weirdo).

The Fiance recently leveled up to The Husband, so now that he’s level-capped, we get to experience the joys of our honeymoon, which thus far have included meeting Thor at Disneyland and picking up antibiotics for him from the pharmacy following an emergency tooth extraction that took place on the day before the wedding.  Still to come is the much-anticipated BlizzCon, which is a deliciously nerdy way to wrap up our already-pretty-nerdy celebration — today is Day 2 and we’ve pretty much spent it gaming and cuddling up to watch the original run of Battlestar Galactica.  He’s so excited he can barely contain himself.  I’m both anxious to go and anxious because I’m going.

What most people don’t realize about me is that I am actually a pretty huge introvert.  I may be active on the internet within the gaming community, but when it comes to facing large groups of people in person, I’m typically operating off of complete and utter terror.  Sometimes my “autopilot” kicks in and I start cracking jokes that mask how nervous I actually am.  Just as often, though, I’ll end up sitting in a corner by myself with my headphones on or my nose buried in my Kindle so that I can completely block out the action around me.  The worst part about this kind of reaction is that nine times out of ten, people mistake it for rudeness.

I’m not a celebrity by any means.  At best, I might use the phrase “internet celebrity,” complete with quotes, to show how very much non-applicable such a moniker is for me.  I have more Twitter followers than most, but I’m nowhere close to being Felicia Day, and I don’t pretend to be.  Even still, I’m in the public eye, and that means I’ve got a metaphorical stack of invitations to parties and meet-ups that I’ve had to come up with excuses to decline, not because I don’t want to meet these people or because I think I’m better than anyone, but because the idea of being surrounded by strangers and expected to actually interact is enough to make me hyperventilate.  For example, I did not attend today’s BlizzCon fansite mixer, nor am I going to be present at the WowInsider or World of Podcasts events, despite receiving invitations to all of them.  I’m sad that I’m not there because in my heart of hearts I really want to be able to shake hands and hug a bunch of people whose work I follow, and heck, I’d love to be able to represent HearthPro at WoP, but the truth of the matter is that there is no conceivable way I could handle that much social interaction without bursting into tears.

Here’s the part where I’m sure a lot of people are saying “But Bunny, just throw back a few drinks before you go, and you’ll be fine!”  I won’t lie.  I used to party pretty hard in my youth.  I could spend hours talking about hilarious things that went on during those days (at least, the ones I remember).  What never gets talked about, though, is the absolutely horrendous after-effects of those shenanigans as far as my health is concerned.  Alcohol and I are not friends.  I can do a bottle of Angry Orchard or a beer with a meal, but that’s about it.  Any more and I risk all sorts of maladies, ranging from my kidneys going on strike to severe stomach pain to throwing up so violently it starts coming out of my nose.  By “any more,” I mean “sometimes two beers in one day is enough to do this.”  I don’t get buzzed and I don’t get drunk; I get horrifically ill with no payoff whatsoever.  Partaking of alcohol in a public setting like that would actually add more anxiety to what I’m already dealing with, because on top of everything I’d have to worry about getting sick.

This also makes attending parties, especially the type that usually break out at conventions, pretty boring for me.  I’m almost always the only person not drinking, and that makes everyone else feel really awkward.  I will hear all of the following things at some point during the night:

  • “You’re not drinking? Are you pregnant?”
  • “Wow, I feel really bad for you.”
  • “So you’re like… straightedge or something?”
  • “Why’d you go to a party if you didn’t want to drink?”
  • “Are you sure? Come on, just one drink. It can’t be THAT bad.”

Truth is, the forced sobriety doesn’t bug me.  What does bug me is that it often puts me at the center of people’s attention, and that’s about the last thing I want at a huge gathering of people I don’t know.

I also chose not to get a hotel room for the convention because I knew that there’d likely be a ton of room parties going on and that it’d mean no sleep for me.  Part of having PTSD is hypervigilance, which for me means not only jumping at every loud or unexpected noise during the daytime, but snapping awake with my adrenaline running at max at the slightest change in background noise.  I use a fan to give me a constant flow of white noise to help with this, but should something happen in the middle of the night — say a power surge, or The Husband changes the speed on it — I will instantly wake up.  In addition, a hotel room is unfamiliar territory for me, so in order to feel safe enough to sleep without risking a night of constant panic attacks I have to be used to where I’m staying.  Having The Husband with me might mitigate some of that, but there’s still the chance I’d spend the entire night having nightmares or freaking out and interrupting both of our sleep cycles.

Nor do I plan to pass out business cards or network heavily while I’m at BlizzCon.  The temptation is there, of course, but it’d be too much to juggle with focusing on keeping myself calm while dealing with the crowds.  I’ve got this terrible fear that not introducing myself to every dev there will be the one deciding factor in my not getting hired at Blizzard, but the logical part of my brain tells me that I’m being irrational there.  If anything, they might actually appreciate not getting chased down by an awkward girl in a bunny hat!

That’s no drinking, no partying, and no real networking — why am I going to BlizzCon then?

BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING BLIZZCON!

I may be an introvert, but I’m still a gamer.  I love Diablo, StarCraft, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft.  I’m 99.9% certain that I’ll be squealing over Heroes of the Storm, too.  I spent long enough hiding inside the confines of my house, too terrified to even go to the grocery store and pick up a loaf of bread.  In that year or two where agoraphobia got the best of me, there’s no telling how many amazing moments I missed out on.  I will not let that ever happen again, even if it requires some special techniques to get through the day.  It’s sort of like that “Part of Your World” song from The Little Mermaid (and exactly why listening to said song causes me to tear up — it can apply to anyone feeling like an outsider due to anxiety just as well as it can to disobedient teenage fish-people).  I have a million games and tons of creative outlets for my writing, but that’s not enough.  I want to be where the people are, even if I’m not terribly good at being there.

So if I see you at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend, there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be offended if I’m quiet or seem uncomfortable.
  • If you invite me somewhere and I decline, please don’t feel bad or try to press the issue.
  • Don’t sneak up on me or surprise me with tackle-hugs… but the sentiment is appreciated!
  • Despite all of this, DON’T BE AFRAID TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF!

Besides wandering around the convention floor, I’ll be at the BlizzPro Meeting Stone event on Saturday between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., during which I should be much more talkative, since it’s a somewhat controlled and less chaotic environment that’ll give me a chance to focus on actually meeting you lovely people instead of pure survival!

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