Fear and Loathing in Columbus
Because this is my first blog post in a few years I think a few words are in order. I’ve been finding myself having a lot of fun programming in Perl lately. This is mostly because of my discovery of catalyst and moose, which are a pleasure to work with. It also has a good deal to do with the community at large. I stumbled onto Iron Man competition and decided to dust off the old blog. This post is only loosely related to Perl but for me it’s an important topic.
I’m heading to YAPC::NA in Ohio next month. As usual when I do these sorts of things, my emotions are a mixed bag. Excitement is a key component, certainly. Though, my old friend anxiety is creeping in as well. I’ve lived with social anxiety in one form or the other for most of my life. It can be a tough problem to confront. Rationally I realize that most of the people attending the conference are going to be friendly and excited to socialize. Unfortunately, my emotional side, the side that tells me I should be worried, doesn’t give a shit about what’s rational. Historically, this has led me to go into these things with the mindset that I just have to buckle down and get through it. This, as you might imagine, causes me to sit by myself and not talk to anyone. Even though that sounds like a blast, let me assure you that it isn’t all that satisfying.
Alright, that was depressing, now for the good stuff. This last year I’ve been working on my anxiety and it’s led me, at least in part, to start treating these trips differently. I now see them as a way to challenge myself to engage others socially. It turns out the topic of conversation really doesn’t matter. The point is to challenge the way I see myself. Specifically, the idea that no one cares about a damn thing I have to say. It ends up working out quite nicely. So much so that during my last trip I ended up talking to a lot of people and in the process had a great time. Not to say that it was easy for me. It certainly wasn’t. But it did get easier the longer I kept at it.
I’m writing this out in part so that I’ll feel obligated to follow through at YAPC::NA, which on one hand is a good thing but on the other it’s scary as hell. My other reason is to increase awareness of the condition. I’m fairly new to the Perl community but writing open source software is inherently altruistic and I get the feeling the community carries those ideals into their everyday lives (contrary to one might see on IRC). So if you notice anyone sitting by themselves not engaging with others then I encourage you to strike up a conversation. Especially if you’re one of those people that usually sits by yourself not engaging.