Hey guys, hope you’re all well and fighting hard. Today’s blog is going to be more like a diary of my past week, but I want to process it in writing and this is where I keep my personal thoughts.
The one week journalism conference was simply a great experience. It had its highs and lows, but overall I was massively glad to have attended. Beforehand the idea of meeting with 12 other journos and spending a week with them had me scared and wondering how socially awkward I would be and whether everyone would be great friends by the end of the week except for me. Most times when I thought about it previously I was nervous, but, as could be expected, that wasn’t justified.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon after a two hour drive from my parent’s house. Went in and got my room key. I had my own room with double bed and en suite just like a good motel. There was also wireless internet. I mucked around in my room for a bit and then thought I should go out and meet some people. So just chatted with whoever was there for a while. It was funny; we naturally split into guys and girls groups. Then it was dinner and had a couple of other good chats. Each meal over the five days was amazing. It was like a high quality restaurant. At dinner we even had a menu and could choose from a couple of options. Duck breast, barramundi, scotch fillet, chicken breast etc.
Each day rolled out with a couple of guest speakers, oral presentations by us journos on different topics, discussions, morning tea and afternoon tea. I started a routine of exercising (they had a mini-gym and mountain bikes I could use) in the morning and night just to keep fit and also to try to get some better sleep by tiring out my body. Sleep was a bit of a problem due to the intense nature of the experience I needed a couple of hours lying in bed before I had calmed down enough to sleep.
Socially it was weird even though it wasn’t as bad as I expected. There were plenty of awkward silences at dinner time when no one our table of 13 talked. It was kind of funny lots of journos getting together and no one talking. There was no one there I clicked with, which I didn’t expect as it is a pretty unnatural occurrence for an introvert and anxious person like myself. No one else seemed to really click either. I found that a bit weird maybe as the age group was 21 to 51 (with most about 26) people are less inclined to throw themselves into making new friends. There were a couple of other Christians there and we had a few good chats and solidarity because of that.
Socially I don’t know what more I could have done. I had a cough and a bit of a blocked voice, so I was slightly off my game. Tiredness doesn’t help either. I made a big effort to be social. The first couple of nights I went to my room and worked on the computer. But then after that if I had to do some work I took the laptop to the common area and did it there. Another night I came out and played pool and just hung around. I also went out to a couple of pubs on the last night with a few of them. Something I wouldn’t normally do, but I was making an effort. Even in making an attempt I still couldn’t think of things to say sometimes. So I just sat there and when someone said I was quiet I responded I was listening and that I was an introvert, so didn’t talk heaps. People did respect that I went out and made an effort. As an introvert I wasn’t afraid to set boundaries and have some time by myself when needed. On the last evening I was a bit overwhelmed with the intensity of it all and went bike riding for 50 mins and then spent time in my room until dinner.
On the first couple of days you have the small talk/getting to know you chat with everyone. ‘Where you from?’ ‘What you do on your the paper?’ etc. Then during the week you forget it all and on Friday people were asking each other the same questions again. It was kind of funny. I find it difficult to go from the ‘getting to know you chat’ to unforced conversation with people I have just met. In this case lots of others did as well. It was something I noticed about the SSA retreat I went to last year as well. I’d done all the ‘who are you’ stuff, but found it difficult to move into the next phase of discussion. I don’t think that’s much of a problem except for in situations like this. It takes me longer to get to know people and there’s nothing wrong with that. Thinking about this kind of stuff differently, and by being kinder to myself doing it, means I did feel some social competency I wouldn’t have if I was doing this three years ago. I’m a mature 23-year-old and stuff that used to bug me doesn’t and things that are still problems I don’t get all worked up about. I think about things I can do differently and if there isn’t something I shrug my shoulders and accept the situation.
On the facebook group I mentioned about a guy. I’ll tell the story here again. There were basically no hot people there, except for this one guy. Apparently he looked like a young Paul McCartney according to an older man. To be honest when I saw him I thought ‘yay, someone to look at when I’m bored’. But didn’t think much more of him than that. Over the first couple of days it seemed like he would look at me a bit and I wondered if he was interested. On the last two days he didn’t look, but by then he was mildly in my head. I guess what attracted him to me was he was an earnest, friendly, great voice, immature, confident, good looking person whom people liked. There wasn’t much more than that. I talked to him for few mins on the first night, during some group work on the second day and at dinner on the third night and I wasn’t nervous. Other than that we didn’t talk much. He spent a lot of time in his room even though he was probably the most likable person there. But on the Friday I was going to go away and still have a few questions about him. It wouldn’t have been a big deal as I would have forgotten about him by Wednesday. But then at the last minute it was arranged he and another guy would come in my car for the hour long drive to Melbourne.
It was just a gift from God to be given an opportunity to see him as he really was, which is to say a selfish, sex driven, self-absorbed brat. Of course he was charming in all those things as good looking guys who act like they were under parented can be. He was mainly talking to the other guy, but it was good to hear his thoughts on life. It wasn’t so good to hear about his (very straight) sex life, but equally helpful for seeing him as he is. Probably on this car ride I did act a bit stand offish and didn’t say much as an act of self protection, but as I was ‘concentrating on driving’ it wouldn’t have been seen as such. In some ways it was a great journey to be with two other guys who were just chatting about life and love. As I’ve mentioned before, maybe twice haha, I have a thing for driving on freeways in Melbourne and it was a powerful moment.
On the Tuesday night I had actually told this guy I was a Christian as part of me (a very small part) hadn’t wanted to tell him just in case. But he obviously wasn’t into me as he had forgotten and he asked me if I drank alcohol about five minutes from when I was going to drop them off. I said ‘yeah, but I wouldn’t get drunk because of my Christian beliefs’. Then he gun fired questions at me about drinking, sex, love, church, youth group, age of people at church. It was time for them to get out and as I left they stared at the car going away wondering about what was different with the weird Christian guy. That’s what I’d like to think. They were probably wondering how to get to the train station from where I’d dumped them. For a while after I was imagining all the things I should have said earlier and how it would have fitted into the conversation. It was a helpful way to process the trip and the whole weekend. Earlier in the drive they had been talking about homosexuality and it was probably one of those times when it would have been appropriate to pipe up and give God glory. I wimped it, but next time I will be more ready.
The past week I probably had the least temptation I can remember in ages; mild attraction to said guy aside. Maybe the key to beating temptation is to live in a huge share house and have something to do every second. As well as someone else doing the cleaning and cooking etc. One of the topics was questionable taste in newspapers and we had to bring in examples of this and someone brought in a picture of an almost naked man. I looked and didn’t care sexually at all. It was a powerful moment for me. In the whole five days I only had a slight desire to masturbate once. The other interesting thing is usually when I am tired I’m more vulnerable to temptation, but I was tired all week and it went fine. I didn’t feel like I was being quiet for self-protection much.
It’s even made me wonder whether I should make a big effort to ramp up my social contact attempts. If spending non-stop time with strangers can be fulfilling and temptation erasing it’s worth considering. As I mentioned earlier I’m an introvert, but I really enjoyed being with others heaps and just the camaraderie from that.
On the female front no one really interested me. Though I continue to be more aware of the differences between a man like me and women like them. On the night we went to the pub one of the girls got all prettied up. She came out of her room and walked across the common area in a beautiful display of feminine vulnerability. It was probably the hottest thing I saw all week.
So in hindsight what would I have done differently? And I will keep these in mind when I go to the SSA retreat in about five weeks.
Just talk as much as possible. For some reason people find it weirder when you don’t talk then when you say stupid things. There was a guy who talked a fair bit and said a fair few stupid things, but at the end of it a couple of people said he was a good guy. I think their reaction to me was more likely they didn’t really know me because I didn’t talk enough. Maybe before a next time I would even sit down and think of questions and things I can talk about, so in the heat of the moment I can look at my cheat sheet and spit something out. I could probably even think of stuff to say when I’m there. I’m not massively into traditional conversational glue like music, movies, TV or sport, so I have to make a bigger effort to have substitutes. But I’m not the guy who tells two minute stories, but more 30 second soundbites and that’s okay.
Make a bigger effort to talk about God. This is the topic that gets me talking most and I have to remember people are more apathetic in Australia then hostile. I did mention it when appropriate, but afterwards thought I had missed a few opportunities to initiate more on this subject. Also in doing this I would see them as people who need God, truth, Jesus etc and some of my focus on my self would be shifted onto helping them.
Don’t be shy at the start. I spent the first couple of nights in my room rather than the common room and it would have been better to be out and about while the getting to know each other was happening. By the time I was out and about I missed a bit of the early social conversation. Question and answer convos are a lot easier then flowing convos and they happen earlier.
Don’t be scared of people. The other guy I drove to Melbourne on Friday afternoon was actually a pretty neat guy I should have tried to get to know. Somehow we missed the getting to know you talk and even though we spent a bit of time hanging out with others I was a bit intimidated by him. After I went out to the pub with them he must have decided I was an okay guy and he said a few things and was nice to me. I should have just assumed he was a nice guy and went right in and talked to him. Talking to guys who intimidate me has been something I’ve tried to do more of lately.
More broadly; fear will kill you. As soon as I am doing, or not doing, something because of fear I’m in dangerous territory. Fear is worrying about myself and my needs rather then about giving God glory or enjoying others. If I feel like fear is driving a decision I should step back and analyse it and then perhaps do the opposite.
Right now I feel spent. I’m still tired from the week and without anything comparably big on the horizon of my life feel like there’s some empty headspace that had been taken up with worry. But it was a good opportunity to see how I operate in a different situation and be encouraged by who I am now as compared to who I was five years ago. I’m also looking forward to the SSA retreat a lot more. It’s going to be a great weekend.