It is funny how life experience changes us.
During my marriage I was made to feel like I couldn’t do or achieve anything without having P hold my hand. I now see that for what it was: him holding me back for fear that I would gain confidence and leave. For about a year after I moved him out I still struggled with groups of people, I wasn’t sure how I would fit in, or survive without someone there to comfort and reassure. That all changed when I went to my first ever munch. Of the people I would see there I had only met a couple of people in private and spoken to one other online. I walked in, fake-confidence plastered all over my face, and got stuck in.
There was no one to hold my hand that day.
It was a slippery slope from there on. I attended another munch in quick succession. Smaller this time, but I had not met anyone else, online or in person. Then came my first event. Now, years later, I am comfortable in new venues, chatting to groups of people I haven’t met before. I have recently been asked to take over hosting duties at my favourite munch, a task I have accepted after much soul searching. It seems relevant to say, given the prompt, that I have a strong supporting network of friends who will be holding my hand as guest hosts each month. I won’t be able to manage the 30+ kinksters without them, and look forward to sharing some of that responsibility. This is never more important than those days when I don’t feel that I have any people-skills. Occasionally they elude me completely, but the fake confidence can be plastered on again so that I can get through.
That fake confidence sometimes spills over into actual, real self assuredness.
A knowledge that I can do it, or at least that I want to do it so much I’m sure it will be alright. That I am enough, if that makes sense? That’s what I felt last July, when I saw that early bird tickets had been released for Eroticon. A rush of excitement and knowledge that I would be fine enveloped me, and I hit the purchase button. There is a long time between July and March, and over those months I started to grow nervous. Organising my train ticket and booking the hotel were practical steps I could take to quell those nerves but once that was done…. I had nothing! I reached out to my real life friends, they listened to my nervous ramblings during late evening phone calls, extended a Whatsapp hand hold when I needed it, just like they do when I’m floundering at registration for runs.
Eventually though, with my bags packed and my mum flapping about how dangerous London is, there was nothing to do but head off.
The nerves built on the train, on the tube, and at the coffee shop after I had checked into my room. I thought I would run around a bit of the city, calm my nerves before the meet and greet on Friday while also doing a recce for the conference and social locations. It did not help! Eleven miles I ran, and did not once see where I needed to go. Showering I rushed out the door, google maps providing a commentary in my ear. Even then I managed to walk a two mile loop when it was, in reality, less than half a mile from my digs. When I finally reached the venue I was lucky to bump into Kayla Lords and John Brownstone. They pointed me in the right direction and I promised to introduce myself properly when they got back to the event. Once inside I felt completely overwhelmed, and struggled to get my bearings. I have no idea how many people there were, but I knew nobody. I wondered what on earth I had been thinking! How could I possibly fit in with these people, everybody seemed to know at least a few people, or they had their significant other to keep them safe. I met Toy for Sir in those first minutes after entering. She was in the same situation as me, but had not long landed from the US. Needless to say, we were both swept off in different directions. Each somehow finding a guide to hold our hands while we got settled in. I met so many wonderful people that first night while fuelled entirely on Lime and Soda, and I slept like a baby afterwards.
It is so exhausting, meeting so many strangers. Putting faces and voices to genitals and writing styles.
The conference itself brought more people into my sphere. And I learnt so much from the speakers. When I found my way into the workshop for the demonstrations by Mactyre I was able to enjoy some time out in the vac bed, interact/abuse Jenby in the vac cube, and spend some time in the inflatable latex body bag. Although I felt utterly ridiculous in this new latex plaything (in a silly, fun way) I did learn that not all men in kilts go without! After being kicked out of the play room, I disappeared before the evening do. Decompressing with a short run, and some dinner before heading back to the evening social. I had met some really wonderful people during the day, and managed to chat to a few people before realising that I was drooling more than talking (it had been a long day!) and I headed back for some sleep before the second day of talks. Equally as amazing as the first day, I struggled to choose between the presentations. So many wonderful insights from fellow delegates and presenters alike. The deep exhaustion that has followed while I catch my breath is so entirely worth it, and as I come back to normal I shall start to decipher my notes, and look up the online round ups. I am looking forward to seeing how I grow and develop over the next year, both as a blogger and as a woman.
Do I wish I had someone here to hold my hand?
Sometimes I do, sometimes it is what I feel most in need of. To feel that someone else is there should I slip and stumble. But really, I am happy to not have that connection to hide behind. As things are I am forced to reach out of my comfort zone, to meet new people and start conversations. To find new people whose hands I can hold, however briefly, while we explore new territory. Be that munches, events or sex blogging conferences.
I am confident that I wouldn’t have met half of the people I now consider dear friends had I had the safety net of another’s hand to keep me safe from Stranger Danger.