Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel completely unequipped to participate in the conversation? And, despite it (likely) being a matter of subject and not a reflection of your own intelligence, you start feeling really… stupid? You begin questioning everything about yourself, from career choices to the clothes you happen to be wearing. On a certain level, you know that a single conversation isn’t an accurate way of quantifying the power of your brain, but on the other hand you feel so LOST.
So this weekend…
On Saturday night we attended a party. It was thrown by a couple that Tall Guy and I are both friends with. He is a graphic artist and digital guru, she is currently in law school. They’re both insanely great people and always a good time. We arrived at their party and every guest we met was super-friendly and welcoming. Tall Guy wandered off to the outside while I stayed inside and mingled a bit. I have a slight tendency to panic when left alone with a group of people that I don’t know, but it wasn’t a problem on Saturday. Everyone was just so dang nice! As people finished grazing and began sitting down, I wandered outside. I rejoined Tall Guy and was able to catch up with another friend, from out-of-town, who had recently arrived. Things were going fairly well for some time. The patio group dwindled to four, including me. It was Tall Guy, host and out-of-town friend.
After some time, the talk turned to graphics, computer programs, lighting, cameras, memory, etc. Basically, their work. All three of these gentlemen are in the same field. At one time they had all worked in the same office together. I stuck around for a while but, not having anything to add, opted to move indoors and see what everyone else was doing.
The remaining partygoers were all seated in the living room. As I arrived, they were finishing a conversation about grammar. BRING IT!
But the conversation turned, as conversations tend to do. One of the guests is a prop master for a local theater company. They recently closed a production of Harvey. I LOVE Harvey! However, since it just ended, they began talking about the next item on the schedule. An adaptation of The Tempest. While I’m aware that The Tempest is Shakespeare… that actually concludes my knowledge of The Tempest. This particular adaptation is going to be a one-man show set in Cuba. The group all began discussing the adaptation and how creative and unique it would be. I had nothing. Since the talk of the adaptation referenced the original, but not without any actual explanation, I couldn’t even begin to relate what the upcoming show will look like.
As that guest left, the conversation morphed again. To law school. I was now in a room with two people attending law school, one law professor, and the dean of a law school. Topics were specific courses, different styles of teaching law and the best path to take (classes, bar exams, general career guidance). Everyone talking was passionately (possibly drunkenly) involved in the discussion. I worked for civil litigation attorneys for seven years, but law school and working in law are totally different. Once again, I had nothing. I began worrying that someone might ask me a direct question and expect an answer.
Worse, I began panicking that someone would notice I wasn’t a law student and ask what it is I do.
I’m a blogger.
I have tried that phrase on, out loud, exactly once. It happened to be earlier that same evening, when meeting some new people outside. A woman had asked what I do. When I told her I was a blogger, she looked at me with a blank stare and a slight frown. It didn’t seem to be entirely that she didn’t understand what a blogger was, but possibly that she didn’t really think it was something someone could be. She turned to her husband and said, “Oh. Blogging. You do that, right?”, and he said, “No.” Thankfully, someone interjected something and the blogging issue was left behind. Between that woman’s reaction, outside, and the fact that I was now, inside, surrounded by incredibly smart people discussing the law – THE LAW – I began feeling very small. And stupid.
At that point, if someone had asked me to explain what it is – exactly – that I do, my response would have been: “I write stuff and post it on the internet. No single topic, mostly whatever pops into my head, but nobody really reads it.” Not impressive. On a normal day, doI believe that blogging, in general, is impactful? Yes. Do I think that my writing is worthwhile? Sometimes. But at that moment, it felt like being the kid in class who eats glue and picks their nose. That kid knows that no-one wants to play with them. So I held my breath and tried to look as involved as possible without drawing too much attention to myself.
I would like to impress that the party was fun, the hosts were amazing (as always) and the group was dynamic. The only person I’m blaming for my discomfort is me. Yet, four days later, I’m still not sure how I could have handled the situation differently. How do you truly participate in an exchange where you have literally no context? Is it possible?