I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and scanned the crowd of excited faces. Psychos, some of them were even smiling. My jaw ached from having my teeth clenched together so tightly. I hated roller coasters. Why had I decided to get in line? I should have just waited outside.
My sister punched me in the arm. “This is gonna be so much fun.”
All I could do was shake my head. My sister obviously lacked any sense of self-preservation. Riding the fastest, scariest coaster in the park wasn’t my idea of fun. It was more like torture.
As our line drew closer to the coaster cars, I found myself separated from my siblings. Great, now I had to ride by myself or even worse, ride with someone I didn’t know.
“This your first time?”
I turned to find two girls about my own age in line beside me.
“Yeah,” I said. “And I’m still not sure I want to go.” At this point my terror had overcome my pride and I was scanning the packed room for an exit.
“I was terrified the first time I rode this one,” the older of the two girls said with an encouraging smile. “But it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. It goes so fast, it’s over before you know it.”
The other girl nodded. “You’ll definitely like it.”
I nodded. It would be over quick. It would be over quick. I repeated this silently to myself as I climbed into the car and secured the safety harness. The girls waved as I waited for the countdown that would end in my car shooting out onto the steel track. I could do this. There was no going back now.
The countdown stopped and the coaster shot onto the track, going from zero to sixty in three seconds. It climbed the steel pole and shot straight back down before going into an arch and running the whole track again backwards. In less than a minute we pulled into the station. We were back. I’d made it!
My legs felt a bit wobbly as I climbed onto the platform and followed the crowd into the bright sunshine outside. Those girls were right. It actually hadn’t been too bad and I’d even enjoyed it, a little. Of course, if someone had asked me to ride it again that day I probably wouldn’t have been able to muster up the courage.
This happened to me when I was about seventeen. Since then I’ve found that I love roller coasters. I just had to get over that initial fear. And something that helped me to get over that fear was someone willing to reach out to the scared girl looking for the exit.
Conference season is coming up, for some it’s already here.
Conferences usually mean going to new places, making connections, attending appointments. So many of these things can be really intimidating. I’m definitely an extrovert but just the thought of sitting in front of someone important and trying to pitch my manuscript is totally terrifying. What if I stumble through it and can’t get my idea across? What if I look like a moron? What if they just don’t like my story?
And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous about these things.
Last year at Realm Makers I’d set up an appointment. I made my way into the hall outside the appointment room and stood in line. All those feelings of being seventeen and waiting in line for that roller coaster came rushing back. I was in a crowd of people I didn’t know, waiting to do something that terrified me, and I wasn’t even wearing a comfort hoodie.
I looked around the room. Some people looked excited, some looked exactly how I felt. My first thought was to keep to myself and try to run through exactly what I was going to say for the millionth time but then someone said hi and we started up a conversation. Someone else joined in and soon there were a few of us talking and sharing about how nervous we were and encouraging each other. Some of the nerves disappeared, not entirely but I did feel more at ease. We were all in the same boat. I wasn’t alone. I was really grateful for the people who’d drawn me into the conversation.
I went to my appointment. I was still nervous and maybe I even sounded a bit like a moron but the author I talked to was very gracious and easy to talk with. I walked away from those fifteen minutes, grateful for the author’s wisdom and the experience as a whole.
This year as I head back to the same conference I really want to be someone who makes an effort to reach out and encourage others, even if it’s just saying hi.
Are you going to any conferences this year? Do you have a conference moment that really meant a lot to you?