Anti-social conference

I’m an introvert. I’ve said that before. And I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t agree. But, I generally manage to really push myself out there during conferences. I spend those 3, 4 or 5 days being involved in everything. Talking to new people. Going out in the evenings. Not getting nearly enough sleep. But pushing all my boundaries.

I did expect to do so again this week. But it didn’t happen. And it wasn’t because I’m just so tired and have been dreaming about my bed. It’s because I came down with a really crappy cold. Day one, I woke up with a sore throat and half my nose stuffed up. Day two had moved to nose and ears and head and sore throat. Now, at day five, I’ve stated returning to health (thankfully, since I have to get on a plane later today). But it has made for a very long week.

Every time I’m at a conference, there’s always a part of me that’s thinking “I could just skip this session and go do x.” X may be sleeping, or doing homework/research, or exploring the city, or hanging out by the hotel pool, it really doesn’t matter. But I’ve rarely to almost never followed through on this.

Why? Because I feel guilty to skip out on stuff. What if the presentation I miss is the one I really needed to see (titles are such terrible indicators)? What if the reception is where I’ll meet an important person for future networking? Who knows what could happen if I don’t put myself out there. And so, while I dream of skipping, I sit there (often bored because the presentations are so far from what I’m interested in).

But, this week, my cold made the decision for me. It took until yesterday, day four, before I actually made it through the entire conference – from beginning to end. Instead, each day I left early – only to go back to my hotel room and collapse (after another stop to buy more kleenex). And even yesterday, I skipped out on the extras. People were heading out for drinks and more networking and instead my bed was calling my name.

I do know that I’m missing out. Although, my head has been much too fuzzy to really care. I’ll be more concerned next week. I’m not making as many contacts as I should be. And a lot of the actual more insightful conversations I’ve been having have been with people from my own university and department. Which isn’t all bad, because I probably wouldn’t have as much time or opportunity to have these conversations back home.

But, as this is (hopefully, fingers crossed) my final year of grad studies, I may need (or will likely need) these contacts soon when I start hunting for jobs or post-docs or whatever I decide to pursue. But, this week, my head just says “oh well.”


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