In just about 10 days, I will be hopping in a rental car and driving over six hours away for a five-day work conference. It's a really important conference for me to learn more about my new industry and my employer is making a considerable investment in my career by sending me there. It's a very expensive conference, and they'll be paying for my transportation and some meals, too. It's a pretty big deal, but by all accounts this is THE conference to attend for people in this industry, and I've heard enough stories from other people to know it's worth the trip. It sounds great, though possibly a little overwhelming. It's basically five full days of lectures and seminars, with early mornings and minimal breaks. This isn't quite summer camp, after all. It'll definitely be information overload, but as a whole I'm looking forward to it.
It's been on my mind a lot over the past week or so, because things at work have been very slow (books close Friday and we can't do much until Monday--and then all hell breaks loose, of course). I've been killing time doing every little bit of research I can for the trip. I printed out powerpoints, a campus map (it's at an Ivy League school!), the schedule, and my packing list. I mapped out my route and searched for roadside oddities to see along the way. I've looked into off-campus food options for my dinners. And, like the true introvert I am, I've considered the odds of not making friends with anyone. On one hand, I won't mind the alone time. But on the other, I really should be networking and hopefully finding a group to hang with.
I suppose I keep flashing back to one of the saddest nights of my life (and this shows you I am one blessed chica), a lonely night in a dark dorm room at Geneseo during my orientation. My roommate never came to stay in the room (I know she was there because I met her later), and I had a hard time finding any ready-made friends for the two-day event. I did hang out with a couple girls earlier that night, but there was little that seemed more isolating than going back to my dorm room solo. Undecorated dorm rooms are so sad, and that night I panicked a little bit (OK, a lot) about going away to school. I have never had an easy time making friends (my eventual college roommate being the major exception--that was instant and awesome), so even back then I worried about finding good friends, making a connection, and fitting in. I'm less worried about it this time around, but the similarities of this trip--summer, college dorm, lots of new people in a new place--definitely takes me back. Like I said, I won't mind the solo time if it happens, but it seems like the experience will be a heck of a lot more fun if I meet fun people.
I am well aware that I am a very different person now than I was then. I am 19 years older, a married woman with two kids, a very good job, and a house. I'm clearly more comfortable with myself and I assume this experience will be far less high schoolish than an orientation that took place a week after my actual high school graduation. Still, that feeling of loneliness is still very vivid in my mind, and it will sting a bit if everyone else groups up and I find myself on the outside.
Social fears aside, it's exciting to think about venturing off for five days on my own. This is a rare opportunity for me, and I'm looking forward to seeing new things and being free of the usual challenges of daily life. No worrying about gluten, no screaming at kids, no grocery shopping or daycare drama, no cooking dinner or washing dishes. I almost never get a break from that stuff, so this is a bit of a treat. Of course, five days away from Craig and the kids is a little intimidating. I'm used to Craig not being around because he travels so much for work, but being away from the kids is going to be hard. I can tell I need a break, because everything gets on my nerves lately and I'm so tired of yelling. But I will miss them, no doubt. Carter's hugs and Jacob's smiles are irreplaceable. I worry about how Carter will do without me around, especially at bedtime, and I wonder if he will be a serious Daddy's boy by the time I get back. I wonder how cooking-impaired Craig will keep the kids nourished, particularly since eating out is so limited by Jacob's Celiac disease. I wonder what the house might look like upon my return, or how many things might slip through the cracks while I'm gone. Keeping this house running isn't easy, and doing it alone is even harder.
I need to do this, and I really want to, but the fear of letting go is intense. I'm really excited to learn new things and venture out into the world, but my heart will still be here. I haven't had much practice at that setup, and I suppose it's time. After all, I dream about Craig and I traveling together without the kids, but we still haven't had the guts to do it for more than a night. This will be a good baby step, since being gone is new for me and I still have the comfort of one parent still being here. It's exciting and overwhelming at the same time, and I'm not sure how it will go...but there's no time like the present, right?