© LRP Publications – Republished with permission
The picture above was published last week in Risk and Insurance Magazine’s Workers' Comp Forum. It was included in an article about the release of the agenda for the 2015 National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas next November. It is always a great conference that I highly recommend (and you can save $100.00 by using Promo Code RW15 when registering).
But the picture is symbolic of a bigger issue. Neither I nor the other bloggers in the photo are mentioned in the article, yet there we are, with me appearing in a position of obvious leadership and authority – or perhaps getting robbed, I don't recall. But the presence of my mug, possibly being mugged, in that national publication only reinforces what I have known deep down for quite some time. I have to face reality.
It is not easy being me.
I attribute this problem mostly to my complete inability to be the person many think I am. The increasing industry awareness of me through this blog and conferences only seems to be compounding the issue.
You see, I am a rather clumsy person when it comes to social interactions, particularly with people I do not know. I'm terrible with names. I can never place faces. And now I find myself in a situation where a lot of people know me, and I am often clueless as to whether we've ever met before.
More than once this past year after telling someone it is nice to meet them, they inform me that we met last year. Or last week. Or that we've been married 18 years. Whatever.
The truth of the matter is that, behind the blogging bloviation and bluster, I am a relatively shy person; particularly with people I do not know, and where the social setting is unfamiliar or the roles are not clearly defined. If I am a speaker at a conference, that is an easily defined role. Put me in front of hundreds of people and I am good to go. That is because the role is established; the expectations are clear and understood. Put me in a room attending an opening reception with the exact same people and it is a completely different story, particularly if I don't know anyone there. In those situations you'll likely find me standing off to the side, clutching my drink and fumbling with my iPhone, pretending I am running my vast empire remotely (I'm not). I would make a terrible politician, as I simply would suck at the basics; glad handing, backslapping, kissing hands and shaking babies.
Now people who do know me are busy laughing hysterically at the notion of my relative shyness. That is because once I get to know you there is no shutting me up. Indeed, once the conversation starts rolling, even with strangers, I am over the hump and more socially relaxed.
It was worse in high school and college, especially when dealing with attractive members of the opposite sex. Put me in front of a beautiful woman and my mind and lips would fail me almost without exception. As I stood with my throat closing and drool streaming out one side of my mouth, the only statement I could muster would be something intellectually tantamount to “I really like vanilla”.
Even my lovely and long suffering wife only agreed to marry me because she got tired of me standing outside her front door. For 5 years.
I am not the only one struggling with the relatively new found popularity of his blog. Friend and fellow blogger David Depaolo recently wrote that he has no idea why people are so interested in what he has to say. I know exactly how he feels. I don't know why people are interested in what Depaolo has to say, either. But that is not the point of this article.
Complicating matters, I am finding at times a phenomena that is a true role reversal for me, in that sometimes people at conferences are afraid to speak to me.
At one conference within the last year (I shall decline to name the event or location to protect the innocent), I was looking over the room in which I would be presenting later that morning. The Executive Director of the group holding the conference and one other person were there, and they told me one of their members was “very excited” that I would be speaking, as she “appreciated my sense of humor” and enjoyed my blog. They also mentioned that she had seen me at the reception the evening before, but had been reluctant to approach me.
I was completely out of my element here – wandering the back alleys without a road map. Reluctant to approach me? Why, I'm a harmless tudball. Truly, I am a delight. It says so right here in my blog, so it must be true. Who would be afraid to approach me (except for all those attractive women in college, who apparently had entirely different reasons)? I began to wonder about what would cause this person to be so reluctant, and a mental image began to take shape in my head. I envisioned a 4 foot high, 5 foot wide one eyed Jabba the Hut, a female Quasimodo too reluctant to come forth and be seen.
Boy, would I be proven wrong.
After my presentation the Executive Director insisted (in spite of my great reluctance to do so) that I autograph a program for her. He gave me her first name – we'll call her Ethel – and I wrote, “Ethel, You should talk to me. I don't bite!” I signed my name, and that was that.
Or so I thought.
A couple hours later, after lunch, she approached me and introduced herself. She did not fit my poorly pre-conceived notions to say the least. In fact, she was gorgeous – a stunningly beautiful woman. As she shook my hand I slowly realized that I was the one eyed Jabba the Hut in this scenario.
She told me she really appreciated my sense of humor. I told her that I really like vanilla.
I apologized as I clumsily wiped the drool off of her hand and she went on her way.
This was by no means the first time I've experienced something like this. I know a good number of people at national conferences, but often at state specific events I won't know a soul. Still, I occasionally catch that knowing glance, the whisper, the pointing, followed by raucous laughter. I begin to think I might be somebody. Until, that is, I realize I am somebody whose fly is open, and my ego, briefly lifting into the ether, pancakes to earth once again.
Now that I think about it, things haven't changed that much since college after all.
And sometimes those national pictures just don't help the awkward cause.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Amanda Young – Clinical Psychologist Extraordinaire
At any rate, someone who plans on being me should be better equipped to handle the unexpected social demands that come with the position. It is unfortunate that the job has been given to someone so wholly unqualified. It's just not easy being me, but then again, I'm the only me I've got.