Recently I attended a 3-day conference. There were going to be tons of people there; tons of single people around my age that I didn't know. The mere thought of it gave me anxiety. Meeting new people... [Gulp] SCAAAARY.
I remember when I first went to an event for singles. It was this past January. It was a religion class (for mid-singles, ages 31-45) held at a church, with a mixer afterwards. I thought that a religion class sounded "safe" - like a "nice" place to meet "nice" and "safe" singles with similar beliefs, expectations, and goals. I drove to the church. I got to the parking lot. I sat there, looking around at others emerging from their vehicles, entering the building together. I kept thinking they already have friends; who is going to talk to me? So -- I panicked and drove home.
A few days later I got a Facebook e-vite about a mid-singles choir that would be rehearsing following the religion class. They would be singing for an upcoming Sunday Fireside. I thought to myself, "Ok... I sing. I guess I could do that." Once again, I drove to the church for the religion class. I made myself get out of the car and I walked into the building. Many people seemed to already be in little groups. I panicked, kept my head down and I walked through the crowd, through the building, out the other side and back around to my car. I sat there until it was time for the choir rehearsal to start. For the next 8 weeks, I only went to the rehearsal. Slowly, I began to make friends. Then I finally got brave to start attending the class, even though I usually sat by myself near the back. I quickly learned that I loved the class, even if I didn't socialize much afterwards. The mid-week inspiration was something I needed to help me get through my week. All of a sudden I loved going, and I even started attending the mixers [briefly] afterwards.
Then one night, someone approached me about attending a dinner group for that weekend. I decided to go for it. So, I met 15 other people around my age and we ate, we talked, we played games and I truly had fun. I told some of them they should start coming to the religion class. The next week, many of them showed up.
A new girl came and ended up sitting right in front of me during the class. I could tell by her nervous glances around the room this was her first time. I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking. So, after the class I leaned forward and introduced myself to her. She stayed by my side during the mixer as I introduced her to all of my other new friends. She remarked how I seemed to know "Everyone"; I thought that was ironic.
A few weeks later I signed up for a day trip activity with the singles group. I volunteered to be one of the drivers. I figured, if I drove I could always be busy "concentrating" on the road and therefore not feel left out if no one talked to me. When the cars met up at the diner to eat, I introduced my car-load to a few others I happened to know. Then the following Wednesday, I introduced those new friends to my other new friends. And that is typically how it's been since --I introduce myself to new people, especially if they are standing alone, and because I don't want them to feel like I did, I introduce them to everyone else I know.
Anyway - fast forward to this conference a few weeks ago. I met lots more new people during this seminar or that workshop or this dinner, and I made several more introductions. I skipped the final Saturday workshop to find some Excedrin at the nearby Target. When I got back the workshop wasn't quite over. I noticed a few people hanging out in the gym, so I went in there. I talked to a few of the guys and they were preparing for a gaming session that was next on the agenda. They were short one person and asked if I would help. I jumped on that. If I had a task, I could be busy with that and not feel left out. As the different groups came in and out of my game, I met lots more people and later that night at the dinner, karaoke and dance, I introduced many of them to many others.
The Sunday evening, following the Fireside, there were refreshments. 2 girls I had met the previous day stopped me to ask me a question about the conference. When I gave them the answer the one said to the other, "We knew someone in charge would know!" As they walked away, I had to laugh to myself. I was not in charge of ANYTHING during the conference. Why would they think that?
I walked over to some of my friends and mentioned how those girls mistook me for someone in charge. One of my friends laughed and said, "Yeah -- we've been watching you. You just gracefully move from one group of people to the other, making sure everyone knows each other; plus you helped with that game." I shrugged, supposing that made sense.
When I told my sister about that last week she said, "So, you were like the cruise director; making sure everyone was having fun and no one was left out."
Later that night I attended a party where I didn't really know anyone. I knew OF 2 of the girls there, but didn't really KNOW them. So, I took a deep breath, shoved my anxiety down into the depths of my chest and walked up to someone standing alone and struck up a conversation. As soon as I began to talk to her, I heard my sister's words in my head... "cruise director".
I don't know why I think "I" need to be the self-appointed cruise director. I mean, really - who do I think I am?
Luckily a few more friends showed up and I could relax and just hang out like "normal" people the rest of the evening.