Over the last two days I’ve been at the inaugural Launceston Freelance Festival. It was inspiring, encouraging, interesting, exhausting. I especially loved the talks from Tracey Spicer, Ginger Gorman and Lindy Alexander, but really it was all top quality. It was also really great to be in a brand new festival like this in a small place like Launceston because we were really up close and personal with the speakers, and it felt like we were on the cusp of something big, with the creative and freelance possibilities in this part of the world. I got lots of ideas about new directions to head in my work and even more clarity on what I do and don’t want out of this freelancing life.
I hit my energy limit pretty early on. I kept pushing through because a) I really wanted to be there, b) I rarely get to do any professional development, c) I was acting in defiance of my body. Well that was a mistake. By halfway through today (the second day), I just crashed. It felt noisy and claustrophobic, and I felt like I was the only one not having interesting networky kind of conversations (which was totally untrue, as I looked around the room and saw several people hiding away, looking at their phones). My hands started shaking and I just had to get out of the room. I tried stepping outside for a moment, I tried just breathing, eventually I had to just accept that I needed to draw a line under the day and head home.
It was quite hard to leave as I really wanted to hear the talks that were on the rest of the day, and suck the marrow out of the whole event. But as someone in an excellent online community that I’m part of pointed out, it’s hard to absorb anything new if you’re already at your limit. She also said her approach to conference overwhelm is to write things down, but reflect on them later and not to try and process them while she’s in the room.
I walked up through town to church, where mum was at a meeting, to get a ride home. I sat in the church garden in the sun and breathed slowly. I messaged a friend, “I hate having to fight the narrative that I’m a failure because I can’t stay in a room for eight hours.” He replied, “How about you’re a hero because you’re an introvert and struggle with conferences and you signed up and made it to a day and a half outside your comfort zone?”
Reframe it! Yes! It just gave me permission to be kind to myself.
I’ve taken lots of notes and already have things floating around in my head that I want to pursue. And all of those speakers have lots and lots of material online that I can read at my leisure. Tonight I am continuing to be kind to myself and am going to just let all of that stuff marinate for a while before I try to see what’s what.
Arg self care is hard. But I’m grateful for people who understand and encourage me to do it better.