A few days ago, I was lucky enough to attend a gathering of some local web developers and software artisans. I’ve previously documented my loneliness and the degree to which it afflicted me, so this was a welcome event. Just a few hours with intelligent like-minded people really kicked my ass. It was a time when I could tell I was the dullest tool in the shed, but that was fine. It’s not that I wasn’t sharp. It’s that I was in a shed with lawnmowers made of lightsaber.
Really excellent day today. Learned about creeping on people with data and the disgusting guts of browsers from some really clever gents.— Armand Zerilli (@zerilliworks) April 17, 2013
I was a bit nervous going into it, as I often am with these kinds of events, but I got over that surprisingly quickly just by shaking hands and telling people my name. I can’t emphasize enough how easily that calmed me. I remember standing outside on the street looking at the door and wondering if I’d even be able to keep up with what happened in there. The fear was completely unfounded, and mostly dissolved by shaking hands and exchanging names.
I got some water, took a seat, and felt immediately that I was the youngest person there by at least five years. Mostly just an observation. I wasn’t bothered by being new, and it didn’t seem anyone else was either. I had been worried I would be bothered, but… There I was, acquainting myself with the enthusiastic faces of the Ithaca web people.
Presentations were given, jokes were exchanged, and cats were turned into bacon. Marvelous. I got to really feel what proficient and well-adjusted programmers do, and a little about how they think. I fear that I asked some silly-sounding questions, but they were regardless met with thoughtful consideration and straight answers.
In my startup experience, meetups were often in the mixed company of business-types and technology-types, and everybody was putting on a show. In those “little businesses that could,” every second of every conversation was a pitch in some way or another. I was glad to see no trace of that here.
Before I left, I waited outside with one of the attendees with whom I had an informative exchange regarding my recent efforts and employment opportunities I didn’t even know existed. Seriously, there are more than a handful of web companies in Ithaca. My eyebrows peaked for sure, in a good way. The way that says, “By Jove! Not so forlorn is my situation after all!”
I left feeling refreshed and somewhat humbled. I picked up more in that couple of hours than I probably had taught myself in the last month. Having people who can speak concisely and from experience is an invaluable learning tool.
So if you’re a bit of a hermit, please do what I did. Don’t think too big, don’t worry about acting silly, and don’t worry about judgement. Connecting yourself to the world isn’t that difficult, and it’s certainly not the kind of competitive overanalyzing that many social cynics say it is. Just do what I did.
Shake hands, say your name, and listen.