Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"My People" At Universal

John and I just spent two glorious days out at Universal with his sister and her husband. Anne-Marie and Brian are two of my favorite people ever, and since they live in Maine it didn't take too much convincing to get them to visit the land of 80 degrees. :)




As much as I was looking forward to their trip, though, I'd actually been losing sleep over the whole riding-rides thing. Truth is I've had a lot of setbacks on the agoraphobia front since Christmas, and I was just so worried and ashamed and UG. You know? Some of you know.

Anyway, I knew I at *least* had to ride the Hogwarts Express again between parks, but the last time I tried - even though I'd done it once before! - I ended up leaving the park in tears. It's dumb and it's irrational and it's so, so frustrating, but there it is.

So at the very end of the day we went to ride the train, and as we walked the queue I scrambled to get out half a Xanax, even though I knew that with only a 10-minute wait, the pill would never kick-in in time. We were assigned our little row on the platform, and I was smiling and doing my breathing exercises and not - NOT, dangit! - panicking when someone asked me a question about my Gilly Water bottle.

I turned and saw two ladies in big "Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!" buttons. Within a few seconds of chatting about Gilly Water and Seuss and chocolate frogs, I knew they were fellow geeks. A moment more, and we were so engrossed in conversation that John had to tap me on the shoulder to let me know the train had not only arrived, but it was time to board.

Once aboard, my new cabin-mates enthusiastically showed me their matching Hufflepuff socks and chattered about how they'd left their families and kids at home so they could take this trip together. When the ride started, the three of us laughed and squealed and waved to the projected characters out the window. At one point, just after we'd called out, "HI, HAGRID!!" I glanced over at John and my in-laws. They were sitting quietly and looking... well, not SCARED, exactly, but perhaps... cautiously perplexed.

Then John leaned over to his sister, and said, oh-so-quietly, "It's ok. These are Jen's people."

And just like that, I realized how lucky I am.

Most folks don't get to interact with geeks on a regular basis. They don't get to see the passion and the fun and the unabashed enthusiasm geeks have for the things we love. I think that's why I rave about conventions so much; because I want you all to experience that kind of instant camaraderie. At every convention I go to, I'm inspired to love more, risk more, reach out more. I tend to be too serious, always so reserved and afraid of what others' will think, but I want to BE those giggling ladies on the train, eager to share and strike up conversations with complete strangers, ready to bond over a book or a show, and willing to skip all that boring hi-how-are-you stuff and get right to the fangirling. Because here's the thing: In the process of doing all that, you never know just who you might be helping.

I never even got their names, but those ladies helped me in a way they'll never know. I didn't just endure that train ride, I loved it. So much so that afterward I eagerly agreed to ride Men In Black... which promptly broke down halfway through, trapping us all in the ride car for a solid ten minutes.

Insert something about God having a wry sense of humor here.

But you know what? Even with my worst nightmare realized, I managed to get through that experience without having a complete panic meltdown. (Though, ok, I'll admit I was on the verge by the end. 0.o)
 
And the next day, when we boarded the Hogwarts Express for a second trip, this time *I* struck up a conversation with our new seatmates. It was harder, and my heart raced and my palms were a sweaty mess, but talking with strangers about Potter things helped me make it through that trip, too. Plus I walked through several ride queues that day that made me antsy, with their long closed-in pathways and hard-to-reach exits, and I felt almost normal.

All thanks to two geeks and a bottle of Gilly Water.


So thank you, you lovely geeks, my people, you. Please never stop being you.



55 comments:

  1. crying a few happy tears for you :')

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  2. I big puffy heart love this post <3

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  3. Hooray for you, for your fellow geeks, and for unbridled enthusiasm everywhere!

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  4. This story is just fantastic all around. Hooray for facing your challenges and for bonding with fellow fangirls. A little camaraderie can do so much!

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  5. And thank you for helping so many people embrace their geek- myself included!

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  6. This post gave me happy chills. :)

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  7. That's an adorable story!
    I still can't bring myself to just start conversations with strangers 'cause people tell me I look scary and they're intimidated until they get to know me. So, I'm always afraid that people won't talk back because they're afraid or something.

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  8. I love reading these stories! The magic of Harry Potter strikes again...I am headed to Universal in less than 2 weeks -- completely alone! Let's see what geek friends I can find!

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  9. Congratulations on your successes. Small steps are still steps.
    Where in Maine is your family from? My husband is from northern Maine and we lived there for 8 years.

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    1. John's from Lewiston, and his sister and her family still live there. Apparently very few people know where that is, but it has grrrreat pizza.

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    2. I guess I'm one of the few! My husband is from Caribou, and his uncle has a pizza restaurant there. We were 7 miles from Canada. It is beautiful in the fall!

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  10. I love this so hard.

    Congratulations, Jen!

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  11. Darn it who cut onions in here!?!

    I go to my first convention this year and am nervous and excited!

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  12. Atta girl, Jen! Baby steps, baby steps.

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  13. Thank you, Jen, for giving fellow geeks a great forum to share our inspirations, cosplays and geeky musings. I've found a lot of happiness and courage from your postings. It's comforting to know that "my people" are out there, even if I don't interact with them everyday. So thank you for sharing your geeky passions and enthusiasms and keeping "our people" connected!

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  14. I know what you mean Jen! I'm over 50 and went to my first convention about 5 years ago. I'm usually quiet and shy but I instantly felt at home, have talked to all kinds of random people and even last year tried a little cosplay. I spent the whole of my life feeling very different from my family and all the people in my tiny hometown but those con experiences have really helped me own my geekdom. I am much more comfortable being myself these days.
    By the way, thanks for your post a while back about Supernatural. I can't believe it took me 10 years to watch it but now I'm completely hooked! Keep up the great work, you are an inspiration to me!

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  15. I love this! I always struggle with feeling odd and different than everyone else. So when you find those people that you can connect with, it's huge. Thanks for sharing your struggles and reminding me to keep trying!

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  16. Anxiety just can't compete with the endorphins and dopamines that a good to and fro with geeky fandom generates.

    Some of my most memorable times are in front of scifi/fantasy books in bookstores. There is no way you would start a conversation in front of thrillers with "ooooh, the detective in that one is so awesome", but in front of scifi/fantasy, you can open with "if you like the look of that one, you should try so and so's trilogy...". Met a best friend that way in a town where I knew no one.

    All my love from down under my geek goddess Jen!

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  17. Yay for positive experiences. Wish I could come ride Hogwart's Express with you and John. Not sure I'm keen on the gilly water, but I'm pretty sure I'd like a chocolate frog.

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  18. I love this. This made me tear up in a happy way.

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  19. Beautiful words, beautiful photos.

    So happy that I have your blogs, Jen.

    I would never be brave enough to start a conversation with strangers, so I'm really proud of you. Wish I could find my passion(s) so that I could find my people.

    Thanks for this lovely post, and so thrilled to hear that you're baby-stepping away from your anxiety. You're really strong and brave, and if you listen carefully, you can hear every single one of your readers cheering for you from all the corners of the earth. Hear us?

    KW

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  20. Awww - yeah! Thanks for sharing that Jen. Love the pics, but love the story more!
    Maureen S

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  21. Love, love, love!!

    I think we should plan a fangirl meet up soon...maybe at a Con or Universal or Disney or *something*!!

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  22. Happy tears for you. We are your people, never fear.

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  23. I'm so happy that you had that experience! That's awesome, and I fully admit I teared up reading it. Big, big kudos to you for initiating the conversation on day two! As a person who struggles with social anxiety, that is a hugely admirable thing. As for the rest, setbacks happen. That you keep pushing on after them is what makes you amazing. Stay strong and we all send the love back to you. :)

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  24. I love this so much!!! So proud of you and so happy you found your people just when you needed them most that day!!! <3

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  25. Wow, Jen! What a beautiful example of the power of connection - Love this!

    This may have been suggested already, so forgive me if it has, but have you ever considered a support group? It sounds like connecting with fellow geeks was helpful, so joining a support group might be a good addition to your anxiety treatment plan.

    I suffered from intense social anxiety for many years, so I know your pain. A couple of years ago, I was so isolated that the only time I left my apartment was to go to the grocery store, and even then I could barely pay the cashier without struggling to breathe. In desperation, I began attending a support group about a year ago. Since then my anxiety attacks have completely disappeared. I go to ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), which is a good fit for me, but there are tons of different groups out there for different needs.

    I know it sounds super scary to walk into a room full of people you don't know in order to share personal experiences. It's kind of the exact opposite of what those of us with social anxiety want to do, but I can say without hyperbole that this group has saved my life. There's something so powerful and healing about being in a room surrounded by loving people who understand the shame, fear, and isolation, because they've experienced it too.

    Ok, I’m starting to sound like an infomercial, so I'll stop now. I’d be happy to chat about my experiences if you have any questions :) Big hug to you and John!

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  26. I'm always grateful for the little connections that can spark a conversation, whether it's a geeky thing or something like my knitting at the laundromat the other day. I struggle with social anxiety and when someone strikes up a conversation over something like that it reminds me that people aren't always so scary after all.

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  27. You! I like this. And you. And these people.

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  28. I remember when I went to Disney World for the very first (and only) time I went on the Pirates of The Caribbean ride and as we were going through the dark "cave" bit the ride stopped.
    We were bored for a good five minutes. The people ahead of us were talking in Spanish while the people behind us were speaking in some other language.
    Then we heard a weird noise: "WooooOOOOOOAAHHHhhhhh!!!" It kept getting closer and closer, and we couldn't see where it was coming from since it was just around the corner. Finally it got close enough that we were able to see what was making such a strange sound.
    People. They were doing the wave. The people in front would raise their arms way up high, starting with "wwWWWWW--" then it would continue all the way down the line, all the way around the corner behind us so we couldn't even see where it went, just an echoing, "OOOOOOOOAAAAAAaaaahhhhh..." Everyone, including us were doing it. And laughing enthusiastically the whole time.
    This is one time where I just felt so connected and bonded with strangers. The people speaking Spanish, the people speaking a different language, the people two seats ahead of me and the people way in back where I couldn't even see their faces, yet we were still interacting. We took something boring and we were able to have a ball and connect through it until the ride started twenty minutes later. It's something I'll never forget.

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    1. I love this story!! Except for the being-stuck-for-25-minutes part. That part scares the crap out of me. :) (Pirates is one of my bigger hurtles, ride-wise, since boats are much harder to evacuate.)

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  29. Be kind to yourself Jen, you are doing fab and learning new skills all the time. I cant remember whether I said this before, but for me, it is the fearful child inside who is my emotional self and if you are kind to her, listen to her fears and work with her, she learns to trust the adult, rational you. It takes time, but pays huge dividends going at her pace and learning to support her through her fears. I am so pleased for you. Please keep telling us all about it we are on the sidelines cheering you on.

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  30. Jen, just a small tip outside of the "YAY! Having your people is always such a boost!", which I really,strongly agree with, my daughter uses Xanax for panic attacks as well, after having one in the doctors office he told her to take her Xanax and melt it under her tongue for a "quick release" option. It tastes awful, but it does enter the bloodstream more quickly in that manner. That tip aside, I use you for inspiration for my youngest daughter who also has agoraphobia; she's also a fellow nerdling/geek.

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  31. I'm so honored to be considered someone's "people"! I have a front desk job, and I need to be (fairly) normal most of the time, but I have a group of friends that I can completely geek out with. Annually, we have a Doctor Who marathon (well, one year it was LOTR), and to have completely serious, analytical discussions about fantasy worlds over chips and salsa is the best thing in the world. P.S. Baby steps, Jen! You are awesome (I like to imagine the Sun from the Jimmy Dean commercials saying that to me).

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  32. Thanks for being brave enough to share your experience with panic attacks. My 10 year old is beginning to have them semi-regularly and, while I suffer from depression and a little anxiety, hers are much more intense and hearing from you helps me to understand what she's going through more so I can help her better.

    Also, if you were to ever consider coming to Gen Con in the future, I would be so thrilled to meet you. I have found that I get the same "these are my people" feeling that you did on Hogwarts Express, and I think if you were to come to GC you'd get that same feeling there.

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  33. Reading here is always such a boost. The only geek in my graduate program is also an ass and everyone else is so...normal. They go to clubs. They workout. They get drunk. I like to know that there are more geeks out there with happy fulfilling lives that are odd like me.

    When talking about how to talk with clients my teacher told me, "Just talk to them like you would if someone you didn't know walked into the break room."
    You mean hide in the back and hope they don't notice me?

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    1. I'm trying to figure out how to say this without sounding unfriendly or defensive, because my intent is the opposite...
      Sometimes the very "normal" person next to you is actually a huge inner geek, but is too shy to really embrace it. I think everyone probably thinks I'm totally "normal." I workout and do all the normal things that suburban moms are supposed to do, and in college I went to clubs, the gym, parties, sorority, etc. If someone started talking to me about Harry Potter or LOTR my geekiness was sometimes exposed, but mostly I keep it under wraps. I feel a little too geeky for mainstream and not really geeky enough to be accepted by dedicated / well informed geeks
      I love reading this blog and seeing the pictures from cons because I'm probably never going to go to one. I love spotting and complimenting Disney Bounders at Disneyland because I'm probably never going to be brave enough to do it myself, and I appreciate that they are out their living their inner geek.
      Long story short, don't be afraid to reach out to some of those "normal" people. You might find a kindred spirit.

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  34. Dear Jen,

    Trying for the 3rd time to post this comment. My computer is a little mean-spirited today. Ha!

    All I wanted to say, anyhow, was THANKS. Longtime reader, friendly lurker, rarely compelled to comment. But today, your post is synchronous with Part 2 of a 3-part series of mine on the same topic, and addresses in fact the technique of self-help-through-helping-others that I've posted about before (http://artcoloredglasses.com/2011/12/24/the-one-person-more-lost-than-me/), so I was reminded that it's high time I thanked you in print rather than merely in my heart for all of the inspiration and delight and fellow-trembler support you give to uncounted people like me here.

    I sincerely hope you know just how treasured you are for it all, most deeply for *who you are*.

    The series on my blog about coping with anxiety is, of course, potentially intense for anyone in the throes, but if you're ever up for it, here's yesterday's start: http://artcoloredglasses.com/2015/03/04/is-there-anyone-who-knows-me/ .

    May you always receive as much peace, love, and joy from your online community as you give to us!
    Cheers, and when it's acceptable, kindly corset-like (((HUGS))) from here,
    Kathryn

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  35. Jen, this made me tear up for you. So glad you're making progress. I used to experience full blown panic attacks (until I was diagnosed with and began taking medication for hypothyroidism---thank goodness for my amazing dr who recognized all of my seemingly unrelated symptoms and tested my levels) almost nightly and the only time I was ever able to get passed them (they would last, sometimes up to 6 hours, always at night) was if I completely distracted myself. Force myself to watch a movie or write something or read. It dulled the terror enough to help me eventually calm down. Course, I still didn't get any sleep...Sounds like that might help work for you, too. I had a friend who told me that, no matter what time it was, if I ever had a panic attack that I couldn't get out of, I could call her and she'd talk to me. And it doesn't matter what you talk about, as long as it's distracting.
    I hope this experience is a sign of good things to come for you.
    Yours in geekiness,
    Lauren

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    1. Wow, since I was just diagnosed with Hashimoto's, Lauren, this is especially relevant/interesting. I'm planning to make an appt. with a good endocrinologist this week, so fingers crossed I'll see similar results with my panic once I get my thyroid treatments figured out!

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  36. Woo! Go you!
    Enjoy your new found freedom. :)

    P.S. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and never forget it.

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  37. I'm so glad you had that positive experience! I love it when that happens. I was wearing my exploding Tardis shirt one time and a girl totally freaked when she saw it, and we had a great convo with our menfolk standing bemused to the side. :) <3

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  38. This story is so awesome and had me smiling from ear to ear for you.

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  39. I love this. Those are the moments all feels right with the world.

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  40. This made me cry. In the best way. There will never be anything more awesome to me than meeting new people and instantly being able to make silly jokes and references to stuff without having to constantly explain yourself. Not having to hold back the geeky comments because you don't have to worry the others won't get them and look at you strangely...

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  41. I have enjoyed reading both of your blogs for years, and love them.
    While researching accomodations for my son, for our trip to WDW this fall, I discovered that they offer a disability access card that will allow us to get a return time instead of waiting in the queue. It will allow us to wait the 30 minutes or hour or whatever the wait time currently is without being in the confined space of the lines. It sounds like this might help you if you not panic as much

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  42. I know that John wasn't trying to make fun of you, but in my personal opinion, I would be EXTREMELY offended if someone said "Oh, those are Miranda's people." I'd feel like they're suggesting that I'm some sort of freaky outcast who's a part of some weirdo cult and that they need to point it out so that the Normies around us don't get frightened. I know that it's okay to be weird and different, but no one wants to be branded as an outcast or a freak. I am a perfectly ordinary human being who just happens to love My Little Pony, Monster High and Supernatural.

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    1. I find that quite often, "X's people" is a good way to describe that feeling. I like my family, but around the Discworld fandom I found another family, mostly made of those odd aunts and uncles, and so many weird cousins I stopped counting long ago.
      When I first went to an event, it was the Disworld convention in 2006. Had to take the trip from France to England, and was a little bit anxious, having only been in contact through the web, with some of them. Once there... it's hard to describe. They're the best bunch of raving loonies* I've ever met. I'm proud to be one of them, and being around them is like being home.
      So... "my people" is a good, TL:DR way to put it.

      *Term officially applied by The Man in the Hat himself, and was met, without surprise, with general cheering and applause.

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  43. May we see a picture of your Gilly Water bottle? Please?

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  44. My roommate Renee met someone in our new neighborhood the other day that recognized her Star Trek tattoos and mentioned how he and his wife just got back from Ren Faire and were about to play some online gaming while watching Harry Potter. I squealed and exclaimed we had finally found our people, lol. Finding like minds is a blessing especially in new or stressful situations

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