Imagine living a week pushing against your walls, comforts, depths. To jump in unblinking, then keeping your arms out, elbows locked, and palms pressed against the ON button.
In The Life Autistic, that’s a doomsday scenario.
But it wasn’t.
For these sorts of events, where I’m beyond my element, I stay close to home base. Plot things out. Venture out with those I know.
But I didn’t.
I found brand new co-workers, strung together a network of fabulous people from all different parts of my business. And I had a blast with “fast friends,” enough to where I didn’t even see my team for days.
For the conference itself, I had each day mapped, plotted to a tee, keeping things open only enough as a fallback. Gotta be predictable, right?
But I wasn’t.
The plans I woke to were not what happened. Whether opting out of sessions spontaneously for lunches or flipping the script on my day, I—*gasp*—went with the flow.
On Wednesday, Tableau hosted Data Night Out at the Superdome – 17,000 people strong – crowded, cacophonous, chaotic. That should have counted me out.
But it didn’t.
I was halfway serviceable on throwing footballs, but pitiful kicking field goals. But I tried. Even professionals miss there! And the entire time in line, I got to chat with a data analyst for the FDIC for 90 minutes solid – strangers to start, “friends” by the end.
On the day before I was to leave, my batteries ran beyond depleted. I’d confided with others who said the conference was tough. They, too, were introverts – and they couldn’t fathom me being one as well. I shared my secret:
“You just go until you stop.”
The plan was hang out Thursday, leave Friday.
I thought about staying in this hotel again. Out of my element. Voice getting more hoarse. More and more dead time. I thought about my office. Colorado. Home. My family.
I stuck it to the plan and called for a trip home.
I’m Hunter Hansen, autist-in-residence. I know what I’m about. I burned bright, burned quick, but totally burned out.
But I grew myself, and not just from 50lbs of oysters. I practiced making fast friends on the draw. I tried spontaneity for a while and enjoyed it for others’ sake. I didn’t let my being twice out of my element ruin it for others.
Go until you stop.
Then go a little bit further. Be strong. Stretch the boundaries – if just by a little. Or stretch them a lot, melt down, then reforge.