Last month we had Vietnam’s first ever WordCamp in Hanoi. It was a large, 100-ticket event that took months of planning and hours of time to get right. Sponsors and a rigid schedule were needed. Food and beverages were needed. It was work to get right. After WordCamp I remember thinking to myself, “This was amazing. I’m so happy with what we’ve accomplished during the last several years here in Hanoi, but I’m also glad that WordCamp only happens once per year. It’s too much.”
We had a meetup yesterday. Nearly 90 people registered for it and only 12 people, nearly half who had never been to a meetup, came. And yet I felt so fulfilled and so very happy with the turnout. Big never mattered to me as much as making connections, and the connections that I made at yesterday’s meetup were deeper than the connections that I made at WordCamp. No rigid schedule was needed. Chats happened organically. Everyone had a chance to introduce himself and share what he was working on. It felt like a small community.
WordCamp San Francisco 2011 changed my professional life. I was just ending my time with Graph Paper Press and thinking about what would happen next. I volunteered at a Happiness Bar, met Lance, immediately hit it off with him, and decided to apply to Automattic because he seemed like someone who I’d get along with. It was a very random, very destiny-filled encounter with another weird soul who had traveled the world, grown up in another country, and clicked with me well. We got each other.
But if I had not met Lance I would have probably thought that WordCamp San Francisco was exhausting and something that I could only physically and mentally bring myself to do once per year. I am an introvert. Large groups and large social gatherings bring me great stress. I’m socially adept, warm with others, and very personable, but only when groups are small. When they are large, like at a party or company meetup, I clam up, want to hide away in my room, and stay away from everyone. I don’t know why this happens but this is how I’ve always been. Give me a dinner table with 4 seats only, please. 6 is too much.
The way forward for me is small. Small numbers of friendships. Small gatherings. Small meetups. 1-hour phone conversations with 1 person rather than 3-hour social gatherings where I connect with no one and feel exhausted at the end of the night. I’m tired of feeling like big is a good thing. It’s simply not, especially when it comes to maintaining relationships in our lives that act as bouys and bedrocks. A girlfriend, a small handful of friends, my nuclear family, and a few extremely close professional colleagues. What more could I truly need?
This doesn’t mean cutting myself off from new relationships or communities. It doesn’t mean overlooking the value of networking. It mostly just means that if I have to do those things, I’ll remind myself that it’s okay I don’t like them very much and prefer dinner for two over dinner for twenty.