I’m leaving tomorrow for the Romance Writers of America conference, and I’m feeling like the dorky sixth grader I used to be. My clothes are slightly better, and the haircut definitely is, but there’s something eternal about being that kid who never felt like she belonged a hundred percent. Even now, even when I’ll know literally hundreds of my peers and professional colleagues, I’m terrified I won’t have anyone to talk to.
What is it about never feeling good enough? Birth order? Something from my youth? Strangers who dislike me on social media? Anne who used to beat me up every recess in sixth grade? I have no idea. I want to lean in, own my power (not sure what that really means), channel Serena Williams and all that good stuff, but there’s also a very strong argument to be made for staying in my room. Tragically, this Marriott doesn’t have room service, so I’ll be forced to come out.
I know I’m extraordinarily lucky in my career, and I’ve been blessed with the affection of many, for which I’m incredibly grateful. And yet, I can’t quite shake that dorky middle school version of myself, who loved horses and hated school dances, who gladly babysat on weekends so my calendar wasn’t empty. I kind of liked that kid when she was on her own. It was only in groups that I felt less than. I’d look at my own mother, so socially graceful, so fun,with awe and wonder. I would never be like that.
Except I am, sort of. It took a lot of practice, and I’m still a work in progress, but I’ll be out there, meeting and hugging and encouraging. One thing I’ve learned in the writing world—there’s plenty of room for success. Cheering on other authors is absolutely my favorite thing to do at these conferences, whether I’m meeting the next big name or saying hello to one of my idols.
To my twelve-year-old self—hey, kid! You turned out okay. All those books you read…time well spent! Keep working hard. And listen It’s not a bad thing to remember those awkward, misfit feelings if they make you keep an eye out for people who might be feeling the same way.