I drove to the CU Boulder campus for my first Ignite to overcome my social anxiety. I think my first Ignite must have been Ignite 4. But, I’m not entirely sure. Last night’s Ignite was number 19. Comparing my first Ignite experience to my most recent is like comparing what Ignite has become.
When I first attended Ignite Boulder, it was held in a giant chemistry classroom on the CU campus. I think I’ve talked about that experience before. So, I won’t go into much depth here. But, I will say that I was extremely nervous. It was either in 2008 or 2009. I don’t remember. I had been drawn there by many of the local people I followed on twitter had been talking about it. I remember walking amongst the crowd of people and nervously holding my phone, distracting myself with twitter along the way. I remember seeing Micah Baldwin walking in front of me. I think I may have posted to twitter that he was shorter than I expected him to be (He now blocks me from following him. Which I find hilarious). There was a smell of popcorn just inside. People were standing around and talking. I made my way through the crowd and sat in the back, which was the very top of the room. My social anxiety ruled that night. But, it sparked something in me. the talks given interested me. The people down at the front of the room were so passionate about what they were talking about. I was hooked.
I think there may have been one or more more Ignites I attended in that classroom. And on a side note, at a later date, I saw Esther Dyson speak on a panel in the same room a couple years later. I even asked her a question. I think it was about what kind of insurance she had to get to be a private citizen astronaut. But, I digress. At one of the Ignites I attended there, was a young man presenting named Ryan Wanger. His spark was entitled “My Mom Just Joined Facebook. Now What”. I smile while remembering this talk. It was a realization that not only could I learn something by these highly passionate people. I could also laugh and have a good time.
Flash forward to last night. Ryan Wanger was now the organizer of Ignite Boulder. I saw him rushing around whispering to people here and there before everything got started. But, the closest I got to talking to him was complimenting him on how it all came together. I think all organizers need to hear that randomly from people who appreciate how hard these things are to put on.
I had brought one of my best friends to this Ignite. He’s my roommate and one truly awesome individual. So, awesome in fact. That he just today had his middle name changed to “Awesome”. No joke. I had taken him to TEDx a couple of months prior. And I knew he would love Ignite.
This time, instead of driving, we both took the express bus into Boulder from Denver. I didn’t think we’d be so early. But, there weren’t too many people there when we arrived. It’s really amazing how much Ignite has grown. I’ve seen people just show up without having to check in. Later, there would be people checking you in by looking you up on a long list of paper. Last night, there were several people standing outside the Boulder Theater like bored Apple employees with their iPhones. We saddled up to a young lady and she was able to find our names in her phone. With two taps on the glass, we were checked in.
I know quite a few of the people who volunteer at Ignite. So, it’s always great saying hi to them. One of the first people I saw there was someone who told me sometime back that she was going to unfollow me on twitter because, well, I don’t really remember why. I’m sure she had a good reason. I used to be a mess. But, we still see each other at each Ignite. Walking up to her, I knew we’d be pleasant with each other. But, I never really knew how she really felt about me. So, when she said loudly “Becca!” with her arms wide wanting a hug, I was a little taken aback. I would have stood there talking more, but I was a little unprepared for it. I even forgot to introduce my friend. But, she did show us some amazing seats up front.
Two other friends of ours showed up about 15 minutes after we arrived. It was so great spending the evening with both Bill and Sarah. Bill had dressed up in a nice tie and jacket. It was the annual winter gala at Ignite. So, people were encouraged to dress up. I thought about going in girl mode. My roommate encouraged me. But, I’m not quite there yet. I knew I’d have to use the women’s restroom. And with my recent set back in that area of my transition, I decided it would be easier if I just wore jeans and a t-shirt.
It wasn’t too long after we arrived that I felt like wandering around to find people I knew. Acknowledging that I wanted to overcome my social anxiety some time back, I started using Ignite as a way to help. I used to say that I would use Ignite to introduce myself to one new person each time. I started giving up on that when I would meet two or three people at each event. I always seek people out. But, it’s less of a thing anymore. last night, I wanted to reconnect with friends I only talk with online. If new meetings happened, so be it.
After we got seated, I think the first person I saw was Terry and later, his beautiful wife Kia checking people in near the entrance. Once I checked in on Foursquare, a twitter friend let me know she was up in the balcony. The first time I met @Kaysano, I was talking with her up in the balcony when Sarah stepped over chairs to come meet me for the first time. I eventually found Kaysano and had a lovely conversation with her and her nice friend she had brought along.
I was surprised to see that the guy walking up to the stage for the first talk looked very familiar. And sure enough, once he introduced himself, I knew it was @2509. We had never met in person. We have several mutual friends. So, I wanted to meet him. It was later, during the intermission, when he caught me glancing his way. I was trying to decide when I should go over and introduce myself. As soon as our eyes made contact, he waved me over. I actually looked behind me to make sure he was referring to me. It’s a little bizarre when people recognize me. It was really great meeting Tim. He’s a great speaker. He seems very comfortable on the stage. And he’s very funny.
Once the door opened to meeting new people, I started to think about who else I could meet. The bug was back. I thought I had seen Erika Napolitano walking around in a pretty dress. But, with so many people mingling, I wasn’t sure if I could find her in time. I walked up and down both sides of the theater. I went outside. I walked went upstairs into the balcony. I even walked over to the line outside the women’s restroom. I saw a few red heads. But, not the one I was interested in meeting. A few minutes after returning to my friends, I spotted her talking with a guy I thought might be @voteforgrant. But, I wasn’t sure. I made my way up to the front row and waited for an opportunity to say hi. While standing there, a young lady wanted to get by me. So, I moved over to a chair in the front row. A couple of seconds later, I was sitting on the back of the chair. But, by doing that I was blocking her friends path. So, I stood on the chair.
So, there I was standing on a chair. In the front row. My social anxiety be damned. Just as I tapped Erika on the shoulder, she turned around and I realized that I was standing there looking down at her chest. Oh gawd. I wish I liked girls. I asked her her name. She responded with Erika with nary the Texas accent I heard in her TEDx talk. So, I asked for her last name. I was relieved I had found the right person. I wasn’t sure what she looked like up close. The tattoos should have been a giveaway. Once I said that I was @frogtosser, she recognized me. I didn’t really have anything else in mind besides introducing myself. So, I said it was nice meeting her and made my exit.
All 12 of the talks were great. But, I came away thinking about one in particular. It stuck with me. The talk was about life’s stresses And how to find the root cause of them. For instance, one of the examples he gave, was losing a parking spot. When that happens, are we mad that we lost the spot to some jerk who sneaked in there ahead of us? Or are we mad because we had already imagined ourselves in that sweet parking spot near the entrance? I just started a new job. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job. I feel like, through this first week and a half, that I’m not where I want to be. For most of the entire bus ride back to Denver, I was rethinking why I was mad at myself. I need to open the lines of communication with my boss more. I think he’s happy with my performance. But, I’m not sure. And I need to be honest with him where I’m having difficulty. This job is a big change for me. How I work, where I work, what I do first, it’s all something I need to get used too. And that’s not counting the new learning opportunities. I love what I’m doing. But, I need to back off the pressure and just do the work. I need to have faith that it will all come together.
This was easily one of my favorite Ignites. There’s always something about being there that feels like home. So many great creative people all in one space for an evening. I can’t imagine my life without it. Thanks, community.
Last minute edit: After everything ended, Sarah and I went up to the stage to see what it’s like. Looking out at the empty theater was quite a bit easier than I thought it would be. But, maybe that’s because it was empty. I had no idea until I got up there, that there is a Macbook Pro up there showing which slide is being shown.
When I woke up this morning, I decided that the idea that I’ve had floating around my head for an Ignite spark is something I want to do. So, expect me up on stage sometime in the future.