Lately I’ve been on this serious “get to know random people who could potentially elevate your career” kick. Or networking, as most folk like to call it. Clubs aren’t even on my “what’s the move” radar anymore. For me, “the move” is attending events of substance that will expand my network in one way or another. Literally almost every week I’m at a mix ‘n mingle or happy hour or some artsy event that generally involves sipping overpriced cocktails while making random small talk with well-mannered, like-minded strangers who I might actually already be friends with on Facebook. Last night’s event came in the form of an intimate dinner party in Eastern Market, the new hipster haven of Detroit.
The event was put on by an up-and-coming young professional group called Clubhaus Detroit. In order to attend this event, you had to first apply to become a member of the group and then purchase a ticket to reserve your spot for the dinner, which had very limited seating. When I first heard about it, I thought, This sounds pretty cool. Why not. So I applied. Then I told my friends about it and tried to get them to apply — they didn’t. This left me with three options: A) Beg my friends to go until one of them broke down; B) Skip the event altogether since I had no one to go with; or C) Skip all my friends, buy my ticket, and go alone.
Now anyone who knows me, knows that option C would be a huge challenge for me. Not because I have an issue with doing things by myself, but because I hate small talk. I’m terrible at it. So going to a social event alone is never something I just hop up and do. I need at least one person whom I know and trust to be there with me — someone who could be like, my small-talk wingman or something. There’s just something about sparking up random chatter with people I don’t know that makes me very, very uncomfortable. I never know what to say or how to keep the conversation going. Whenever I’m small-talking someone, there’s usually a blatant, awkward pause that involves me trying to think of the next interesting thing to say. You might find this hard to believe, but I’m not very witty in person (I know, shocker). So I never really know how to respond to jokes or sarcastic remarks that I normally wouldn’t find funny. And on top of that, my fake laugh sucks. So yeah, small talk has never been my area of expertise.
All that said, I chose C. For two reasons: 1) I am a grown woman, which means I shouldn’t have to depend on my friends or anyone else in order to do things I want to do; and 2) I am a growing woman, which means I should be constantly challenging myself to do things outside of my comfort zone. So, I figured attending a random dinner party solo would be a nice, uncomfortable challenge. So I got all dolled up and headed out with my girls — Me, Myself and I — to face my socially awkward fears. Once I got there, I wound up having a great time. I made some great connections, had some great conversation, and ate some great food. I mean yeah, I might’ve sipped on a lil’ something to take the edge off! (In my best Kanye VMA rant voice). But overall I was proud of myself for doing something that I once believed to be the unthinkable. And on top of that, I got to connect with some pretty dope people.
Like this one woman I met — who is also a blogger and published author of multiple books (#Goals) — was telling me how she goes to different places by herself all the time. After I told her how I decided to come to the event alone, she told me how she stopped basing her decisions off of what other people did or didn’t want to do a long time ago. She shared stories with me about different places she’s traveled to alone (including, but not limited to Vegas, the Caribbean, Miami and New Orleans) and how she has learned to enjoy doing things that make her happy, alone or not. That conversation was one of several I had last night that gave me a lot of insight, perspective and enlightenment.
Moral of the story: Take risks. Only the ones that will help you better yourself. If it scares the hell out of you, go for it. You might just wind up getting a slice of heaven out of it.