Nearly 3 weeks ago, I was standing in the front of a huge hotel conference room, about to speak on Social Media For Market Managers. I already knew many in the room and had yet to meet many more. I was surrounded by Market Managers, farmers and staff members from large organizations that were attending the WSFMA conference to better their communities through farmers markets.
Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, where I was standing in front of Disneyland with a growing group of Instagram influencers better known as the WW (Weight Watchers) ambassador crew. While we were there for fun, the stress was quickly mounting as we tried to manage 20+ different ideas on what would make a good “story” on social media for our Disney day. Simply wanting to enjoy the sunshine and the magic that is Disney, I was growing uncomfortable. It wasn’t my first hint at isolation from the group mentality as just that morning the entirety of the crew went to a “Grit Cycle” ride together, with me being the only non-participant. There were a few reasons for my lack of willingness to jump on a spin bike and have an instructor yell commands and “empowerments” at me while I sweat and hurt alongside 45 other people in a small dark room. Namely the most deterring reason being that all of those women had to then get ready for our magical day at Disney – with 2 showers and a couple of sinks. Now, the simple fact that many of them – in our shared Long Beach house that slept 8 – ended up showering before the cycle class and donning a full face of make-up and “just the perfect cycle outfit.” And no, they didn’t do this to save time later…it was what they did simply to get ready for the class. There would, no doubt, be a lot more primping and priming for all the photo ops at Disney.
Let’s rewind just a bit. The WW crew was in LA to take part in Oprah’s 2020 vision tour. Our status as Ambassadors got us free tickets to see Oprah, and in the end, many of us traveled to enjoy just that, along with a few days in the sunshine. Several of us agreed upon a house rental despite never having met each other. I had anxiety and worry over this, but alas, I’ve run a 200 mile relay race (Ragnar, see a previous MJP blog post for THAT story) with 6 other people I had never met and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I just kept telling myself this. I was NOT who I used to be – an introverted, shy, afraid of making waves, girl. I am a self-employed, Market Maven that is confident and proud of herself.
So, imagine my surprise as I find myself desperately trying to be part of the conversation. Trying to insert my commentary on topics and add value to our group outings. I volunteered to take the couch so another lady could have her own bed space. I bought GOOD coffee from Trader Joe’s during our grocery haul and had it set up and ready for everyone each morning. I didn’t take up too much space – neatly arranging my things in a 1ft by 3ft space that my suitcase fit in. I never asked to use the shower or bathroom if someone else seemed to need it more. I thought I was doing everything “right” in the realms of merging with females that all had common interests and goals.
But there I was, on the outskirts. I meandered my way through Disneyland that day primarily on my own. My absence didn’t even seem noticed, and for the most part, I really didn’t mind, I wanted to get the most out of my $125 ticket and see the things I wanted to see. We had plans to rendezvous for a ride, then again later for a photo. I received a last-minute text that the entire group was going on the ride earlier, because they could. It wasn’t enough time for me to get there, but I responded asking if folks were hungry and could we meet up for food? Nobody was hungry, they’d been snacking all day. So I grab a bite to eat – then promptly receive a text (about 30 mins after the first one) stating that they were headed to Thunder Mountain, the wait was 5 mins, then they were meeting for food. In an effort to join back up and “try again” in my quest to be part of the group, I wander over to the waiting area for them to disembark the ride. And I wait. And wait. I send a few messages, no response…they must be on the ride. I wait some more. The sun had started to set so the sitting and cooling off was nice. I did it for nearly 90 minutes. Upon finding them getting off the ride, only one of them apologizes. We quickly MUST find food so we commandeer the local Mexican restaurant. Again, hardly anyone engages me in conversation about my day. It’s almost all nuances and innuendos that I was obviously not part of in my missed portion of the day.
The day continued to go this way until, icing on the cake, the group mentality had us leave our primo spot for watching fireworks so we could “beat the rush” of getting out of the park. I expressed my desire to stay but being that I had no car, was stuck with the majority. Many of them complained at how tired they were (see above paragraph where they all decided to kill themselves on stationary bikes first thing in the a.m.) In the end, we headed back in the direction of the car – but wait, we must get this ice cream! We must shop at these cute stores. I heard the fireworks as we sat on a park bench and talked more about OrangeTheory fitness, calories and vapid things. We ended up leaving the park a solid 20 minutes after the fireworks were done – no rush, no issues. I could have stood anywhere other than where we were and seen them just fine, and made it back to the group. I’m positive they wouldn’t have missed me.
I think the icing on the cake was during the car ride home. We (and by we, I mean they) were talking about TV shows. The topic lands on Game Of Thrones – YES! I’m an expert! I express my love of the show and am quickly denied. One comment was “Oh, I guess I tried to watch, but my husband doesn’t really like that era.” I ask for clarification and receive “Well, he likes Braveheart, but I guess that was an earlier time in history…he just couldn’t get into GOT.” Done.
The next few days includes Oprah – which was, in itself, incredible. Not only because SHE is pretty engaging herself, but also because the lights were off, the focus was the stage and I didn’t have to TALK to anyone in my group during those 5+ hours. It also included a meet-up where I got to meet a few IG’ers that I truly connected with. Just a few though, and their time was short-lived as they had other things to do. Our meet-up quickly dissolved into a drinking and loud-screaming-photograph session on the pier of Long Beach. It also progressed into after party planning, conveniently located across the street from our AirBnB unit. I took my opportunity to duck out as everyone came back to the house to change/eat/adjust fake eyelashes/insert grooming habit here. I expressed MY exhaustion (just like the day before…at Disney when everyone else did the same thing) and they expressed (in drunken whispers no less) that they’d “totally be like, so quiet, when they came back.” Sure.
Quiet, it seems, turned into inviting ALL the people that participated in the afterparty back to the house for a pool party until 2 a.m. Most of them forgot I was even there, and continued to “SHHHHHHHHHH” throughout the night. I slept like shit nonetheless and being that it was my last night, planned my escape. I was up at 6, packed and ready to go by 7a. I had to wait as there wasn’t anything to do at 7a, but as soon as I was able to, I walked to the local farmers market. I enjoyed coffee, I shopped, and I even walked to another craft fair close by. I timed my return to the unit to collect my things, and my Uber, just in time to find out most everyone had gone to brunch across the street. Mind you, I had no word of this, nor did I care…but it simply exasperated the feeling of not belonging that I had most of the weekend.
Now, I realize that by me even writing this blog post it insinuates that I am an influencer. That someone will read my experience and call irony on the fact that I’m putting my story out on the internet for people to be influenced by. I also realize that I am one of those IG’ers. I share my story on IG to gain likes and followers. I would argue the difference here is that I am being my true, honest self, as much as I can be. I found out that many of these ladies I shared time with have completely separate profiles that they engage with friends/family in real life. What? That seems like A LOT of work, and somewhat defeating of the purpose of being on social media and REAL.
I will also admit that I was very privileged to get to go on a mini-vacation, to afford to stay a few extra days for some self-care, and to be able to participate in any of this in general. Disney, shopping, eating out. All of it is my privilege that I realize not everyone else gets. So let me say this – I am grateful for the experience. In many ways.
I am grateful for this experience as a whole, because it reminded me so often of who I used to be. I remember a time in my life when I felt this insecure nearly every second. Childhood, adolescence, high school and even college. My entire life up until I turned 30 years old was spent on the sidelines. Watching, hoping, dying for someone to think of me as one of the popular kids, someone worth of being asked her opinion.
Much of my anger and frustration during this experience in LA was that I LET PEOPLE MAKE ME FEEL THIS WAY AGAIN. That realization, when I said it, while crying on the phone to my husband, locked in the closet-sized bathroom that I was relegated to, hit me like a ton of bricks. I am not this person anymore. I do not let people reduce me to an insecure teen that just wants to belong. I DON’T want to belong to a group of vapid influencers, to a group that so easily excludes those that don’t share the exact same ideals. At one point, I overheard a conversation where one IG’er was doting on another IG’er “Omygosh, we’re like the same person! I love it!” Really? Because I love being around people that challenge me, that push me to be better, do better, and think differently than I do. That’s not to say a majority of my friends don’t share similar interests, but I can’t think of one that is my twin in body, mind and soul. Isn’t that the beauty of relationships?
The juxtaposition of this LA experience so closely linked with the WSFMA conference experience was a bit jolting. I think that might be the reason for my nearly visceral reaction to it – which basically was checking out and looking ahead to my solo-time in Anaheim. I am proud of my inner self’s realization and relegation that I am not this person again. It took some self-soothing, some messages to friends and loved ones, but I constantly reminded myself that not less than a week before, I was leading groups in games, in ideas, and in expertise. I was social to the point of exhaustion, but I was ME and everyone seemed to be just fine with that. I was able to make connections that I know will last for years, even if we didn’t do a GRIT cycle together.
Lastly, this experience as a whole really validated that I’ve chosen some pretty damn incredible people to be around in my life. I missed my tribe with true heartache as I was surrounded by people that I never want to see or interact with again. Despite being sick this last week, I actively sought out engagement with my friends (both new and old) and tried to make it known how much I care about them.
Life isn’t easy, and sometimes it throws you vapid IG influencers, a head cold and travel delays all in the same 5 days. But the work put into your self-love, your surrounding tribe and your soul will ensure that you aren’t made to feel less-than for any longer than the universe dictates.