The Soup Bit Me : Tackling Seminars As An Introvert
I'm not the most confident person in the world; just the person who is better at presenting a front like she is. I am painfully shy most of the time, prone to hiding in the background and not saying much other than quips and wisecracks to get a laugh out of people and ease my own nervousness. Being out of my comfort zone was not something I ever relished or wanted to encounter ... If I had the choice, I'd stick to the same routine and only liven it up with a new MP3 in my ever-present player with the headphones firmly stapled to my ears.
Growing up in kind-of cramped conditions, I don't relish sharing a room with anyone. At all. Even with close friends, I'd contrive any reason to not share a room or living space since I am a firm creature who desires her own den and her own little hidey-hole away from everyone else. So, the prospect of sharing my room with not 1, but 3 other strangers and be brought in to do group activities, sharing, playing games and embarrassing myself in front of people I might never see again, or worse, see at the next seminar thinking 'Oh, God, they saw me mess up that thing, please just let the ground eat me alive'?
Nope nope nope nope nope.
Don't be fooled; not everyone who comes to volunteer is a blazing extrovert who has no problem slotting into every social scene and can start a conversation with a brick wall when given the chance. Some of you will have little quirks or particular habits that mean you don't quite get into the spirit. A few of you might have quite large problems with certain activities and boundaries. While there is nothing wrong at all with being yourself, and you are encouraged to make it known that you are not comfortable ... Let me tell you that it DOES get easier. It honestly does. I haven't let go of a lot of my particular habits (no-one is invited to sleep under my bed no matter how nice they are or how many spiders they get rid of for me), but I can now much more easily deal with situations that arise that are a challenge on a mental and emotional level.
As an introvert, space and quiet solitude are important to me. It's how I recharge my ever churning and anxiety-prone brain. I hate sharing space, I never change in front of anyone, and I cannot deal with being embarrassed. I even cringe to the point where I cannot stand looking anymore if embarassing situations arise in movies (except to Adam Sandler, because he kind-of deserves it). So being put in a seminar with 20+ other strangers and only a handful of people I know, potentially being entirely in German (a language I am absolutely not fluent or even competent in public at) is a nightmare scenario.
How did I deal with it?
For a start, always be sure that you have someone you absolutely know in your group. Someone you live with, a neighbour, someone from the same agency (i.e. DRK) as yourself, know their name and you have an 'anchor' if things become too much. You can tell yourself 'it's okay, X is here'.
Sharing a room can be ticklish, but it's worth remembering that it is only for 5-6 days, they may be as uncomfortable as you, and no rule of etiquette says you must change or share yourself with them. Change in the bathroom, let them know if you have any special needs, ensure you know their names, and work out any arrangements for room keys in case you have different plans. Feel like going back to your room for a nap? Perfectly fine! In my first seminar in Dresden, I was sick and would often retreat early to nap or relax, worried I looked strange to the other attendees but ... well, when you are coughing like a hedgehog is sleeping in your throat, they more than understand.
When it comes to group activities, do not be afraid of not remembering anyone's names or getting names confused. You are NOT the only one who will have this problem, and it can become ticklish when the group has more than one person with the same or similar names. Nametags are often handed out on the first day of events, so take the time to memorise at least a few names whilst picking up the others as time goes on. If you forget or confuse names, simply apologise, laugh it off and explain that you are bad at names. I can never match names with faces (I remember people's voices far quicker than their faces), but eventually you DO remember the names of a core few people and can get away with fudging the rest.
Warmups and teambuilding exercises are actually pretty fun, despite any misgivings you may have at the start. In both seminars I've been to, initial nervousness and apprehension is quickly worn away as we come together and literally start working as a team. Though you might feel like the odd one out - as I do most of the time being the obviously obese person - rest assured that you are still counted as part of the group and will be treated as such.
When you come away from the seminar, you will know more people than when you started, you might swap stories or viewpoints, start discussions about politics or history, or even just watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones in the best possible Wifi spot you can find in your current seminar building, whilst avoiding talking to those who don't want to be spoiler'd.
Mealtimes, I admit, I have problems with more than a few things. I hate eating in front of other people, and I am an unbelievably picky eater. In Dresden, I'm ashamed to say that I made my own arrangements for eating because I wouldn't bring up the nerve to eat with everyone else. I've now broken that for the most part in Bornheim, eating lunch with the group and trying to laugh off anything embarrassing (mispronouncing the meal name, spilling pasta sauce on my shirt, etc.).
Which brings me to the title; I spilt soup on my fingers trying to get past someone whilst carrying a second helping of delicious soup. An incident like that should put me off going to get more food, and just eating with the group in general. I was asked if I was okay, I tried to ignore the stinging