Tonight I attended the City of Quincy’s annual Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was essentially an opportunity for local business owners and political people to network and to honor individuals and local businesses that have contributed to innovation and economic success for our city. I am not a business owner. I am not a politician. Currently, I do not even have a job. Networking is not even my thing. In fact, social situations are extremely awkward for me. I was COMPLETELY outside my comfort zone but I was there because I am in a place of yearning. I yearn to take what is left of my seemingly insignificant life and use it in a significant way. I am reaching out and networking because I desire to learn from those who have done it or are doing it.
As an introvert, it feels like there is a billboard across my forehead that reveals me as socially inept. I was extremely grateful for the woman named Denise who made immediate introductions and shared that she too was just networking. She gave me useful information she has learned in her experiences thus far and recommended an organization for me. Already I felt a sense of promise. I reached beyond my comfort zone and answers were being provided.
I chose to sit at the table where Denise was sitting. A young girl named Anna sat down next to me. She was easy to talk to and shared she does marketing and fundraising for the Quincy Community Action Program (QCAP). I knew what QCAP was because I enjoyed the benefits of QCAP when my children were very small. A friendly woman named Rebecca from QCAP would come to my home once a week and bring either a new book or toy to help provide early education to lower income families. What a significant thing it would be to support or align with QCAP as a resource for my visionary ideas for the children of our city. Although I still have no formal plan, marketing and fundraising will be a need and I now have a friendly face to reach out to when I do.
After two positive interactions, I felt courageous enough to get up from the table and start walking the room. My plan was to make my way around the entire outskirt and hopefully it would be time to sit down and hear the speakers and awards by the time I made it back to the table. I became conscious of that invisible billboard but pushed through and thought… “I’m going to talk to the first person I see alone because they may feel like me”. I came across this older gentlemen who reminded me of Burl Ives. I could feel a cheerful depth in his character. He shared he does video productions. Well no wonder. Creativity brings joy. He captures it. Another skillset needed for my creative visions. My heart was happy!!! Gifts of resources I could potentially collaborate with and I am ALL about collaboration!
I continued to make my way around the room. There were several people I saw from across the way who I intuitively knew I wanted to connect with. One was an older wise-looking woman who seemed familiar to me. There was another older man with reddish brown hair who also looked familiar. Then there was another a gentleman I saw on Quincy Coffee Talk the week before who was aligned with my visions and goals. Lastly, there was the man whose great easy-going smile I captured from the annual Quincy Flag Day Parade. I wanted to know the man behind the smile!
The most awkward part of this networking experience was every person asking me what business I was from and I would have to reply “I am not a business owner.”, which would inevitably be followed by the question of “Oh, what company do you work for?”, which zapped me in my gut to have to reply “I’m unemployed”, but I would follow that up with forced enthusiasm initially and begin explaining I am exploring becoming a small business. When I began to talk of my ideas for the children, my true enthusiasm would come to the surface. I could tell I was making connections with people’s synapses. Even still, I would leave each person recognizes the degrading reality that I am unemployed and had nothing to offer anyone who attempted to network with me.
The first person I could connect with from those I had scoped out was the older wise-looking woman. She listened to me and I could see in her eyes she had a vision of something… a use. She worked for the Milton Times. She told me to call her and we will have a conversation. Photo journalism and writing is an absolute my dream job of mine. The very fact this woman works for a local newspaper outfit was just another absolute miracle of a connection to be making and she is willing to talk with me!
All of the other individuals were tied up in conversations and I found myself back at the table. I refused to sit down. I went for round 2 around the room. I found a warm looking African American woman standing all by herself. She listened to me talk about my visionary creative ideas for the children and making use of the Performing Arts Center that is to be built in our City. She reminded me with good sense these are hard goals. I acknowledged that but reminded her “Miracles do Happen!!!” She said very warmly back with a loving smile “Yes, they do”. Later, when the mayor talked with pride about developing the Performing Arts Center, the woman locked eyes with me, gave me a huge smile, a big thumbs up and a wink as if to say… “You got this girl!!!” I felt HOPE!!!
I was then able to connect with the man with the smile. He was swarmed with people and all I got to do was introduce myself as the photographer of the photo and accept his business card. Somehow I have all the business cards that were given to me except his so he still remains a mystery man for me. One day, at the right time, I imagine we will make a connection again.
Then I briefly was able to connect with the man, Ian Cain, from the Quincy Coffee Talk program. He was earning an award for his contributions to innovation and entrepreneurship. I shared how much he inspired me listening to him and was able to give him a short summary of my goals. He was interested in hearing more but the speakers were about to begin. I plan to definitely connect with him at a later date and it will not be awkward for me because we have already made introductions.
As we were waiting for the room to settle down, the last man I wanted to connect with who had reddish-brown hair sat at my table. I knew I would chat with him when the presentation was over and I did. He was in real estate. I had promised a friend I would see if there were any real estate connections and here was one. Yet another gift!
Unfortunately, that conversation did not feel as good as the rest. You see… what is currently motivating me to push past my comfort zone is pain. I began to speak of my goals with this man and then I got vulnerable. I shared a bit of my personal story as to why and fell apart. I had to excuse myself and leave. I am not going to beat myself up about it. I was genuine with every person that I spoke with. I got more connections than I expected and they were the ones I needed to help further my goals. I did good. I am a human being and I have pain. It’s a GREAT motivator!