In September I flew to Indianapolis for the Influence Conference. The Influence Network is an online community that equips women in their passions and projects right where they are. I’ve been a member since last December when I stumbled upon it in my research for starting up Elsie Road. This was going to be their last big conference—at least for the foreseeable future—in favour of smaller and more local events. Since most members of the network are scattered across the U.S., I figured this was my one chance to meet many of them.
To be honest, I’m not really sure why I really wanted to go. I was inspired by women in the network and the way they embraced their everyday influence, but it’s one of those things that normally I’d see and think, “Oh that would be cool to go to” and then that would be it. But as the months passed, the desire to make it there just got stronger.
So I talked with Anthony, made some inquiries and bought my ticket. As the conference dates drew closer, the logistics of the trip became more complicated and more expensive. I started to regret purchasing that ticket. What was I thinking? Why did I think this was something I could do?
The anxiety set in. I haven’t travelled much, and I’ve only flown by myself once. I didn’t know anyone in Indianapolis, or really anyone who would be at the conference. I worried about getting sick and about my diet restrictions. I said to my mom a few days before I left, “This will be a good stretching experience right?” But I wasn’t convinced.
I was up early for the flight and by the time my first plane took off I started to feel a bit excited. Maybe this wouldn’t be so terrible. I made it to Indianapolis and to my first hotel without incident. I went in search of some dinner and felt the first twinges of discomfort. I spent that first night in my sad hotel room near the airport in near-delirious pain, praying for strength. I checked out the next day—feeling somewhat better—and found an Uber to the Westin where the conference was being held.
When I arrived my roommate wasn’t there yet, so I couldn’t check in. I wandered downtown, picked up some medicine and eventually made my way back to the hotel. As I was walking back, the overwhelm started to hit me. I stood on that strange street, in a city I didn’t know, heading to a hotel full of women I’d never met. I felt sick, I was in pain, and the tears threatened to spill over. I clenched my fists, took a deep breath and repeated to myself, “You will be fine. You are okay.”
I’d like to say that was the only time that weekend I was near tears. It wasn’t. But I don’t regret the trip. I imagine sitting on the airplane, watching the sunrise and marvelling at the beauty of the world. I think about the surprisingly-charming Indianapolis downtown, and how I hope to return there one day. I remember the women I met who encouraged, inspired and welcomed me—the spontaneous dinner invitations, the late night roommate conversations, the fellow J-poucher I met, and the book that was gifted to me by someone who knows what it’s like to have a new marriage rocked by illness. I look at the notebook full of thoughts from speeches that have yet to fully sink in. I think of the text messages that lit up my phone all weekend from the women in my Influence community group who couldn’t make it there. The way they gave me strength, reminded me I was blessed to be there, and made me increasingly thankful for the ways God was working through this strange online network.
I’m not much good at getting out of my comfort zone. I don’t always like jumping into the unknown. But I have learned that it’s always worth it.