I'm wary of attending organized events that happen in bars involving alcohol for the purpose of networking.
Every social interaction begins with a clumsy "Hi, I'm (insert name)." Every person in the circle you're trying to penetrate stares at you, waiting for the next person to speak.
What goes next depends on the one who dares to continue the conversation that was respectfully disrupted or shift the focus on the new person if he or she looks interesting enough.
I used to be a salesperson.
Networking was a skill I used to be extremely good at, coming from jobs in sales and marketing.
Years ago, I was sent by my former bosses to events in fancy hotels, ballrooms, conferences, conventions, so I could mingle with decision makers - CEOs, VPs - collect piles of business cards to bring back to my desk, consolidate them in a spreadsheet, and send each new lead a personal email a week after.
This was the sales cycle - introducting, profiling, knowing their pain point, and selling your stuff in the most subtle, empathetic way.
Solve someone else's problems, get a contract signed, and the cost of dressing up for that conference in a fancy hotel has paid off.
No end in sight
But in such organized social events, I don't see any end or purpose, other than chatting about jobs, places of residence, and hobbies. This could go in both directions - dull or stimulating.
Most people, I assume, are looking to fill their time, as they have no kids to tuck to sleep by 9PM.
Like me, people living without families and close friends nearby need to force themselves out of the door to socialize or go down the path of isolation, working to pay the bills.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I pushed myself to go to a mixer event a couple of weeks ago.
It wasn't horrible. The people were welcoming, the atmosphere light. Food was passed around; there were no threats. The event itself was well-organized.
Social butterfly no more
But there is something about the awkwardness of opening a conversation with strangers in a dimly-lit place that feels unnatural now.
I am not doing sales work anymore, and I don't need to do this.
But somehow I made my way to this mixer under the belief that it was going to be fun and exciting. It wasn't.
Disappointment clung to me at the end, not by the event or the people, but by my own reaction towards being there.
I did make a new friend named Trang who kindly offered a ride home. I had more fun chatting with her while sitting on the back of her bike.
We were the first ones to leave. I gave my beer away to a fellow attendee, a friendly Indian restaurant owner who drank from my glass by mistake, and without thinking twice, I said "You can have it!". I gave him my other token of free drink so he could have another one.
I sensed my own disinterest and boredom.
Rather than appreciating getting lost in the crowd and feeling my way through the most interesting group, I found that in my apartment is where my true comfort lies, hidden away.
When I reached home, I settled comfortably in my bed and continued reading "Never Broken", a memoir by Jewel Kilcher. In my youth, I listened to her albums countless times, creasing the corners of the lyrics page of her cassette tape.
I read about her Alaskan childhood spent singing in bars, abusive father, homelessness, and getting her first shot at fame through an agent who noticed her while performing in San Diego.
From time to time, I placed my Kindle beside my pillow to look up videos of her from the early stages of her career, yodeling with her father, or alone, in front of a mesmerized crowd.
This is my good time. This is fun.
*This blog post is in response to a writing prompt by Jon Batiste from my only source of prompts, Isolation Journals.