Most of you don't know me well, or at all in person; but those of you who do are often shocked I wear the title INTROVERT. You see, when we meet, when we speak I'm upbeat, I'm engaged, I'm enthusiastic about our interactions and I'm usually surrounded by 100's of friends and the 'life of the party'.
Well that's because I've learnt to embrace my SHAMELESS self.
Let's go back a bit, to May 2017. You could find me sitting in a tent in the middle of outback Australia, applying for jobs in the middle east and other random places and struggling not to scream until I lost my voice. You see after many years of working to be 'acceptable' and be the person I thought everyone else expected of me, by forcing myself to always be smiling, and forcing any hurt or unease into a small box locked up tight inside me... things finally came to a head and I LOST MY EVER LOVING SHIT!
Anxiety took hold in a big way and I quickly went from holding everything inside and continuing on with life, to daily anxiety attacks, a mind that would not turn off and emotions flying out of me in every direction all at once. I was a complete mess and I didn't have a clue what to do about it other than I could no longer continue living the life I had for over 20 years... I couldn't be who I thought people expected anymore.
FAST FORWARD TO JANUARY 2018... a book friend reached out online and invited me to Shameless Book Con in Orlando Florida. A place for book dorks to gather, read smut, interact with each other and their fave authors and generally be their glorious book dorky selves. GASP! No way! There is no way such a place could exist... except it does.
And so October 2018 found this little Ginger Ninja flying to USA, to attend Shameless Book Con. SOLO. Trust me, my anxiety was high; not because I was travelling solo to the other side of the world - I'm a traveller... I've been all over the world solo - I love it. This was a whole new anxiety that was trying to take me down. After making the decision back in 2017 to no longer put myself in any situations that make me uncomfortable, I was doing just that. I was taking my poor introverted soul that just wants to stay quietly in my home, read books, and no have to interact with people - which is exhausting and painful to me... and I was going to spend 4 days in a massive crowd of strangers.
Now I'll admit, there was times that I hid in my hotel room, I needed to give myself regular time outs and it nearly killed me to have such huge groups surrounding me, all interacting with each other, all friends, all hyper... and all wanting to get to know THE AUSSIE who flew over just for the event. My brain cried and wanted to shut down, my insides were in full blown 'fight or flight' mode and desperate to flee... HOWEVER, it was also the best thing I've ever done in my 46 years.
Brand new extra special friends were made... the magnificent Red Phoenix, so sweet, so introverted, and so welcoming to an Aussie on the verge of a breakdown. Yany Noa, a fellow ginger from Cuba, a fellow solo traveller and first time Shameless visitor, who befriended me and didn't allow me to fly solo. Angera Allen, such a big personality in a small body who made me understand that things I crave in life are normal. And Danielle Norman, who's books I'd loved and who's Iron Orchids I'd been silently stalking online...
There were times that I could barely hold myself together over the 4 days, I put in a 10 minute appearance at the Smut Gala and then locked myself in my hotel room - completely overwhelmed and on the verge of tears. But - I discovered that being the book dork that I am is not only ok, but celebrated in certain circles of life. The lifetime of being seen as strange for reading hundreds of books a year, for preferring to read that watch tv, for wanting to talk books, and characters and everything that goes with those wonderful pages... all of this wasn't what made me weird (trust me I've been laughed at my whole life for being a book dork) - these things defined me as FAB U LOUS!!!
I AM A SHAMELESS READER!
2019 had me returning to Orlando with a new spring in my step, a new courage and a new peace in my soul - I was returning to MY GANG. Because of these hundreds of people I had accepted that I wasn't weird, I had grown in confidence in who I am, and 3 books published - having gained the confidence to put my own work out into the world; again Yany Noa has been my wing man and one of my biggest supporters as an author.
Over the 12mths I'd become active online with the Orchids (and was greeted with "girl get your ass over here" on arrival at Shameless day 1) and now call Danielle Norman one of my girlfriends. Angera Allen and I had kept in touch and that girl had taught me so much about being myself. Red had quietly supported me without even realising she was doing it. And Christine & Hayley (the wonderful Dear Mistress team) had helped me in ways only they know and understand. Basically every person, author, organiser, reader had a hand in my improving health and happiness... they all accepted me and embraced my quirks and anxieties without thought even when I couldn't do that for myself.
Now 9mths out my Shameless friends and I are already plotting and planning out Shameless return. 2020 will bring new challenges, new experiences and I guarantee new friends, but no matter what the year throws at me I know I can take it because of my girls - each a book dork who prefers to hide away and read than do anything else. Each of whom understands that I sometimes feel like tearing my own skin off just to let the rising panic inside out. Each of whom accepts and likes me for the book dork that I am, who loves my library, who wants to talk books, who doesn't laugh at or poke fun at my book choices or recommendations...
EACH AND EVERY ONE IS SHAMELESS - LIKE ME.
The moral of my little tale is this... if you are unsure about attending your first Shameless, COME. Message me and I'll be your wing man and you can be mine. We're all anxious, we're all awkward, we're all crazy book dorks - we understand and we got you covered. Jump into the Shameless pool feet first, it'll be hard, it'll freak you out but you'll NEVER regret doing it. It's the one place in the world outside of my own house that I can truly be me.