Yesterday afternoon at 3pm I nervously left home to catch a train to London for a totally new experience; a blogging awards evening. I was absolutely bricking it, in fact I am amazed and pretty proud of myself that I didn't back out.
The trip started off positively; the train counter guy asked me if I had my young persons railcard on me. I walked away from that counter £21.70 and 10 years lighter. I love that man!
I caught the paddington bound train, predictably delayed, and promptly fell asleep. It was a fabulous 25 minute nap which refreshed me ready for the ordeal ahead; and I'm not referring to the tube trip.
I know I'm sounding melodramatic;
that this isn't the Emma you expect;
that I happily run sessions for 50 kids.
But this was as far outside my comfort zone as I've been in a long time.
I DO NOT like walking into rooms full of strangers making small talk; I don't do that.
I was brave though; I put on my game face and walked confidently into the venue. I eventually found my name badge and headed off to where the noise was coming from. And whoa, what craziness that was; 500 women (and a few men) all talking to people they knew.
I retreated to something I could cope with; visiting the sponsors' stalls. How I love my comfort zone; I'm good one on one and love to chat and I came away with lots of goodies and things for Rachel to write about on her blog.
Eased in gently I felt confident enough to break into some chatting groups; it was a force of will but by facing my fears I chatted to some wonderful people. I met bloggers from genres so far removed from mine it was like another planet; but we all had the same thing in common - we love to write. That and the fact that we were a nervous to some extent.
At 6pm we all moved up to the huge ballroom where semi naked men served drinks and beautiful women offered canapés. I honestly thought I'd have to run out of that room screaming; it was just too many people and too much noise and no one I knew. But 10 rounds of the serenity prayer gave me the courage to introduce myself to a group and it was all lovely from there.
There was talk of trampolines, chats about twitter, ideas for easier ways to find the people you knew at events. There were people I followed on twitter and others I didn't, but do now. There was laughter and fun.
I met three groups of bloggers over the next hour; and the final group, from Hertfordshire, were wonderful and invited me to sit with them at the ceremony - actually I might have invited myself but they didn't say no. One of these women won in her category for photography - go visit The Start Up Wife - you'll be glad you did.
I didn't win my category, but then I never expected to in a million years. The wonderful Special Needs Jungle won - a very well deserved win indeed. I remain a finalist with a phone; and happy to be so.
After the ceremony I met a couple more bloggers that I wanted to meet in real life; before heading home exhausted and pleased that I'd gone outside my comfort zone.
Would I go again?
I honestly don't know. It was a lot of money to get there; it was time away from Rachel (which is especially precious right now with the trip to Zambia approaching); and it was scary. But it was fun and I met some lovely people and next time will of course be easier.
One things for sure; Rachel would love it and I'd consider taking her with me next time. Perhaps there could be a Brit Kids awards category!!