I spoke today in Minnesota at a conference. I've been applying and speaking at this conference for the past 4 years.
The first year was misery. I had just broken up with my long-distance boyfriend who lived in Minneapolis and I spent the time not at the conference crying. I had to scrape my limited funds to buy winter gear, had a sobbing beer with my ex who happily chirped of his new gal pal of wonder and turned down another unrelated indecent proposal. I had originally applied to the conference when we were still dating as a chance to get a free trip to see it.
Last year I remember it being painful for fear that I *might* run into my ex. It was the first time I ever had to drive in a snowstorm and I was petrified. I was breaking up from casual but attenuated mock relationship with a dude that tried, but was so emotionally incapable and distant he added new dimensions to the word. At the time I was also traveling the world on great projects and used the distance to transform his inept emotional distance and clumsy kindness into the sweet gallant protector I needed to exist. In the haze of silence and physical distance I filled in the gaps with billowy padding, fantasy and capacity he could never fulfill. It was like yelling at a tall man for not being short. When I had to come to earth and realize I had a bag of hot air, I was back on a plane for the midwest. The tundra tangled and assaulted me physically with all the vehemence I was flogging myself for falling for such a silly fantasy.
I tried to fill the vast emptiness of my soul by corresponding with "the writer." A handsome man with no actual physical availability. In that absence, he could spin and compose prose that would warm jack frost. He quit writing back mid trip. It was par for the course.
This year was different. I found a better hotel in the middle of downtown, I made plans for my evenings, I have a great boyfriend and I got booked to speak in the big badass main hall. My talk went well and if I run into my ex. Well I've run into my ex. I realize we weren't a good fit and we did a truly spectacular job of hurting each other in ways that neither one of us really meant. Shortly after me and after the girl he mooned on over IPAs while I sobbed, he found someone else that he seems to have some real staying power with. Good for him. Men seem to be able to move from long term relationship to relationship faster. Not always better(don't know what his situation is), but faster. Not really signing up to be his BFF, but don't wish him to rot in hell.
I've proven I can come back to Minnesota, but it's never totally easy. I may still NEED to come here for work or speaking engagement, but I no longer NEED to volunteer. I know I have strength to and that is enough.
I don't gotta prove anything anymore.