Since 2003, I've been attending the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) conference. The only one I have not attended was 2007 in Portland. Every year, there are usually over 1,000 people attending over five days. The conference brings together people from all over the country and the world, as well as internationally renowned speakers in the field of dog and animal training and behavior. It truly takes a year of much organization to pull off such a conference.
Every year, my goal has been not only to learn new information and network with other trainers, but also to work on eating more normally and coming out of my shell. I am by nature reserved, shy, and quiet. I do okay in small groups but speaking in front of a lot of people scares the crap out of me. I get all the usual signs of heart beating quickly, sweaty palms, etc. It has helped immensely being part of the conference staff which was instilled in 2005. The purpose was to have a set of people who knew how to run the conference in case the head honchos could not. The staff also helps out with the speakers, questions by attendees, etc. It has proven to be a lot of help, and every year, we seem to become more cohesive. I've met a lot of wonderful people this way too.
So at the same time as networking, part of the conference staff's job is to make announcements. I think at this conference, I probably achieved the most "coming out of my shell" ever. In the mornings, one of the leaders of the conference led the staff in laughter yoga. The idea for this exercise was to bring the staff together as well as release endorphins and have fun. "The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real Laughter.One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits."
I decided to have fun with this and led three sessions of it. You do not know how big of a thing this was for me. Normally, I have a hard enough time just getting through simple announcements. At the end of the conference, I earned the "Really, I'm shy" award. This pertained to a comment said by a new staffer who did not believe I was shy after having done the laughter yoga is front of so many people. An attendee actually came up to me and said how much she liked the laughter yoga and could feel a difference in energy level among the audience. Another well known speaker told me that I may be a reserved person, but that I was very friendly.
My other big thing was that I didn't backslide so much on eating behaviors. I actually ate breakfast there when in the past, I've just eaten a protein bar. I ate a nice, hearty dinner every day with dessert. I socialized a lot with the staff as well as some friends I saw at the conference whom I had not seen since 2004. That was such a cool "reunion." This was in spite of knowing that this hotel's fitness room was open 24 hours. Seriously, with as busy as we were, it would have been so difficult to fit gym time even if I wanted to.
Other highlights of the trip included visiting a friend whom I had not seen for a number of years, going up to well known speakers in the field and introducing myself (one even accepted my facebook friend request), chicken wrangling ;-), and having less body thoughts in general.
Although I'm still quite worn out, I feel revitalized too. Now, if I can just get myself off of Pacific time! So I'm feeling slowly but surely, I am getting there to become the person who I want to be.
Here are some photos from Baker Beach. My friend and I went there before the conference. Since we're not allowed to take picture during the conference in sessions, I didn't get many of those, just some of the conference staff.