Yesterday, we Ubered away from a networking and learning opportunity Dr Marry and I’ve been anticipating for months. And every mile we got further from the casino resort where we were staying in southern California made me feel lighter and better.
How in the world did we get here anyway?
Earlier this year, we had a guest on Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD whom I had found and reached out to on LinkedIn because he posted his 33-year sobriety chip. It was only after he was on that I discovered he’s a big deal: NYT bestselling author of multiple books, high profile public speaker and more. After our Daily Dose conversation, he invited us to join him for an in-person conference he puts on annually and told us he’d waive one ticket price, not an insignificant offer.
My instinct is to always say yes to unusual opportunities, but I’m working hard to not operate as a one-woman show, as I believe that’s part of what helped contribute to Mazz’s fall into alcoholism. I asked Mazz what he thought, fully expecting him to say, “Let’s think about it” at best or “That’s too much money” at worst. Instead, he said, “Let’s do it.”
So we purchased one ticket and waited to see what COVID would do.
What’s really going on here?
I’ve eschewed being a “joiner” my whole life. I wasn’t in girl scouts. I didn’t play any team sports. I didn’t join in on the raucous drinking and sexcapades of my college theatre years. I’d never have joined a sorority, a mom’s group or even a serious book club. I rarely hosted home shopping parties when they were all the rage. I gave NA a brief try, and I had the same reaction and left nearly as quickly as I entered.
I even found it nearly impossible to audition in any sort of a cattle call environment: a room filled with women around my age, looking vaguely like me, all talking under their breath, manically reciting the same lines I was reciting under my breath, over and over again, like a scene from a Hollywood psychiatric ward.
I find moments like that, times when I’m expected to be just “one of many” while somehow setting myself apart, utterly degrading.
Will you notice me? Will you like me? Am I worthy? Am I pretty enough? Thin enough? Generic but unique enough? Will you choose me?
I’ve written much about the fact that I was raised to see myself as a shining, super star. I was told over and over again that I was exceptional. I don’t even look like anyone in my family, and my “outcast” coloring made me feel special rather than apart. I was like no one I knew and therefore above being part of the group. Why would I join anything?
But if you know I was raised as a shining star, you also know that I was often put down a peg…or 10. And if I was not nearly as good as anyone else, why would I risk being called out as nothing special by trying to join anything?
There’s a fine line between disdain and integrity, and I often can’t tell which side of it I’m on. I suppose I mostly straddle it: one foot standing squarely in outright judgment of those around me and the other feeling outrage that the premise of The Bachellor is still how women are seen and selected for far too many things.
Back to the conference
So what happened?
I knew going into this that it was likely to be a real struggle for me. In part, my experience with Renaissance Weekend will forever cloud my ability to walk into a room of strangers with any real level of absolute confidence. But I also knew that these were very likely not going to be “my people.”
We were in a room filled with about 300 people who were, as we were told over and over again, “Millionaires! Billionaires! Famous Hollywood actors and producers! Every single person in this room is incredible!”
There were women there with the most perfectly filled silicone balloons bursting perilously near the edge of the Versace-like plunge of their dress. Men in velvet suits (keep in mind we are in southern California and it’s September), a few in top hats. TOP HATS!
I could have let much of that go, but what I couldn’t accept was the creepy way the room was revved up to chase literal dollar bills.
“Who wants a $1 bill?!?!?”
What is it about some types of “millionaires and billionaires” that, if put in a space where seemingly chump change is being handed out like tootsie rolls at a small town parade, they’ll grovel and grab like Dickens’ urchins around a few tossed coins from a passing carriage?
Screams, people standing on chairs frantically waving their arms, whoops and hollers.
We’re talking about 100 cents. Aren’t these the type of people who would likely walk past four quarters on the ground without giving them a thought?
For the record, I would never walk past four quarters and leave them on the ground. I pick up pennies. But not because someone is throwing them out to me, demanding I scrounge around on the ground for them. Simply because I found one, I like the idea of good luck and I think they’re pretty.
At one point, I looked over at Mazz, who has never had an experience like this because he isn’t busy chasing after a dream that makes him say yes to opportunities that go against his better judgment. He did so well, but I could feel the confused disdain emanating off him. I was somewhat ashamed that I asked him to enter into this world where I occasionally dip my toes, all in an effort to try to be the shining super star I thought I was going to be. The one I still crave with all my might.
I said to him, “We can leave after lunch.”
He relaxed. I relaxed. We had an out. It was just money we had spent. Not an inconsiderable amount, but an amount we were willing to let go rather than stay in this environment for 2 1/2 more days.
We ate a kind of sad hotel conference lunch and went and packed our bags. I made us a reservation for a charming hotel in San Diego. We cancelled the next two nights at the resort. And we sat outside, in the hot desert sun, waiting for our Uber, so relieved to be out of that room.
I’m not sad we did this. We met one couple who might be able to help us grow our Daily Dose audience, which really was the reason we went. There were utterly “normal” people there, too. Women in appropriately professional day dresses, men in sports coats. Regular breasts, no sequins, 5-inch heels or hats. You get the idea. We even had a few nice conversations with some of those normal people.
Mazz got to see his first real American casino—he was as disappointed as I knew he would be. At the end of the day, there’s nothing sexy about casinos. They are mostly filled with people who are living kind of depressed, sad lives, dreaming of the “what ifs” that are likely never to come. Note to self: you don’t have to be sitting at a slot machine to live like that. The environment is not the problem.
There were some really fabulous points made by some of the speakers. There were people there doing honorable work, striving for dreams that are valuable by anyone’s definition.
But the single most important take away for me is that I didn’t spiral out of control; my insecurities didn’t get the better of me for one simple reason: Mazz was there with me. Every other time something like this has happened, I have been alone. Yesterday, I had someone who had my back; who stepped in front when it made sense. Someone who was beside me. Someone who knows all my super star qualities and my failings and is still here.
Ultimately, I hope I’ve finally learned my lesson. This type of “get rich quick” platform is not for me. My work isn’t about flash in the pan or making the most noise. I’m not the rabbit but rather the tortoise. I’ll keep plugging along, engaging when it makes sense, but keeping my head down, doing the work and showing up where I need to, but in environments that make sense for me. And absolutely most importantly, I’ll have Dr Marry right next to me—supporting me, encouraging me, sharing the load and making this work and this journey worthwhile.
Photo Caption: Our first flight together since February 2020. On the way to southern California.
Darci L Asche
This sounds so like me! And the conference sounds like a nightmare. Those folks are out there; and how sad. How really, really sad. You made me smile, laugh out loud and also realize how much I value my partner when finding myself in situations where I know I don’t belong. Not because I’m not good enough, but because I’m better.
Dayna Del Val
Darci, I love your response, “Not because I’m not good enough, but because I’m better.” What a fabulous way to think of it. Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your thoughts—made my day!