My heart flutters. My hands are a little sweaty. I play with my phone. I scan the crowd of conference-goers again and again.
Oh, my gosh, I realize. I’m nervous. And then I realize that I was also experiencing deja vu.
I’ve done this before. Not in a decade. But the feeling returns immediately. The sweaty palms. The racing heart. The nervous scanning of a crowd.
This is just like a blind date, I think. I’m excited and hopeful about the potential of this in-person meeting. I’m also anxious and worried. What if we have no chemistry? What if her hand gestures annoy me? What if she doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like her? What if she smells bad? Should I have worn a different dress?
Then I see her. Our eyes meet. Her eyes are friendly, and her smile is tentative at first and then wide. She’s taller than I thought, but this is okay. We approach each other and hug. Both of us giggling sort of nervously, we stand there. Awkwardly at first. Then we both talk at once about silly stuff.
And I realize that it’s okay. This isn’t like a blind date at all. Because I already know Stephanie. I know her voice, I know how she thinks, and I know her many of her hopes and fears.
She’s already my friend, I think. And we spend the next 24 hours laughing, talking, meeting other friends, working, and presenting. I’m nervous about our personal essay writing lab. It’s one thing to like a person and know her; it’s another thing to present well together.
But that goes well too. I leave New York City less than 24 hours after I arrive, and I can’t wait to get back to work with Stephanie, my friend and business partner.
It’s the morning of our presentation. I am only mildly anxious about it, because we’ve covered this material over and over in our online essay courses for the past year. Still, it feels like we should have some sort of game plan. Who’s going to say what? Do we take turns covering bullet points? Do we need to practice or something? I drink too much coffee at breakfast, trying to compensate for the ill-advised combination of anticipatory adrenaline and the dull fatigue of having stayed up too late singing karaoke in my pajamas. Yikes.
The previous evening seemed sort of like a baptism by fire: if we decided we still liked each other after the surreal first meeting in an over-crowded expo hallway, a late-night of signature BlogHer cocktails, and my requisite change into my comfy uniform (read: T-shirt and sweatpants), then we would be totally fine presenting together, right? After realizing that our face-to-face interactions were simply an extension of several years of regular phone calls and email conversations, I relaxed. Our two and a half years of working together wouldn’t need to be scrapped because of real-life social incompatibility.
The hour between breakfast and our presentation was a blur. There wasn’t much time. We needed to prepare our writing lab tables. I already knew it would be too loud in the room, that we would feel crowded, and that we’d have a handful of our online friends there to support us. But all the other details were still unknown. Who would show up? Would our table be embarrassingly sparse compared to the other writing lab centers? Were we prepared enough? Would those who attended feel like they were wasting their time?
In spite of these thoughts, I felt strangely calm. When both the tables we’d pushed together filled up, I relaxed even more. We can do this. Our presentation flowed smoothly as we naturally shifted leading the conversation, filling in details for each other, and at times practically finishing each other’s sentences. The mood at the tables was light and yet focused. It was even more fun than I thought it would be. As soon as it was over, I immediately thought, “When can we do this again?” I was so energized, not to mention relieved that there wasn’t even an ounce of awkwardness in our dual presentation style.
(Want to see a slideshow outline of the presentation? See it here.
Want to sign up to receive notifications about our next classes? Click here.)
When you work long-distance with a partner, you think you know each other. You think you have a sense that you make a good team: your areas of weakness are her strengths, your skills and personalities balance in a way that is both cohesive and complementary. And it’s absolutely gratifying when you’re able to validate those beliefs in real life. Now that I know we make just as good a team face to face as we do online, I can’t wait until the next time we get to work side by side.
We’d love to hear about your first meetings with online friends!