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Takw One Tshirt, One Laptop, A Pile Of Business Cards, And Come Back With A Totally New Vision Of Yourself And Your Abilities! (Or - I Learned A Lot At The "Choice Unlimited" Roadshow!)
There are few things I find more scary than being in a group of people who I feel I have to compete with for whatever reason.  I don't even mean "compete with" as in enter any sort of actual competition with them - all you have to do is stick me in a group of people who I think are going to look down on me for whatever reason and watch the transformation from someone who seems confident into a nervous wreck.

I have never been very good at feeling I can hold my own with anybody who I perceive to be above me.  (I suppose this might have something to do with the fact that I equate "suited and booted" people with a loss of my freedom of choice - if that happens as often as it did to me when I was growing up it can have an effect on you.)

So - you could say I was slightly nervous about my appearance at the "Choice Unlimited" Roadshow.  A more accurate description would be "terrified".

Turn yourself into a "Sandwich Board" and you will get comments and interest (the back of my tshirt reads "Thank You For Visiting")

I took my laptop along.  It was rather unnerving because I saw stands with lots of "free gifts", leaflets, etc, about the products and services that the other stall holders were trying to interest people in.  Me and my laptop were on a table with some "Voice" magazines (which were helpfully opened at my articles) - that was it.

When I had finally plucked up the courage to have a walk around the other stalls I was amazed to learn that quite a few companies and organisations hadn't really caught on to "blogging" as a Marketing tool.  A couple of the companies who appeared in that category were actually "National" ones as well.

My tshirt proved to be a rather useful icebreaker.  Although I did have to think twice about how to answer the question "What is 'Inkyworld'?".  You see - to me 'Inkyworld' and the website address are two completely different - yet linked - concepts.

Allow me to attempt to explain;

www.inkyworld.co.uk is (obviously) my blog and this covers 'Inkyworld' - as in my "world".  This means I could have perfectly honestly answered the question "What is 'Inkyworld'?" by saying "You are in it right now".  The answer I actually gave the people who asked me referred to my blog.

Back to the subject.

I got quite a few compliments about my blog but - the one which stuck out in my head most of all was from a lady who I wish I had told how much of an "Inspirational Person" she was.

I think I first saw her on one of the "Mental Health" stalls where we got talking.  She told me a little bit about her story and sounded interested in my blog - so I told her where my stall was.  A few minutes after I had finished my tour of the Roadshow she appeared at my stall and read some of my blog.  I don't know if I managed to convince her that blogging about her experiences (even anonymously) might help her - but she told me that she had found my blog very interesting and easy to read.  She then proceeded to almost make me cry by telling me that she thought I was an "Inspirational Person".

If my experience on Wednesday taught me anything it is that I can actually be proud of what I have already achieved with this blog and I don't have to compete with people in order to get anywhere - in fact - I am better off going my own way because I have got something nobody else has - a story which is all my own - as well as a blog which I can use as a springboard (hopefully) to helping show others they are not on their own.

There is a big difference between going your own way because you feel you have to through thinking that nobody will be able to understand your hopes and dreams (therefore, there is no point in asking for backup when you need it) and feeling like you can go your own way knowing full well you have as much backup and support as you need - all you need to do is ask.

In fact, I think that - as well as owing quite a few people a thousand "Thank You's" for supporting me and giving me the opportunity to do what I am passionate about - as well as showcasing it at such a prestigious event - I owe some longtime supporters of this blog a thousand apologies for not believing them when they tried to convince me that I am good at this writing and blogging escapade.

I have said before that Experience should count for more than Qualifications.  This is not just because I am nowhere near as qualified as some of my friends (as far as "paper" qualifications are concerned) but experiences make you who you are and give you your own story to share with other people if you choose to.

A Wise Owl once told me that I will never understand what they have been through because I have never had their experiences but - that particular Wise Owl also (later) taught me that my experiences could stand up on their own merely by taking me seriously when I put an idea to them which I honestly thought the Wise Owl in question was more likely to laugh out loud at (basically because it pitted my ideas and personal experiences against their professional judgement and "Textbook" knowledge).

Even after Wednesday's escapade I am still not confident enough to shout about myself from the rooftops - I still prefer speaking to people one on one - I am still scared of "suits".

However, I think I am slowly starting to realise I might have found myself a very good support network if I ever start to think I am not good at anything again.

Thanks to the wonderful gang of organisers behind the "Choice Unlimited" Roadshow - you are all absolutely wonderful and dedicated people with a cause to believe in.

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