After my week in Raleigh, I came home and immediately started thinking about next year’s conference. Would I be able to go again? Could I wait that long to see these new friends again?
I had met people from all over the country and world…England, France, Canada, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, etc.
The first Sunday post-trip, I was eager to go to church and be with my home community. I wanted to tell friends about the conference, but I had a strange mix of excitement and sadness. I saw a bunch of friends that Sunday. At the time, all I could share was:
My workshop went well.
I made a lot of friends.
The week was better than I expected.
And I had a “conference hangover.“
I didn’t have many words yet. I was still processing the experience. The withdrawals had begun and the fog would follow.
Raleigh week didn’t feel real. I had to remind myself it happened. I even texted a new friend, “did we really meet in Raleigh and become instant friends?” Yes, yes, we did. And I’ve stayed in touch with her and others since then.
A few days later, I sent a message to a local friend. I was half-joking, half-serious, “so how long does a conference hangover last?” The reply encouraged me that a conference hangover is a real thing and it can take days to come down from the high.
For the next couple of weeks I tried to get back into a routine. Regular life felt blah compared to Raleigh week. I had forgotten that I was thriving before this trip and I would thrive again.
A college friend called to hear the summary. She left me with a question to ponder, “How can you bring ‘Raleigh’ into now? What is one aspect of the trip that you can bring into your life at home?” I didn’t have an answer.
I was stuck in the fog. Only the closest few knew I was having a hard time. These friends sat and talked with me. Mostly they listened and gave me the gift of their presence as I worked to process the profoundness of the week and put my thoughts into words.
Speaking wasn’t the most important part about Raleigh. It was the depth of understanding, the common passion I found at the Summer Institute. I didn’t know I was missing friends who have disabilities until I met the two couples. We connected quickly. I didn’t have to explain things. They just “got” me.
It was hard to leave the community that I had found on the road. I wanted to stay connected to the people I had met. Because part of me had stayed with them.