I'm at a conference today that is addressing employment and disability, I'm representing my company but also picking up on other information about the industry in general and connecting with contacts from other areas in region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington). I have quite a few contacts from Seattle who are here, many of which I have only talked to on the phone and never met in person. It kind of reminds me of having pen-pals, except we're working together to assist someone with a disability obtain (and maintain) employment.
It's an amazing range of activities that occur between the job seeker and the actual employment, the amount of bureaucracy and red tape from A to B can really take the wind out of your sails when you feel you're within reach of a goal. All of the over analyzing and job carving and support personnel connected to the end user job seeker, all of the forms and eligibility requirements, updated acronyms (just after you've familiarized yourself with the old ones) and political correctness, jobs created to support the support personnel...and I'm still not even talking about the job seeker. It's a whole industry built around helping people who help people.
When I was 9, I had a pen pal named Becky Applegate. She lived in Austin, Texas, and I've never met her in person. I think we only wrote to each other over the course of a couple of years, and I can't really remember anything about her other then she had many pets and for some reason I thought she was overweight. It was kind of fun and mysterious getting a letter from her once a month or so, but I guess the mutual drop off of interest in corresponding was the eventual demise of our written friendship. Every now and then I think about her, well, I guess I just think more about the fact that I wrote her when I was. I also wonder whatever happened to her, and wonder if she remembers or wonders what happened to me.
I'm great. I'm living life, trying to not be a sourpuss about petty things, trying to stay healthy and grow, learn and experience more, trying to help my neighbor (not neighbor in the literal sense, although I have moved furniture for her and drove her to the doctor's a couple of times), trying to treat others as I would want to be treated, trying to give when I have extra to give, you know, things are good. I eat, have a warm place to stay in the winter, even have a cat, which is not only a companion, but also a luxury item. Especially when he has to go to the vet.
There's two or three counselors here sitting in the audience knitting. Nothing like keeping your hands busy, idle hands are the devil's playthings, or however it goes.
So it goes.
I like meeting people I connect with, especially if we've had lengthy dialogue via email and over the phone. I consider networking one of my job perks, and 99% of the time networking goes well. The anxious self-conscious part of me always wonders after one of these meetings, "did I come off like a freak? Am I flaky?" and I guess to answer my own question, no comes to mind, because I wouldn't have the contact base or recurring networking if I was. Or maybe I am, but there's a degree of amusement I bring to the hypothetical table so that prompts return customers. Either way it helps me do my job and help people more. The end user benefits.
On a side note, there's a few sign language interpreters here, and I swear one of them has been staring at me the entire time I've been here. I know a little sign language, and thought it would be funny to sign something witty to him, but haven't come up with what I'd sign. My sign language vocabulary consists of signs for "work," "break," "tree," "popcorn," "happy," "beautiful," etc. so nothing is coming to mind that I can apply in this situation.