Tables: An Aiming Low Non-Con Experience

Taken at the Callaway Gardens Butterfly Exhibit

An excerpt from a post titled “Let’s Converse About Bullying” that I wrote in March on Aiming Low Miss Unlimited:

On the first day of sixth grade, I showed up in red hi-top Converse All-stars, a black and white houndstooth skirt, white t-shirt, and a red blazer.

The other girls wore biker shorts, giant gold earrings with their names on them, and Nikes. From the perpetually angry expressions they also wore, I suspected that I was in trouble.

By the end of the week, I was known as “that girl.”

By the end of the year, I was that girl who:

  • was referred to as an “Oreo” or a “wannabe” more often than she was called by my her name.
  • had her name scratched all over the bathroom walls above crude, scribbled pictures of her doing lewd things.
  • was routinely shoved into walls and lockers.
  • could often be found circled by a group of girls twice her size. They threw hateful insults as they yanked on her clothes, pulled on her hair, and poked her face.
  • never had to worry about finding a seat in the cafeteria, because no one would ever be caught dead sitting at the table where that girl sits.

Sixth grade practically killed me. I think it did damage something inside of me that I’ve never been able to fix completely. When I meet new people I can put up a good front, but inside I’m in an emotional panic and I second-guess everything I do or say. I can’t help but fear that people will initially think I am weird or that they will hate me. I feel like I have to prove my worth as a totally cool and normal person before people will accept me as one.

::::::::

In the days leading up to the Aiming Low Non-Conference (my first blogging conference), I could feel my excitement building. I was more than ready to lead my Roundtable discussion about the work that I do with Miss Unlimited and the Teen Writers. At the same time, that excitement was undercut with a steady level of rising anxiety. I sensed those familiar demons of insecurity scratching at the back of my head. They told me that  I would be one of the lonely wallflowers with no one to talk to, the one who wasn’t “cool” enough to have anyone to sit with her at lunch. Because it’s the cool kids, of course — the ones with a certain degree of popularity — who everyone wants to be around. Me? I’m just the self-proclaimed leader of Club Awkward.

I always know when that type of anxiety stems from childhood’s packed-away nightmares, and I’m able to talk myself down out of the rafters. This wasn’t middle school, after all. This was a group of women (and a couple of brave men) who wouldn’t shun me just because I don’t write one of the most well-known blogs or have a zillion readers.

Still, there was a current of nervous energy that thrummed just enough to reverberate down my back. When I arrived at Callaway Gardens, I did what I’ve grown to be good at; I turned on the extroverted Gangsta and told the inner introvert to chill the hell out. (Besides, my roommate was Dresden, and even if everyone else thought I was a non-entity, at least I knew she would talk to me.)

Photo by Dresden. We are very sexy.

I’d arrived a few hours early to help with any last-minute set-up that needed to be done. I found Anissa and Faiqa in the ballroom, and the hugs they gave went far in beginning to melt away my icy jitters. I also finally got to meet the effervescent Jasmine face-to-face, who in the couple of weeks prior, I’d begun to get to know and in whom I’d found a kindred soul.

People began trickling in and the hum in my nerves cranked up a couple of notches. But then, something I didn’t expect happened — people knew me. Or rather, they knew “JW Moxie.” I introduced myself to the first few people as “Kymberli.” When met with questioning blinks and flat smiles that searched for a spark of recognition, I’d say, “Kymberli, but better known as JW Moxie.” Then I’d get that light bulb flash and a bright, “OH, YEAAAH!”

What few jitters remained were completely dissolved. Several people said that they were excited to have finally met me. A handful more told me that I smelled good (Moonlight Path by Bath and Bodyworks , baby). It wasn’t so much that I was “known” enough to have been recognized, but it was that people already knew me enough for me to feel like I didn’t have anything to prove.

When Dresden arrived, we totally had an OMIGAWDIMISSYOUSOMUCH hand-flappy moment. Before too long, she was trying to figure out where a group of us could eat and watch the Vice-Presidential debate.

A rather large group of us ended up practically taking over the lobby restaurant. There we sat, a bunch of social media nerds with forks in one hand and smartphones or iPads in the other. We exchanged lively and loud commentary about the debate (much to the amusement, and not disappointment of other patrons).

Somewhere between Biden’s second and third “malarkey,” it suddenly occurred to me that I was having dinner at a table with Kelby Carr sat to my right and Cecily Kellogg to my left. Julia Roberts and Liz Henry sat across from me. These are people who, by definition of social media, are “popular.” Popularity online is based on statistics. Your number of followers, subscribers, and likes are like a from of currency. At the Non-Con, none of that numerical shit mattered. 

Julia, Anissa, and Cecily get grabby.

That’s what the Non-Con was all about, really. The titles and metrics and quantities were stripped away. The Non-Con was our common ground. Around those roundtables, there wasn’t any difference between those of us who have 100 followers and those who have thousands of followers. We were all leaders. Listeners. Learners. We let people into our vulnerabilities and insecurities.

We all had something to bring to the table, both literally and figuratively.

And there was a table for everyone.

:::::

A couple of weeks after my post about bullying was published, FedEx dropped an unexpected package on my doorstep. Inside was a pair of red hi-top Converse All-Stars. There was no receipt or gift card, but I knew they were from my mom.

I wore them to the Non-Con.

I was that girl who’d found her people.

Bet you can’t find me.

23 Comments

  1. Laurie on October 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    So great.

    I’m so glad I was at your roundtable. I loved the passion and concern with which you talked about Miss Unlimited. This teacher knew your teacher’s heart immediately, but it went beyond that because I could tell you’d built a really great mutual mentoring relationship with these girls, digitally. It made me feel really good for several reasons.

    It was a pleasure to meet you, and I wear the “LaurieScribble” name proudly.



    • Kymberli aka JW Moxie on October 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      I do love those girls. I wish that they could have been a part of the NonCon experience in person.

      L Scribz (<-- a nickname for your nickname), it was such a pleasure to meet you, too.



  2. Lizz on October 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    First things first, I love your mom!
    You’re awesome, my dear! I didn’t *know* you prior to Non Con, but was familiar with you. Now? That I can call you my friend? So. Much. Better.

    I wish I’d noticed your Converse… I brought mine too, but didn’t wear them. :-/

    XOXO



    • Kymberli aka JW Moxie on October 31, 2012 at 12:00 am

      I had them on during the 2nd day. I thought you DID wear your Converse? Seems like I can remember you wearing black ones. I saw several pair and imagined that I wasn’t the only one who wore them as a symbol of surviving bullies.

      *fistbumps to my new friend Lizz*

      SuperGrover says hello.



  3. Anne (@notasupermom) on October 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    I liked JW Moxie from the Internet, but I loved Kymberli.
    I bet those girls who were twelve when they made you feel bad have turned into quite nice adult ladies who are very ashamed when they think back about how they treated you. At least that’s what I tell myself.
    Who doesn’t love red hightops? I had some too!



    • Kymberli aka JW Moxie on October 31, 2012 at 12:03 am

      Because I am not at all 100% angel, I imagine them to be girls who ended up as teenage hoebags with crabs and vaginal warts. 😉



  4. Nichole on October 30, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    For the record: I found you to be intimidatingly cool.



    • Kymberli aka JW Moxie on October 31, 2012 at 12:04 am

      Intimidating? Me? No way. Well, maybe to a chocolate cake or a bucket of fried chicken. 🙂

      Thanks for thinking I was cool. 🙂



  5. Vikki on October 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I was so happy to finally meet you. Really and truly.



  6. Kristina on October 31, 2012 at 12:34 am

    You? Not cool?

    GTFO

    xo



  7. The Animated Woman on October 31, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Remember when we finally came face to face, hugged, and then we both were surprised to be the same height?

    Your Roundtable was eloquently encapsulated; you’re well cast in the role of leader for the work you’re doing with Miss Unlimited…and beyond. I can’t to see what you’ll do when you carve out just a wee bit more time.

    Aside from all that, you’re the person I’m the closest to in all this. Cuz youndrew me OBVIOUSLY. Word!



  8. Oisin on October 31, 2012 at 12:45 am

    It was lovely to meet you. Thank heavens it was a metric-free zone, or it might’ve never happened!



  9. Dresden on October 31, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I adore you!!! I’m sooooooo glad you were my roomie. You were a superstar at NonCon – and I mean that in like 4 different ways. XO



  10. a on October 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    OK, I don’t know what you did to yourself in that first picture, and maybe it’s just the height difference (but it can’t be because Dresden looks like her normal few years younger than her age), but you look like Dresden’s little sister there. How did you just drop so many years off of yourself?

    I’m glad your non-conference worked out to be exactly what you wanted it to be!



  11. Alexandra on October 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    That’s what AL is to me: my people.

    Such a community, a home base for me.

    I felt it at BlogHer in HUUUUUUGE NYC, and I feel like I know everyone, even if it’s the first time I’m meeting them in real life.

    I love you guys.



  12. Anissa on October 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I’m glad you were there there early and I got you for a few seconds before your fans…and YES I MEAN FANS…found you. I have loved these months getting to know you and look to our friendship in the future.



  13. Tricia O. on November 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I loved meeting and chatting with you – I’m still looking for my 8th and 9th grade English teachers – I’ve gotta tell them how much they impacted me. This is all your fault!

    I think we all have those moments of social anxiety. I do. All of the time. I keep waiting to grow out of my awkward phase, but I’m starting to realize that isn’t going to happen. Now that I’ve found my people, I’m okay with that.

    xoxo



  14. Julia Roberts on November 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    You’re kidding, right? Because I was all THERE YOU ARE JW/KYM/MOXIE because you were totally on the list of must have time with! And I know I said you smelled good because you did and I noticed that because I threw my arms around you. Yeah, well, I’m a hugger.

    Thanks for my Gangsta name because I JUST found it today and taped it to my desk.

    Yes, as Anissa said…I’m a fan. FAN of yours! Gangsta love, girl (is that weird to say?).



  15. Jjiraffe on November 3, 2012 at 3:08 am

    First of all when you were describing your super cute outfit I was thinking: houndstooth is due for a revival. Your outfit sounds amazing. I once was lucky enough to talk to Aisha Tyler for a while and she told a similar story of being bullied for being into school and dressing in a style different than the uniform of the time (if I remember correctly, she loved to wear overalls and got bullied about that.) Ugh.

    But yay for finding your fans! (There’s lots more fans who just haven’t met you yet 🙂 ) Glad you had such a wonderful time. It sounds like it was a wonderful conference.



  16. loribeth on November 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Sounds like a good time! : )