A couple of months ago I was at an event for work. I had been excited about it for months, but also extremely stressed and had debated many times just not going. My business partner was shocked - why would I not want to be at this event that would be furthering myself, furthering my business, fun, and a great opportunity to connect? When someone I really don't want to see will be there. Maybe I'm just a wimp.
You see, I left a graduate program. I don't want to get into details but I do not regret my choice one bit (this often shocks people in my field). I made the absolute best choice for myself in that situation. Would I choose that same choice if outside factors were different? I have no idea. But I am comfortable with my choice. For several months before I left, my adviser was difficult to be around. My adviser was the opposite of supportive and helpful, even when things were smooth sailing. The first time I got accepted to present at a conference, instead of cheering me on or even wanting to chat (I would have loved to have someone guide me), my adviser said, "Oh. Well, I guess that's okay. That's a very small conference, and not very good. You better not screw up." Um, thanks?
I have chronic health issues before I ever applied for that program. This same woman mocked my health in front of my classmates. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It got a lot worse. I was crying at home most evenings.
So guess who I knew would be at that event? Her. I was so afraid of even seeing her that I almost didn't go. That's ridiculous! Luckily I got a grip on reality and realized it was a disservice to myself to avoid a wonderful occasion because someone who should not matter to me would be there. I would bet $20 right now that this woman did not even care (if she noticed) that I would be there. I psyched myself up, and had several friends who were so supportive (and I'm forever thankful to you people - I had the best text messages those few days). So I walk in the first day in an outfit that made me feel good. One of the first people I saw was a good friend of mine - off to a good start! I tried to not cling to the people I knew (I mean, come on, what was the worst this woman could do to me? A dirty look? Psh. Whatever).
And I didn't see her the first day! I wondered if maybe she didn't go. I was having a blast, and let my guard down. I actually let my guard down after about an hour because it was stopping me from fully enjoying myself. So I stopped caring. That's when I saw her - the second day at breakfast. I was seated at a table with new friends, and she walked past. Looking back, I'm glad that she didn't just make eye contact and move on. She stopped by, and we briefly chatted. I refused to look nervous (at least on the surface). You know what she did? She put down the event in front of a table full of people! I had to stop myself from laughing. I kept the conversation short, and basically signaled that I wanted to get back to the (amazing) people I'd been chatting with. I wished her well, and meant it.
I moved on. A few hours later I realized I wasn't anxious or upset. I was... calm? I was also proud of myself for not wimping out or running away. I faced it head on and lived to tell the tale