Friday, March 07, 2008

A little nice goes a long way

So I'm making the local arrangements for a conference that will be held here this spring, and although I'm trying hard to not let my ego get wrapped up in it too much, you know how it is with these things - if it goes well and people have a great time, I'll look good, and whatever goes wrong, I'll feel guilty, even if most of the things that can go well or badly are entirely beyond my control.

I sent out a batch of form emails a couple of months ago, informing the participants that their papers had been accepted and letting them know their place in the program. The next morning, I opened my inbox, and there were probably twenty emails in response. I felt my heart seize up, assuming I'd made some mistake in the program, or everybody had complaints and wanted to change times, or something, God knows what, but it looked like a mess.

Trembling, I opened the first email, and instead of blistering criticism, it turned out to be a bright and cheery "Thanks! This looks great!" The second one said the same thing, with an added "Looking forward to meeting you." So did the third, and the fourth, and all twenty of the damn things were just perfectly nice messages of thanks. It made my week.

Now the registration forms are coming in, and it's the same thing. Probably half of the forms have nice little notes added to them, and I can't tell you how gratifying this is to see. (I often add little notes like this myself, assuming they never really got noticed, but now I know that they do.)

It's hard to shake the worries, though. One of the registration forms came from my adviser, who is a singularly intimidating person, even though we get along very well. The first part of the form lists the registration fee and the events it includes, and in the margin she'd penciled in a little "Wow!" Of course I had to panic over that for a few minutes - what did she mean, wow? One would like to think it meant wow, this is great. But what if it meant wow, that's really pricey? Or wow, I can't believe you think you're going to put together that many events on this skimpy registration fee. Did I miscalculate the budget? Is this whole thing doomed?

Okay, then I got hold of myself. Once I calmed down, I saw the bottom half of the form, where she'd written an additional note - "You do us proud." Well, damn, that about made me cry. It really is dangerous to get too much of myself wrapped up in this conference, because it's not any kind of Supreme Judgment of Me, but I have to confess that the little bits of encouragement are deeply, deeply appreciated.

(Until I realized, of course, that her phrase could be read as an imperative - "Do us proud, girl, if you embarrass us we'll disown you altogether!") Sigh...

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