Those who know me know that I am usually an extroverted person. I’m not a fame junkie who demands to be centre stage with all eyes on them, but I rarely shy away and sit quietly in a corner when there are interesting people in the room who I know or would like to know.

However, I am actually an ambivert: capable of switching from extro to intro depending on the day of the week and a myriad of other factors. Normally this means I have quiet days, but normally I can manage things so I am prepared for public events and can turn on the extra when needed.

A fairly big thing is happening in my personal life at the moment which has thrown my ability to control this, however. I shan’t go into details publicly as that’s not my style, but it’s resulted in me turning up to this years UKGovCamp event for the first time with my introvert hat on.

And it’s strange.

On the one hand I am surrounded by people I know and love spending time with and really want to catch up with, yet I’m finding it difficult to approach them and initiate things. This means I am probably missing opportunities and discussions that may not present themselves for another year at the very least.

However, it’s also giving me the chance to sit quietly without feeling the pressure to speak up. I am sitting with my own thoughts for company and trying to listen and consider things far more than I otherwise may have done. I am able to react when friends and acquaintances talk with me, but otherwise am able to sit with my face pointed at a screen and lose myself in my thoughts.

I’ve never experienced an event through this lens giving me a whole new appreciation for the struggles true introverts face in their work, and in networking and finding others to collaborate with. It’s easy to take for granted the ease with which it is physically possible to meet and talk with someone, whereas the mental strength and courage that requires is oft overlooked.

I’m amazed at how GovCamp events allow both intro and extroverts to participate in a way that no other events I know of do. It’s okay for people to be quiet. It’s okay for them to do nothing but look at their screens and absorb. And it’s okay for them to greet everyone they meet with a warm smile and a hearty hug. I can be surrounded by people and not feel isolated, be introverted without being lonely.

This year is a very different GovCamp for me emotion-wise. I think it might just change the way I approach all collaborative events in future. Worth making myself come along to it just for that. Everything else is a bonus.