Musings of a new member of the concealed carry community...
Rather than immediately set out for Wal-Mart and then immediately post in the typical fashion upon reciept of my permit, I decided to carry for a while (about a month) and just muse on the experience overall. First, the ice breaker and the ongoing reminders of carry. It is funny; if you are reading this and have not gotten to carry yet, realize that everyone's advice is correct: when correctly concealed and carried, no soul will notice that you are packing. I carry an FNH FNP9, in a Crossbreed Supertuck, at about my 7:30-8:00 (I am a lefty). This gun all but disappears as soon as my top shirt goes on, but the feeling of vulnerability to people noticing is unavoidable...at first. I have made multiple trips to multiple Wal-Marts, Shopping centers, and many other (legal) locations for me to carry without even the slightest glace of recognition by people.
The defining realization that people just don't notice a properly concealed weapon came when at Panera Bread one day. I take online classes, and will often use the free internet at Panera to change up the environment I do school work in. On more than one occasion I have been in queue with many people, including some local and state law enforcement, and never once has anyone given me a look of recogntion to the fact that I carry. It is these experiences that really help to ease the nervousness of carrying concealed. I carry every day, and when I can't carry on my person, Florida law permits me to leave it loaded in the car (in legal locations), so my pistol is never too far from me.
As I write this, I am in the same Panera, with people walking to and fro in their own little worlds, and I am nothing more than a fellow patron. The fact that I have my 16 rounds of 9mm hollowpoints ready to rock and roll, should it ever come to that, is not even a consideration in the minds of these people. This is a great experience, in that it is comforting to know that the concealed "secret" is as quiet as you choose to keep it. This has been truly life changing for me in a positive way, and while I pray every day and night that I never have to use this tool in my defense, I know that I am as ready as I can be should the moment arrive. My biggest lesson learned is that safe and responsible concealed carry is possible as long as you leave no reason for others to single you out as a person "packing heat."
I want to thank the people who I have, and continue to, interact with for giving me lots of ideas that I could sift through to develop and use my own methods of training and carry that leave me capable of protecting myself and my loved ones in that moment everyone hopes never comes. DefensiveCarry is a great resource that always leaves me thinking about something new when I log off. Best wishes to all on here, and may we all be kept from the moment that we dread happening, but steadfast in our readiness to perform against evil if it does.