A year ago I saw the Facebook posts and tweets about BlogHer scroll by and felt nothing but overwhelming relief. I was so glad to be here, at my desk, in my pajamas, not worrying about sessions or getting dressed up or going out and meeting people. I was glad to not have to deal with organizing care for the kids, or being away, or any of the stress that goes with heading out of town without the family. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be here.
BlogHer the year before had caused one long week of angst and stress and I think I was still scarred.
This year things are different.
The pre-conference events have begun and the posts and tweets have started scrolling again, and instead of relief, I'm feeling mild angst and remorse.
There was a time I loved going to BlogHer. A time I couldn't wait to hop off the plane to hug my long distance friends. A time I was thrilled to peruse the schedule of events, to decide what sessions I'd attend, to make plans for lunch, drinks, or dinners with new and old friends.
Today I wish I were there to hug the people I know have already arrived in Chicago. I'm feeling pangs of jealousy as I see photos of friends gathering without me. We all live scattered across the country, across the globe even, and there are so few occasions for us to hug, talk, see each other in person.
Yes, BlogHer is overwhelming and intense, but these are people I love, people I value. These are the people who inherently understand what it is to be a blogger, to work in social media. I can be myself with them in a way that I can't with the people I know in my day to day life. There is a certain comfort to being around other bloggers, a sense of belonging I don't feel anywhere else.
The remorse over not being there comes from an obvious place. So, why the angst?
Well, I think it boils down to this. There was a time when people would ask me what I did for a living and I'd know exactly what to answer. These days I have no clue what to say.
This is usually what comes out: I'm ah.... a blogger, who dabbles in social media consulting and blogger outreach for various companies, oh yeah, and I have a novel coming out this winter. The confusion in my answer is almost always mirrored on the face of the person asking.
I just don't know who I am any more.
I used to blog daily. It was an intrinsic part of my day and my life. Now it's miraculous if I post four times a month.
I used to run a thriving digital media agency with three close friends. Now instead of pursuing clients, we take just what comes our way, and precious little comes our way. (Not that we aren't grateful for what does!)
The book stuff is real. The consulting stuff is real. It's what fills the parts of my days that aren't focused on the kids. But it's not the stuff that makes me feel like I fit in at events like BlogHer.
Two years ago I had trouble letting go of what was going on at home and immersing myself in the BlogHer experience. I felt apart. Like I didn't really belong in the crowd of happy, excited conference attendees. This year I feel like I would have felt just as apart, but for a different reason.
I have a blog, but I don't think of myself as a blogger any more. And while I know for a fact that I'm far from being the only person who feels this way, I worry that it would have really impacted my experience at the conference.
It feels like there's a natural lifecycle to the life of a blogger. BlogHer and other conferences cater to those in the earlier part of the cycle. Being around those people makes me feel... old. It makes me feel tired. I am envious of their excitement and energy, but at the same time sadly jaded about the entire process. I know. I'm pathetic.
So instead of stepping off a plane with a suitcase loaded with cute dresses and shoes, I'm home, at my computer, in my pajamas. In a minute I'm going to drag my kids to the YMCA so I can work out some of this angsty feeling. Then I'm going to come home and try to remember the great story idea that came to me last week. And I'll try not to be too envious when I see photos of my friends hugging and laughing in a place I once felt I belonged.