There was a time I loved going to BlogHer

standard July 25, 2013 5 responses

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.

9 Reasons I’m not going to BlogHer this year

standard July 30, 2012 23 responses

I’m pretty sure that any other year before this one if I’d been sitting at my computer watching Twitter and Facebook blow up with mentions of what people are packing for BlogHer, what they’re working on to get ready, what they’re excited about, or making plans to meet friends I would have been sad.

This year? I’m not sad.

Since the month of April I’ve traveled four times, three of them out of state. I feel like I’ve been living out of a suitcase for months, packing, unpacking, doing laundry, repacking, and not bothering to put away the suitcase because I knew I was just going to have to pull it out again in a couple of days.

On Sunday I put my suitcase away. And I heaved a sigh of relief.

Today I’m watching my friends on Twitter and Facebook get progressively more anxious and excited and I’m just sipping my tea and breathing deep sighs of relief that I’m not getting caught in the whirlwind.

Before I start my list of 9 reasons I’m not going to NY this year to celebrate BlogHer’12, I’m going to say one thing. I love the women behind BlogHer. I ooze with admiration for them and for what they have created. Just because BlogHer the conference is no longer a good fit for ME doesn’t mean I don’t still think it’s put on by an amazing organization. Also, I’m sad I can’t hug you too.

10 Reasons I’m Not Going to BlogHer’12

1) Last year was a total, utter, personal bust for me. I spent the whole time thinking about home and the chaos that awaited me there. I wasn’t there mentally and therefore had absolutely no return on my rather sizable investment despite being a panelist at an amazing ROYO session.

2) New York is far. And it’s expensive to fly to. And the hotels aren’t cheap either. Plus, my sister doesn’t live there any more. If I’m going to spend over $1500 to be at a conference I need to know that I’m going to recoup that money somehow. At BlogHer I’m one in over 5000. Hard for me to shine and stand out. (Last year a girl bragged on her FB page the day after BlogHer that she’d met 3 Jessica Rosenbergs. I had to break it to her that she’d met me three times. Sigh.)

3) The sessions target less experienced bloggers. I’ve been blogging for 8+ years. I’ve worked on every platform out there. I’ve been part of a collaborative blog, personal blogs, corporate blogs. I’ve run social media for companies and for myself. I’ve handled blogger outreach for Splash and for companies. Sadly there’s little I can learn at BlogHer sessions that I don’t already know.

4) The conflicting events are overwhelming. Since I can’t learn much in the sessions, I used to look forward to BlogHer for networking opportunities and chance encounters in the hallways. The conference has gotten so big and the extra-curricular events so plentiful that last I year I spent more time alone than networking. Everyone I knew was constantly running off to this or that event, dashing from one party to get to the next one.

5) There are just too many people for me. And I’m an extrovert, so that’s saying a LOT. It used to be that you’d run into the same people over and over again and by the end of the weekend you’d feel like you really knew them. With thousands of people running right and left that just doesn’t seem to happen any more. (See #2 for proof…)

6) There is such a thing as just too many niches being represented. I adore getting to know bloggers from different niches. Craft bloggers fascinate me, as do food bloggers. In a smaller space you get to see what your niches have in common and how your skills can overlap. At BlogHer the only thing that seems to happen is a blatant segregation of the niches. People are expected to hang out with their kind and even gregarious types like myself find it challenging to cross-pollinate.

7) The swag-whoring. Does it even really need detailing? I remember what it was like to be a newbie blogger and to love having companies just want to give you stuff. Call it maturity, call it overflowing closets, call it whatever you will, I no longer want to receive countless items I don’t really need. I’m happy to meet brand reps, to talk about how I can help them meet their marketing goals, but no, I don’t want to be signed up to receive stuff I won’t use, I don’t want to stand in line to get bags of things, and I most definitely don’t want to pay $25 per suitcase to shlep it home.
And, no,  I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who will do anything to get that stuff and who give bloggers a bad name in the process. They might well be the reason #6 happens…

8) I really, really, really, really, really, can I say it again?, really like the smaller, more intimate conferences. At TypeA Parent this year I learned so much and made great connections with brand reps and bloggers. I got to know people on a deeper level and attended sessions that challenged me intellectually and emotionally. EVO’12 brought more of the same all while pushing me out of my mommy-blogging comfort zone by allowing me to really interact and get to know bloggers from different niches.
Again, I think this has more to do with my maturity as a blogger and less to do with anything that BlogHer is doing, or not doing as the case may be.

9) I just want to be home. To honor my youngest’s 5th birthday tomorrow without feeling rushed because I’m packing and stressing. To prepare for my upcoming 10th anniversary. To help the kids enjoy the last 3 weeks before school starts. To get work done and process the last four trips I just took. To write. To recover from the already hectic summer we’ve had. To not push myself to my breaking point like I did last year.

And the one reason I’m sad
My friends are going. The ones I love and talk to every day. The ones I’ve already seen twice this year. And the ones I only ever get to see at BlogHer. There are people I could have met. There are virtual friends who I could have hugged. There are opportunities I will not grasp. There are photo ops that I will miss.

It’s hard to sit out the event of the year, but I’m proud of myself for sitting it out for the right reasons. It makes it easier to watch all those Tweets and posts float by without feeling regret even as I lament the missed hugs and laughs.

Elena, Grace, and I at BlogHer’11. Moments like these are what I’ll miss.

Finding my people

standard October 24, 2011 13 responses

The morning before I left for BlogHer Writers I received my first rejection from a literary agency.

The afternoon before I left for BlogHer Writers I packed up my desk at work and traded in my gainfully employed status for the more uncertain status of entrepreneur/freelancer.

The evening before I left for BlogHer Writers both girls melted down completely and utterly at the news that mommy was leaving town… again.

The night before I left for BlogHer Writers I discovered tat I’d flubbed my plane reservations; instead of coming home mid-Saturday afternoon, I was scheduled to arrive at 9:30pm… three hours after the planned start of M’s surprise birthday party.

To say that I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to travel cross-country to attend an event that I really didn’t feel like I deserved to attend is putting it lightly.

I almost cried while waiting to board my plane.

A writer’s conference for me, wannabe novelist who had just been rejected? What was I thinking?

Another trip with the family after the utter debacle of the last one? What was I thinking?

Another expense after giving up my regular paycheck? What was I thinking?

And yet… I went.

And I’m so glad I did.

I’ve been to a writer’s conference before. One for more “traditional” writers and I felt so out of place there. Those authors saw being online and active in social media as a chore. A thing they “had” to do to appease agents and publishers. As an active and avid user of social networks and blogs I was an oddity, a not so welcome oddity.

I’ve been to blogger conferences where most people focus on how to make blogging lucrative, how to turn social media into a bill paying, family sustaining career, not as a simple vehicle for writing. I’m an oddity there too. I created my blog as an outlet for my words. The marketing part came after and has always remained secondary in my heart.

BlogHer Writers was the middle place. The reunion of the bloggers who blog to write and the writers who write in a social space.

Again and again I heard it:

“It feels like I’ve finally found my people.”

I’ve never wanted to join a writing group because I knew I’d feel out of place among “traditional” writers. I worried I’d become their social media tutor rather than their writing peer.

This week I finally felt what it would be like to be surrounded by writers who truly “get” me and how I work.

It was incredible.

Yes, of course I learned more than just that. But aside from some practicalities about the craft itself, this was my take-away from my time in New York.

I’m not alone in this. My people exist and I’ve met them. 

And yes, sometimes you have to ignore the voice in your head pointing at all the signs telling you not to do something and follow your heart instead. My head yelled at me and told me to leave the airport and go home. My heart told me to board the plane.

I’m so very glad I did.

BlogHer: Where virtual meets reality and love

standard August 9, 2010 9 responses

People. People everywhere. A throng of people in the elevator. Another throng outside the doors. Squeals explode right and left and virtual friends hug tight, delighted to be together, to be touching, smiling, looking in each other’s eyes for once instead of at each other’s words. Sometimes a second hug is exchanged, then a third. The hugs need to be stocked up until the next time they meet in person. Whenever that may be.

Strangers meet, exchange names, exchange online identities, and cry out when they realize this is no stranger, this is a friend. What started as polite conversation erupts into gleeful reconnection.

Strangers meet, exchange names, exchange online identities, don’t recognize each other and still smile. We didn’t know each other before. We do now. Next year we’ll greet each other like old friends.

Once, twice, maybe in rare instances three times a year our friendships don’t rely on typing and the internet. For days we are together, in person. The chatter is fast, furious, loud. So much has to be packed into those short minutes. Soon we’ll be back behind our computers, screens separating us, typed words linking us together again.

On the last night those with an ounce of energy left danced with wild abandon, trying so hard to forget that in the morning it would all be over, like a dream that never really happened, our diaspora of a community once again flung to the far corners and edges of the country. It was easier to dance and smile and hug than to say

“I love you. You are my sisters. My soul mates. I miss you and wish I could hug you every day instead of once a year. With you I am the real me. The one who isn’t afraid of what I could be. The one who is proud of who she is and what she does. Thank you. Thank you for being you and for loving the real me.”

because when I tried the words bubbled up and got caught in the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes.

Thank you. Thank you for being you and for loving me when I’m me. I can still feel your hugs and your wings beneath me.

Being there and with everyone was just like a fairytale. 
This cake was just extra fitting.