|Photo by Bitchin' Amy BlogHer San Diego|
When you've been mothering for 17 years, a lot of you becomes a P.S. in your life. And that's a decision I don't ever regret. Devotion and Mad Crushes on my children have filled in my resume since 1995.
But for one brief shining moment in August of 2011, I had Camelot. Camelot in the form of the BlogHer '11 conference in San Diego. *(BlogHer: world's largest conference for women in social media. 4,500 attendees anticipated in NYC, where it's being held this year, August 3 and 4)* The decision to go was a hasty one: I had been plucked out of my life and thrown into someone else's by being chosen as a BlogHer Voice of The Year for Humor. I now HAD to be there.
Using his frequent flyer miles, my husband was able to find me an affordable plane ticket; I work two part-time jobs and used the money from that to buy my BlogHer conference pass. The universe threw in a helping hand: as back up, my in-laws live in LaJolla, so I had a place to stay if it was too late to find room mates.
My closest, oldest blogging friends were going: Shari from Earth Mother Just Means I'm Dusty, who was my first follower, and my beloved Varda of Squashed Mom. I sent them emails in a supplicating panic, exploding with the news of VOTY, and asking if they could spare floor space for an itty bitty little lady who'd bring her own sleeping bag. They were gracious and generous enough to let me room with them. And, not to say I'm a talisman or anything, BUT Shari AND Varda are BOTH 2012 BlogHer Voice of The Year at this year's BlogHer. Just a thought to ponder ... should I ever ask you for a favor.
I never thought that I'd attend a BlogHer conference. Going to a BlogHer conference was something for The Blogging Giants, but not me. I instinctively discounted myself because BlogHer was Big Time; the world's biggest conference for the world's biggest bloggers. Established veterans who sit 'round the campfire telling tales of yore of when everyone visited everyone's blog and commented. Legends who were of the days when Pioneer Woman only had 45 followers.
This conference was for the seasoned and experienced. Those with an online life since 2006 and before, with names known on the internet. Who the heck was I to think that I had a space among those doing the real thing?
I was someone who blogged for the connection, the fun, the friendships, the joy of writing, the love of making people laugh. I began my blog as a hopeful attempt at finding others to add into my life, and nothing more. That this blogging thing would be life changing; that I did not see coming. The amazing, talented people I've met through blogging, the change in my step since I began writing, the way I now stand with my shoulders back proud to be who I am: these words are the understatement of my life.
But with the plane ticket set, the hotel room taken care of, and BlogHer requiring that you be in attendance in order to be a VOTY, it looked like I'd be going to BlogHer. The only thing I had left to do was a run to TJMaxx. After 50 minutes there, I left with a shopping cart containing two sun dresses, two cocktail dresses, two pairs of sandals, four T shirts, one stretchy black skirt, a pair of chunky earrings, and my first pair of straight leg jeans. I was on my way.
There was a blogger that I love going and she'd be flying into San Diego at the same time, coming in from NY. We made plans to meet at the airport, and though I was relieved to have someone meet me when I landed, I still wobbled out of the terminal's tunnel sweaty-palmed and as unsure footed as a sixth grade girl in her first pair of heels. I saw a brunette holding a hand-lettered sign that read "Empress" and grateful tears sprang to my eyes from this gesture on Kablooey's part. She made me feel like a rock star, and I think I gave her a heart attack with the way I fell into her arms.
We spent an hour together and it felt more like 15 minutes. Talking about everything as fast as we could, never with a lull in our conversation. We would see each other later that night, and she left to meet a friend in San Diego, and I went to find a way to the San Diego Marriott.
I knew finding an Information Desk would be a good idea, and that's where I headed. I was hoping for a shuttle to BlogHer, but only cabs were available. There was a short woman with long, long hair standing next to me in a swirly mini-sundress, bare legs in riding boots, and a flowing purple chiffon scarf almost as long as she was tied around her neck. She was looking for a way to the hotel, too. I forced myself out of my shell and invited her to share a cab with me and she took me up on my offer. Driving to the hotel, I introduced myself and gave her my card. She handed me hers and my mouth dropped open as soon as I instantly recognized the clean black on white design of the Gibson Girl from the 1900's in the upper corner.
"You're Blogging Dangerously!" I said with wide open eyes. "I follow you!" In my head, true to my corny roots, I said You're not in Kansas anymore. (I actually did)
We pulled up to a hotel that stood glistening in the 2:00 p.m. sun like the city of Oz. She jumped out of the cab and with one expert swoop, picked up her luggage, paid half the fare, and was inside the lobby while I still stood there stuffing the crumpled ten dollar bill change from her into the back pocket of my new jeans. I shouted "Hope to see you later!" as I watched the hair on the back of her head swing back and forth with the speed of her steps. Tripping over the suitcases that our driver had set on the pavement, I made my way to the dream-like open air entrance of the San Diego Marriot Marquis. I stood in the lobby, taking a deep breath of relief of finally arriving in one piece at the right place. The sight of the sparkling waters of the marina behind the registration desk made the day seem even more surreal.
I was here, at a BlogHer conference.
Pulling my luggage up to the clerk at the check-in desk, I stammered about needing a key, could I get a key? My other room mates weren't here yet -- I was here by myself -- where should I go until they show up? With my elbows on the counter, I rose up on my toes as my panic began to rise with a feeling of being in over my head. As I realized where I was -- BlogHer -- I thought what the heck am I doing here? Seconds-fast doubts started filling my mind by the bucketfuls -- telling myself I shouldn't be at BlogHer. What in the world was I thinking? This is too big and I'm not blogger enough for it.
My mouth began to set firm in the conviction that I had made the wrong choice, but then I turned around and every single dark thought flew out of my head like bats leaving a cave. I had spotted Polly Pagenhart and that million dollar smile of hers. Polly blogs at Lesbian Dad and is BlogHer's Conference Program Director; she had been emailing me about VOTY specifics. With a smile I needed more than words can say, she held out both arms open to me. Let me tell you, this woman knows just what to do and can read a face in a flash. I did go for that hug, and I did hold on longer than socially appropriate; but a soul knows what a soul needs. The sincere warmth of Polly's hug and her genuine joy at meeting me was just the reassurance I needed right then, for so many reasons.
I grinned at her like an idiot until we said good-bye, knowing we'd see each other again over the next few days. Not knowing what to do with myself until my room mates arrived, I went outside to the pool that I had seen in the background behind the lobby desk. I was wearing my fussy.com T shirt because it always makes me feel BA, my new straight legged jeans, and the shiny black wedge sandals with the price sticker still fresh on the bottom. I grabbed a chaise near the outdoor bar, and set my suitcases next to me. Laying down with one of the biggest sighs of my life, I closed my eyes to catch my breath and still my pounding heart. I eavesdropped on the conversations around me:
"My page views skyrocket after stumbleupon, but my food posts don't get so much traffic."
"I know. But salads do well. Especially in summer. So does Wordless Wednesday."
"Oh, dude. I love Wordless Wednesday. Whoever came up with that is a genius."
"Yeah. Sign me up for Wordless Wednesday, Silent Saturday, Mute Monday..."
Giggles of laughter, clinking of wine glasses, smiles you could hear.
Silly as it sounds, tears slid out of the outer corners of my eyes while listening to these women. I couldn't believe where I was and it felt magical to be among others who understood the world of blogging when so many in my real world didn't. Every word these women were saying sounded so beautifully familiar. Like what it must feel like to someone who's lived in this country longer than they can remember and they finally hear their mother tongue again. After spending a lifetime feeling like I never fit in anywhere, I finally felt like I had found my planet.
And where I was at this moment, felt like home.
With my face in the hot August sun, I sat smiling. A day's worth of travel grime on my all ready too hot black T shirt, too tight jeans that were scorching my thighs, and a lump of happiness in my throat. I belonged here.
I had found the mothership.
**If you're thinking about attending a BlogHer conference, I hope you decide to do it. It is a lifetime chance, and the memories you'll make are the kind that change you forever. Seeing people you talk to daily online, meeting them in the flesh, is a feeling I can't put to words.
I hope to see you there. I'm thrilled to be presenting as part of a panel, 10:30 a.m. Opening Day, along with Dorothy Snarker and Bon Stewart, aptly titled "Blogging For The Love of It."
Please stay around afterward, and say hello. I'd love to meet you; shake your hand, hug you: you let me know what's comfortable for you. It's always so fun to see a 2D avi you've followed for months, finally speak.