This last weekend in Chicago was my first time to a BlogHer conference.
It blew my mind.
That might seem to be overstating it, but I assure that is not the case. The fact is that I went with low expectations. I mean, there were thousands of people there- a huge expo, sessions and parties every night and having decided to go only a week or two prior to the conference, I knew that I’d be flying under the radar in almost every sense and I was ok with that.
dragged gently escourted outside of my small conference preference by Jasmine and am so glad that I went and roomed with her. You can read about the personal tragedy that she experienced the night before the conference here.
I expected to be ignored, my name badge stared at then eyes darting away to look for someone more important. That’s normal, right? I’m sure my floundering around trying to match faces and names of people I’ve
stalked followed for years may have looked that way to some. I expected people to be nice with big smiles but turn away to see their real friends. It’s a big reunion, right? I expected it to be left by friends to attend private parties that I wasn’t invited to and I was ok with that. Really. I support my friends and I’m secure to be left alone. I expected people to be friendly at first because, well, that’s the decent thing to do then pretend not to see me later that day because they’d already met me and that was just that. That’s the way all big conferences are, aren’t they?
What I didn’t expect was to be invited into group pictures of friends reuniting. They didn’t know me anyways, right? But they pulled me in. I didn’t expect to be invited into circles of years old friends, opened armed and welcoming. “Umm you can come over here and talk with us…” Lauren Fleming raised an eyebrow. I scurried over.
My armor I didn’t realize I had been carrying got heavy.
I didn’t expect to be hugged, remembered, greeted and most of all I didn’t expect to cry from stories told by women who are so real and authentic that I felt normal in their presence.
Isn’t that weird?
I made scrunch faces at speakers trying to hold back tears so many times. I failed even more and I was ok crying. I felt safe. I felt challenged. At the LTYM event I put my name in the basket to read a favorite piece I had written and felt like a child. I bawled for the pain of others, the joining grief that is in us all. I talked with Janelle Hanchett after she spoke and almost couldn’t even talk. The event closed without my reading it but the fact alone that I put my name in the basket was a huge win. You have no idea how much so.
I felt lighter.
I felt more confident.
I didn’t expect that Jasmine and I would be delightfully overwhelmed at the fanciness of our hotel (and the 30th floor…) in the same way. I mean- hangars not connected to the bar in the closet? FANCY. Separate bathtub and shower? FANCY. A *third* curtain? FANCINESS ITSELF.
I didn’t expect to laugh so hard that I actually cried with JC Little and Jasmine while watching an extremely confusing musical performance. I didn’t expect to laugh so hard with Alexandra Rosas as we tried to decide all the creative uses for the Jockey Swag. (Ikea Mobile and Prep Bowls!) I loved seeing one of my favorites, Jenny on the Spot, at the event.
I didn’t expect the founders of BlogHer, Jory & Lisa, to recognize me after meeting me once (well done!) and then have Lisa invite Jasmine and I to be models in the next year’s fashion show. I thought she was just being nice so I said, cheerfully, “sure!”- because- surely she didn’t actually mean what she said- that would be absurd? Jasmine looked at me, “You know she actually MEANT that?” and I was speechless. I mean, this was my first time at BlogHer, isn’t there some huge clique and waiting list to be doing cool things? It really couldn’t be this open handed? This isn’t shameless bragging- it’s just the incredulous experience of it all and the fact it could be anyone.
I sat next to the Debbie Wogan on the bus one night and had an amazing conversation about writing, my blog and the possibility of joining the ad network in BlogHer. She answered my reasons for NOT joining in such a way that I’m going to TRY to join.
I loved hearing Casey share her story on the Voice of the Year, I cried. Rejection from the church is such a painful reality.
I could go on and on. BlogHer was nothing like I expected.
I feel challenged to my core in ways I’m still processing. I appreciate it beyond what words can say. It restored a lot of my faith in community and reassured me that big conferences are still worth my time. You surprised me in such a nice way. Thank you.
Bonus: Interview with Jasmine and I: YBLTY.com Interview (BWAHAHAHAH- they cropped a LOT of what I said since I fell apart laughing)