Thoughts on #BlogHer14
I never posted it, but I had drafted a post about BlogHer14 anticipation that I was going to schedule for the Thursday I’d be traveling to San Jose.
I re-read it the day I returned home and I wanted to cry.
I was so full of anticipation, of hope, of excitement. I was going to have an amazing time. I was also nervous, don’t get me wrong. My anxiety was high and I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t sure I was going to belong. But, in the end, I told myself that it would be fun and I would finally get to see some of my friends I’ve only known online.
Maybe it was a case of self-fulfilling prophecy, or maybe I just know myself. But I felt anxious the entire weekend.
Stepping into the Expo Hall, where all the booths were set up, was difficult. I walked in the first time, saw the crowd, and left to hide in the bathroom for a little while. I went in the second time, visited one booth, and then left again. It was a constant struggle to walk up to the people in the booths and talk to them out of the blue. Even though I knew they were there to talk to me. Even though that was why they were there.
Okay, not to talk to me specifically, but you know what I mean. They want to talk to bloggers. I’m a blogger. Hence, they want to talk to me.
I tried to have fun. I really did. I took selfies and entered the contests. I exchanged business cards and talked about my blog.
The first session I attended on Friday--How to get a (great) book deal--was boring. I’m sorry, but I have to be honest. The panelists didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know from reading articles and talking to other people online. I tried to sneak out early, but instead I knocked over some woman’s cup of coffee.
I felt terribly embarrassed. I wanted to run and hide.
The second session I attended was on Saturday--something something social media optimization--was a lot of the information I learned in the social media classes I’ve taken through the university. So it was great information...but it wasn’t anything new. I left that one early too. Without spilling anything.
I occasionally came across the people I had already met in real life. I spent some time with Yuliya (who doesn't blog anymore but mentioned getting back to it and I do hope she does because I've missed her tales), though I wanted to cling to her like the newborn she had attached to her, I did eventually part ways and leave her alone. I saw Lizz (briefly) several times. That woman owned the conference. She seemed to be in her element. With her people. Excited at every moment.
It wasn’t until the second day that I saw JC Little and surprised myself by approaching her. I was surprised again when she recognized me. She was just as friendly and lovely as she had been when we talked via social media. She even asked if she could draw me! She probably thought I was exaggerating, but it really was a highlight of the conference for me. I also admired her shoes and was kind enough not to steal them off her feet.
Alexandra also recognized me right away, as did Lance (I actually ended up spending a lot of time with his wife, Deana, who kind of became my best conference friend). Kate Sluiter recognized me with excitement as we were both dancing at the closing party. Stacy Morrison, Neil Kramer, Angie Young. All of these people I had talked to online (most of them for at least a few years) hugged me and were excited to see me.
And yet I still didn’t feel like I belonged there.
Due to my late birthday, I’ve always been the youngest of my friends. Obviously it was only by months, but it still somehow seemed to make a big difference.
Now it turns out I’m still the youngest (or one of them), but the years and years makes an even bigger difference. I know the comments about my being a “baby” were jokes. I get that. Truly. But it also made me feel like I stood out and didn’t actually belong at the conference. Even though I have a blog, which is who the conference was supposed to be for.
My thoughts on the conference are still a jumbled mess. Was it worth it? Did I have a good time? Do I feel strange that I left the closing party at 9:30 p.m., when it went until 11 and was apparently the “best closing party EVER” according to the posts and tweets I saw after?
I didn’t “find my tribe” at BlogHer. I didn’t learn more about myself as a blogger, or as a writer, or as someone who does and loves both. I didn’t feel like I belonged, and I didn’t feel like I made business connections to effectively monetize my blog (which is apparently a big thing at this conference, judging by the number of people who asked me if I was monetizing my blog).
There were bright spots. I had fun hanging out with Deana and Molly (whom we met at the elevator during the suite parties that were disappointing). I danced at the closing party. I slept in a comfortable bed with FOUR pillows for THREE nights and didn’t once have a foot in my back. And my biggest takeaway from the entire conference was to JUST WRITE. And that I need to submit my work. When it comes to my words, I need to be brave and just get them out there. Because words matter. My words, your words. Our stories. They all matter.
And I’m still not sure I care about monetizing my blog. Or maybe I do. I really can’t decide.
But Arianna Huffington told me the secret to success is getting sleep. So maybe it's time to put my head to the pillow for more than five hours a night.
This post originally appeared on Unintentionally Brilliant.