BlogHer14: Driving The Ship From The Captain’s Quarters

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Like so many other women, I have been writing for as long as I figured out what a crayon was.  I have been blogging since the early 2000s.  Since then I have graduated college, had a fleet of kids, and had my weight balloon from somewhere in the “mid 200s” to where I am at now, which is much healthier and significantly stronger. (yes, I’m being extremely vague with my weight numbers…deal with it)

Last November I decided I had spent enough time physically recovering from 10 years of hobbling around on a cane during pregnancy with sciatica, and it was time to start recovering my writing.

In November, I’d say I was smack in the galley of the ship.

Cooking, cleaning, taking care of basic things.  Mopping up spilled ideas, throwing together old fish into the stew, getting seasick from the back and forth of the ship’s, “I can do this, I totally can’t do this” rocking.

Around February, I was feeling pretty good though, and I realized I needed to step things up: I am not a “galley of the ship” kinda lady.

I belong in the Captain’s Quarters.

So I went ahead and bought my ticket to BlogHer14.

IMG_7595This was the back of my car on Friday, July 25th. 

I was leaving for two days to go to a conference.

This was the first time I have ever stayed away from my family for so long, and I can’t even remember the last time I drove away from my house without a kid, a dog, a kid and a dog, or a kid and a kid and a kid and a kid and a kid and a dog. (that’s 5 kids, for those of you keeping count) 

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This was the hotel room I stayed in at the Fairmont Hotel.  This was my bed.  This was the first time in my whole 35 years that I have ever stayed in a hotel by myself.  This was the bed on which I slept sideways all night, because I love sleeping sideways.  I think I feel like I am fully utilizing as much comfy room on the bed if I sleep diagonally.  Efficient relaxation is my thing…it is astonishingly comforting to me.

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This was the bathroom I was given, which I will just say outright: I completely didn’t deserve.  I think I deserved the big squishy bed, but this bathroom was way above my pay grade. 

I took full advantage of taking 4 long showers, and using the huge mirror to try to figure out how to braid the bed-head out of my hair (because I totally fell asleep with wet hair, and didn’t bring anything to help other than a brush…thinking ahead, here).

It was in this bathroom that I had heart-to-hearts with myself.

I couldn’t run back to this bathroom as a sanctuary when the social anxiety got too much.  I wouldn’t stay in the very quiet, very safe hotel room because I was terrified of failing at the convention.  Failure is not an option.  I was there to conquer everything, starting with my fears.  This hotel room was a tool to get me there: it was not a place to stay.

I was going to put on my pink jellies, my killer red lipstick, and I was going to was going to own this thing.  

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This was the entrance of BlogHer14.

Through these doors lay all of my/our social anxieties.  Once I passed through the registration checkpoint, I had to admit to myself that I was a writer.

I was not a fraud.

I was not an impostor.

I belonged here. 

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After getting my badge, I had to find somewhere to sit down and take a few deep breaths…

This was my name.  This was my blog.

This was my badge, proving, at least to myself, that I was among the fold.

I may have teared up a little here…I may be tearing up now. 

This was happening.

And as soon as I got myself together, I rushed enthusiastically into the convention I had been looking forward to for months!

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  I didn’t pay for the keynotes, but I did pay for the sessions and the Expo…so I started with the Expo.

My initial reaction to the Expo was…confusing. 

The first vendor I saw was Bridgestone Tires.  I turned to the right and saw Angel Soft toilet paper.  I kept walking and ran into Glade, Lysol, Pledge and Scrubbing Bubbles.

I was confused because none of these topics were what I came to BlogHer for.  My blog was an exploration of what it means to be a woman, redefining motherhood, and other such social commentaries.  What I saw was that I was someone who freaking loved cleaning (which I don’t), who knows what kind of tires are on my SUV (again, not my department), and someone interested in toilet paper.  Which…given that there are 7 of us at home, I kind of am, but seriously…not enough to start a conversation about it.

I knew I was a little more anarchist than consumerist, but I had no idea to what lengths I didn’t care about marketing.

Yoplait?  Great yogurt, but I actually make my own.

Menstruation? I got that, in spades.  Unless they’re doing on-site hysterectomies, there’s not a lot they can do.

Vitamins, hair products, massages and manicures…not a touchy person, I avoided that one.

I had to take notes and figure out what was going on.  Surely, BlogHer14 was not all about #sheethappens, right?

I found the Expo was broken into 5 main groups:

  • Cleaning
  • Family
  • Menstruation
  • Blogging
  • Vanity

So, I finally wrapped my head around which types of markets are being directed at us…and that was helpful.  Especially since by now, it was only 9:20am on the first day, and I had 2 full days to go!  Most of these vendors meant nothing to me; However…

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I was SO GRATEFUL to finally find someone speaking my language, though!  These lovely people gave me bourbon and honey shots before 9:30am.  I don’t even know how this was happening; but I’m not even kidding…I loved it. 

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So, now we had the sessions.  I heard from panelists like Liz Henry, Maria Guido (GuerrillaMom & Assist. Editor at Mommyish, with which I totally got fangirl syndrome and couldn’t figure out what to say to her once I got to give her my card and pitch my site.  WTG me!!), Pauline Campos, and Jenn Pozner.

Plus…

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I found someone else wearing the same shoes as I was  😉   Hers were gray, mine were pink.  This stuff matters.

For the most part, the sessions were totally awesome…got to learn from blogging veterans, swap cards with people, good stuff.  But by the end of the day, you have to talk with the ladies freely.  And this was difficult.

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So, I’ll just try and figure out how to do this.  Okay, then.

I did find another blogger who was drinking red wine,

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which was hard to find beyond the complimentary champagne, so I latched onto her like a barnacle

I mean, I gently talked with her for a few hours.  And that was the end of Day 1!  The beginning of Day 2 looked like this:

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But suddenly, I found people who sounded like me.  They were wry, sarcastic, crafty and intelligent moms who blogged about crazy stuff.  And I latched onto them like a barnacle….

no, we had lunch together, and we organized a Renegade Pop-Up Bar Party in the hallway between the convention center and a hotel…and we were giving out champagne cocktails like we’ve been friends with every one of the 50 ladies who came by!

This was what BlogHer14 was.

It wasn’t the toilet paper, it wasn’t the shots of alcohol in the morning.  It wasn’t Glade PlugIn coupons.

It was meeting women in the same boat.  Women who are trying to figure out themselves.  Women who review B-horror movies and have a few degrees in Physics.  Women who know French fluently and order steak for lunch.  Women who have children with autism.   Women who homeschool their kids.

Women who were terrified of leaving their hotel room.  Women who were afraid no one would like them.  Women trying to get something of themselves back.  Women who wondered if they were in the right place, at all…

At the end of the conference, we were all driving the ship from the Captain’s Quarters

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24 Volumes Ladies: Marcella Campbell, Ryan Marie Pilat, Sara Cook

We weren’t scared of failure, because we turned the ship around and made this thing our own.

We weren’t afraid of being weird, because our new friends were even weirder than we were.

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We sang along to Run DMC’s playlist, drank wine out of Dixie Cups and ate our Chicken McNuggets in front of GoGurt art pieces with zeal.

And when I left to return home to my family at our homestead, I felt different.  I no longer felt scared, or nervous, or a failure, or an impostor.

I felt like, finally, I belonged.

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8 thoughts on “BlogHer14: Driving The Ship From The Captain’s Quarters

  1. I don’t think we met, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE that so many of us went into it with some social anxiety and self-doubt and left feeling like not only are we a part of something, but that WE are something.

    1. I saw enough women “recharging” in corners to see how widespread this was. I love seeing so many women feeling empowered…because we were together…even days after the convention ended 🙂

      1. It’s pretty eye-opening to me that this is bigger than just going to a conference to learn about blogging, but that’s it’s about building community… and that building community is an integral part of blogging.

        It’s like a hall of mirrors… On a ship…something like that!

        Thanks for the follow.
        Kylie

  2. That damned impostor syndrome. I hate it, but I’ve been living with it myself for years. I’m glad you persevered and found people you could identify with and talk to. Conventions are a scary thing if you feel like you’re on the outside, but they’re a terrific place to find like-minded people once you break through the wrapping. Congratulations on your bravery to take this on by yourself.

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