This past week has been more of a sweeping experience than a calendar of days. Now that it’s over, I have these stills–like brain snapshots of certain moments–that float from my head to my heart and back again.
I had been preparing for the very first BlogU Conference for, gosh, over a year now. Not only was I looking forward to helping other writers and bloggers like I’ve been helped over the years, I was going to get to meet some long-time online friends in person for the first time. It was also to be the first time I spoke at a conference.
Now that it’s all over, here were the moments that stuck with me the most:
1. Coming across a big circle of attendees who decided to hold their own Open Mic in the dorm.
The faculty that was creeping with me down the hall and saw this happening really wanted to jump in, but knew this was the attendees’ time to shine–not ours. We hovered, listening, throwing each other looks that said, “HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE THIS??” Many of our eyes were filled with tears.
Then it happened again the next night.
Seeing this organically happen was my #1 highlight of the weekend. It was so beautiful to witness.
2. Watching people learn from my friends.
I’ve known how amazing they are for ages now. Seeing them share what they know with others as I sit back and watch? Seeing their involvement in the conference make it so special for everyone involved? Wow. Just…wow.
3. Watching people actually take notes in the sessions I was teaching.
Yes, I know my stuff. But this was the first time I formally taught at a conference, so looking up from my slides to see writers and bloggers I respect making sure they wrote down the things I was saying? Mind-blowing. They heard me, and it felt damn good.
4. Moderating the keynote with my writing partner.
Nicole Leigh Shaw and I were entrusted with setting the tone of “Colleagues, Not Competition.” The keynote panel consisted of not only our friends, but successful women who had the information that the audience paid to hear. It was up to us to draw it out of them. They trusted us, the rest of the faculty believed in us enough to let us just run with it.
I felt like I had the best seat in the house at that podium, even though I was standing. From there I could see the faces of the attendees totally engaged. I saw some “Aha!” moments in their expressions, I saw spines straighten, I saw belief in their potential increase.
It was an honor to experience it all in the way I did.
5. Over and over again moments of kindness, generosity, and giving.
People shared cabs, notes, cupcakes. Strangers let others go in line before them, offered to loan phone chargers, crimped one anothers’ hair. Everywhere I turned, people were in it together, connecting and helping one another move forward.
Sometimes even literally.
Due to an ongoing foot injury, I was on crutches much of the time, and in a wheelchair when outside. I lost track of the number of people who happily pushed my chair between buildings, carried my crutches or bag, offered to get me my meals or coffee, held doors, carried my wheelchair up/down stairs. Not just people I know or who knew me–everyone helped me out. I had worried my cast foot, crutches, and wheelchair would be a hinderance this past weekend. Everyone around me made absolutely sure it wasn’t.
I can’t thank those of you who helped–or offered help–enough.
6. Meeting long-time fans and fellow bloggers.
Since I wasn’t very mobile, a lot of people would come up to me and say, “I’m such-and-such from XYZ blog,” and I WOULD KNOW EXACTLY WHO THEY WERE. I tried to be professional and shake hands, but sometimes I just couldn’t and I’d hug them and say something terribly inappropriate because I’ve wanted to meet them in person for so long.
I love meeting writers whose work I admire. I love meeting fans who I’ve seen following along. I don’t know how well I can articulate that, because all the faces are rushing by me right now and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to spend time with them all.
7. It was weird that being with all the BlogU faculty wasn’t weird.
There are about 31 BlogU14 faculty members. We talk online every day, and have for over a year–and before that, most of us have talked online elsewhere for years. Before this past weekend, I’ve met all but 5 of them–but we’ve NEVER been all together at the same time.
And yet one by one as we arrived, it was as if we’ve all known each other in person forever. Hugs, tears, stories, familiarity. My sisters in this world of writing, blogging, becoming who we want to be. We’d all end up in the room together for meetings, and laugh at how normal it seemed, despite the fact that we’re strange internet friends who are usually littered about the country.
This is what we hope attendees of our conference will have one day.
It’s why BlogU exists.
8. Just being ourselves together, no matter who that is.
NickMom threw us a Retro Prom and everyone showed up in their true colors. Everyone gave everyone else free pass to be themselves.
The music, the mood, I think it all encouraged those who weren’t ready in the light of day to introduce themselves to new people to get up and do so. Lots of connections made, lots of friendships blossomed in the orange and purple disco lights. It’s easy to be brave when the person you want to meet is dressed in a mothball-scented poufy gown with a giant bow on her butt.
Also? Lots of hilarious photos were taken.
You know what? I think that was the whole point: Just be yourself & take the chances you want to take the moment you see it’s time.
Each of us deserves to feel valued, heard, and important, no matter who were are, no matter where we’ve been, no matter where we’re going.
And it’s even more fun getting there when we have others cheering us on our way.
Thank you to everyone who attended BlogU14, helped spread the word, or encouraged your friends to take the chance to attend.
Thank you to the BlogU14 faculty. Every one of you was an integral part of making this weekend special for me. I will never forgot this experience.
Thank you to each of you who came up to me this past weekend to talk, whether it was to introduce yourself or ask a question. It was my pleasure to meet you–so very, very much my pleasure.