The story begins on May 17, 2006, with a post I published at 12:05 a.m.:
There’s this woman, Sue, who writes a blog called Red Stapler. She had a contest to give away free registration to BlogHer. The winner was Izzy, from http://izzymom.com. Congratulations!, right? Except Izzy had already gone ahead and paid for her registration.
So that left Izzy with a BlogHer registration she didn’t need. It was okay with Sue if she passed the registration on to someone else. Are you with me so far? Good.
Ladies, I don’t know how else to say this so I’m just going to say it, please forgive me for shouting:
ME SHE PICKED ME I AM GOING TO BLOGHER HOLY CRAP I AM GOING TO BLOGHER
Are exclamation points even necessary?
That email from Izzy asking if I wanted the ticket was the email that started the process in motion that changed my entire life. Seriously. Because by 1:27 p.m. that afternoon, all of THIS had happened (excerpt from It’s gonna take a VILLAGE, but I’ll get there):
- I received an email and then a phone call from another blogger I had known just a few months, a regular commenter with whom I felt instantly close, offering to use Delta Sky Miles to cover the entire cost of the roundtrip plane ticket. I KNOW. When I told my husband, he looked at me and said “seriously. Someone you’ve never met wants to buy you a roundtrip plane ticket. Oka-a-ay.” This was before I had any idea about the generosity of bloggers, but she even put her husband on the other line to talk to me (he was buying the ticket and needed some info) and I got no crazy vibe from either of them. (Still love you, Nancy!)
- Sue from Red Stapler emailed me to congratulate me on getting the free ticket from Izzy, and said “by the way, if you don’t have a roommate, you can stay with me, don’t worry about paying me back.” I was floored. I had never been part of any group as an adult where people just gave things to each other like that. She offered me her room on Thursday and Friday nights, but she was leaving after the Saturday session, and I flew home Sunday. So I just needed a place to bunk Saturday night.
- Another blogger put a PayPal donation button on her sidebar, and that was back when putting any kind of ad or button like that was a big deal. She asked her readers to help send me to BlogHer. Amazing.
- And then the icing on the whole cake – yet another blogger I’d known maybe a month or two emailed me and said hey, you can come stay the night at my house and then I’ll drive you to the airport on Sunday. At that point my heart might have exploded a little. Never in my life had a stranger offered me a place to stay like that. Chris really was nervous about that though, he said “how do you know you’ll go to her house? How do you know she won’t actually drive you to some, I don’t know, sex slave ring or something?” Well first of all because the blogger in question just didn’t give off that murdery-stabby vibe, and because I was already taking a giant leap of faith here. Why not go all the way?
And then we finally get to the conference, which was at the Hyatt San Jose. Sitting there reflected by the pool lights were the actual bloggers, they really existed, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I posted the next day during lunch, my table companions are a veritable Who’s Who of Women Who Blog. And they read my blog and commented on it and answered my dumb questions about coding and made me feel worthy.
My companions here at lunch are: Tammie from Soul Gardening, Catherine from Her Bad Mother, Kristen from Motherhood Uncensored, Liz from Mom101, Asha from Parenthacks, Julie from MotherGooseMouse, Cathy from Mayberry Mom, Izzy from Izzymom, Dawn from Baleful Regards, Roo from Roo the Day, and Kari from Karianna/ClubMom.
And ME. Talk about feeling out of place! But these women swept me right into the circle and gave me a feeling of belonging that I honestly hadn’t had since high school.
The closing keynote was a discussion with four powerhouse women including Arianna Huffington. Huffington Post was about a year old and she was planning to expand into non-political topics, and she had just released a new book titled On Becoming Fearless … in Love, Work and Life. I wrote down what happened in a post titled I AM A BLOGGER. What happened, quite plainly, is that my life completely changed after that keynote.
The closing session on Saturday afternoon featured four amazing women who have done great things both with their professional lives, and with blogs. I sat there listening to them speak, and I had what I guess you could call a revelation. I grabbed one of my business cards (because my laptop STILL wasn’t working), and on the back I wrote this:
1. Find your voice.
2. Stop apologizing. Be proud of who you are and what you do.
3.Stop hesitating. Move yourself forward.
4. You ARE worthy.
My friends, you are ALL worthy. Whether you have just started blogging or have been at it for a while, you are part of a mighty force in this world. Somewhere out there is someone who wants to know what you think, how you cope, who you are. Be a blogger, and be proud.
There’s a lot you can take away from a conference, but I don’t know if there’s anything better than that. From an email offering me a free ticket, to a community I didn’t even know I belonged to providing everything else I needed just so that I could go to a conference and learn to be a better blogger, to getting there and realizing that blogging wasn’t just some weird thing that only I did, it was a way to have a voice in the world.
The day after I got back, I bought table4five.net and moved to WordPress, bought a Flickr Pro account, and my entire attitude about blogging changed. Every time I published a post, I thought about who was going to read it, whether it contributed something to the greater blogging community. I became conscious of a responsibility, both to all those women who moved heaven and earth to get me to BlogHer, and to women bloggers as a whole. I never wanted to do anything to harm the reputation of bloggers.
It wasn’t just about me anymore, it was about me as a part of a group. I can only hope that some day I can pay it forward, help someone who isn’t sure what blogging really means yet go to a conference and realize their potential. To all those women I mentioned in this post, again I thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you did.