Better than Swag; The Impact of Blogher ’09 In Real Life Part 1 It’s All About Me

The theme of Blogher ’09 was  “In Real Life”.  When I first stumbled upon it in December and spontaneously decided to use the early Christmas money I had received to buy my ticket, I thought “In Real Life” made perfect sense.  Although my “real life” was not very aware of my blogging friends and family, my blogging community had made a huge impact on MY REAL LIFE over the last year or so.  Having now had a couple of days to reflect and review my notes, it is clear that this is a strong feeling among the 1500 Blogher attendees.

But for now, it’s all about me.

I had been feeling bad for a few years when I stumbled upon blogging.  Having been accessing the blogosphere since 2003 when I adopted my two children, I researched every lump, bump, rash, sob, and thought that my kids had and shared.  Most of the time I knew there was nothing to be concerned about, but I found reassurance anonymously reading stories of moms just like me who were experiencing the same things I was without having to confess to friends and fam in my REAL LIFE that I was paranoid and worried and lonely.

Bonding in the Blogosphere

Sometime between 2003 and 2007 things got wonky.  By the end of 2006 I was in full on depression, but didn’t know it.  Everybody has their “stuff” and mine is not really important to the story except to say that one day in February 2008 I woke up enough to look around and realize that things were not right. I knew I was lethargic, lacking my usual vibrance, and my pants were getting tight!, but I didn’t really REALIZE what was happening. Something made me look online for SOMETHING to do. A change to make.  I took surveys, I participated in panels, and socialized for points.  Then I met up with a fantastic woman named Summer who hired me to do some freelance writing.  We became fast friends.  It wasn’t long before I met another bad ass woman writer named Robin.  We were many states apart, shared interesting common thoughts, and kept each other  motivated, shared family life, set goals together and worked on projects together.  Last in my blogosphere BFF trio was Cindy, a hard working, beat the odds tough chick who reminded me through example to always get back up.    The three of us have run around online together together ever since.  Even though I have never met any of them, they are as real to me as anyone I know “in real life”.

You see in my “real life” I don’t know one single blogger or freelance writer.  In my lifetime of wanting to be a writer I finally found a group who UNDERSTOOD a passion that no one else did.  They knew the longing in my heart to put my words out there and we all worked and wished and dreamed and grew together.  Although our projects have taken us in different directions, we still support and take interest in one another’s work AND life.

Since that time, along with the encouragement of my online family, I went to the doctor, pursued therapy and learned of my clinical depression.  Like many in my community, writing is therapeutic for me so I found healing in my posts. (and comments and crazy emails — thanks to you few who have endured them!)  I was able to keep the darkness there for the most part and tried to keep the “crazy” on the down low in my “real life”.  At Blogher ’09 I learned I wasn’t alone.

Recluse Today, Solo in the Big City Tomorrow

Unfortunately, none of my Internet BFFs were able to make it to Blogher this year.  I was on my own and nervous, but knew it would be okay because in addition to my Internet BFFs, I had been welcomed into and supported by the blogging community in general.  And as a bonus, thanks to the power of TWITTER I found “Aranarose“of Lemonade Mama who lives less than ten minutes from me and in a last minute collision of events she and I made the trek from Flint to Chicago together where we roomed with a blogger/Twitter friend of hers whom neither of us had yet met “in real life”. Thanks again MEL!

As exciting as it was for me to see technology and community in action as my conference plans come together, I kept it on the down low in my “real life”. A common conversation at Blogher was the dreaded funny looks and confusion we often meet when we try and bring our two worlds together.  Remember the George Costanza theory of the dangers of allowing one of his worlds to infiltrate the other?  I think we all carry a bit of that fear around! Ha!  So I kept it mainly to myself as I rode the rollercoaster of one day thinking I am going to conference and the next day not.

For the entire month before conference I debated the practical against the possibilities. Two days before leaving “practical” had won out. I am a wife and a mom with responsibilities and obligations.  There was no time for dreaming and exploring possibilities.  One day before conference I received the email equivalent of a smack in the face.  The details are private but the meaning was clear, “Snap out of it! Quit being a chicken shit! Education is good! (and even) You deserve a mamatini.”

Having been spared my  30 day internal struggle, my husband was free to sweat the important stuff.  “You’re going to be in an entirely different state than us?” “You. Are driving. To Chicago?” “You have never met one single person involved?” “You are picking up a stranger, and driving 5 hours alone with her headed to you’re not sure where and staying in you’re not sure what room?” “Why are you packing your feather boas?” And lastly, upon my tearful departure, “If you come up missing Nancy Grace is coming after me so would you mind leaving a note  with the conference info and any other pertinent info for when she gets here?”

So that’s how it came to be that I,  recluse in recovery, pulled out of the driveway alone, armed with nothing but a feather boa and a smart phone, headed for the most social event I ever feared attending.  What happened? Was it worth it? What did I learn? Was the community as fabulous as I imagined?  Do you think I shook my bootie at the bowling alley or cried alone in my room draining the mini bar? Watch for part 2 to find out!