The 11th Annual BlogHer Conference in New York was a trip of a lifetime. Because so many of you are such supportive and caring friends, you’ve asked me to share some about my experience.
First, at the start of July, I made a difficult yet easy decision to resign from the company where I’ve worked for the past nearly four years. My expiration date had hit me in the face at an unexpected time, but I’m a decisive gal, so I did the necessary soul-searching and decided it was my time to leave. I’m eternally grateful for the growth I experienced while working there, and even more grateful for the relationships I was honored to create during that time. Plus, I now have my own personal sister city, San Francisco.
After resigning, I desperately needed time to reset before starting my new job (which begins tomorrow!). I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since I was 18. It’s baked into my DNA; I’m the daughter of two hardworking parents plus two hardworking stepparents. Since I’d been hoarding a lot of vacation time unintentionally, I used that time to take a few weeks for myself. Let me just say that the Europeans have it figured out; taking an extended break is exactly what the doctor ordered.
I spent long days by the pool. I stayed up until 2 a.m. watching movies with my 12 year-old daughter. I read books. I woke up early and watched The Today Show in bed. I re-vamped my summer Capsule Wardrobe. I canoodled with Mr. Arndt.
One day during this delicious hiatus, I came across a post from a writer named Jessica Lahey, who recently released her book, “The Gift of Failure.” I came to know about Jessica through my contact at the New York Times Motherlode, and I find her ridiculously smart and inspiring. In the post, Jessica announced she would be signing copies of her book at BlogHer15.
I knew very, very little about BlogHer. I knew even less about SheKnows. Yet, because I have wanted to meet Jessica since I was first introduced to her writing, I made a crazy decision to register and book travel plans. When else would I get this chance?
As a BlogHer Conference rookie, I set basic goals:
1. Meet Jessica Lahey.
2. Connect with anyone remotely related to The Today Show. (My dreams are simple: Write a book. Talk about that book on The Today Show. Observe a reader passing my book to another reader at the airport).
3. Learn about WordPress. I bought a WordPress domain and special theme over 2 years ago, but I find it intimidating.
4. See Central Park for the first time.
5. Time permitting, get off property to eat calamari at Carmine’s at Times Square.
BlogHer delivered. I was able to tackle everything on my list and then some. I intend on writing full posts about many of the things I experienced because it was truly life-changing. Until then, here’s a list of key takeaways:
1. The most important thing I learned at BlogHer is that competition doesn’t exist there. Every woman is valued. Every woman is beautiful, has worth, and has their own unique voice to share. If every woman there wants to start a blog or write a book, so be it! What a beautiful thing! I’m generally skeptical of big groups of women because I’ve been in situations where women are catty and competitive. Not the case at BlogHer.
2. Two of the panelists for the keynotes, Gwyneth Paltrow and Christy Turlington, are beautiful on the outside not just because of amazing genes and good health, but because of their internal beauty. Also, I was delighted to see that they both have real foreheads that move. The older I get, the more I appreciate a moving forehead.
3. I learned so much about how white women are perceived by women of color, and how much work we white women have to do to support our friends in non-white communities. I had some powerful, enlightening, life-changing conversations that have helped shape new, important views. I developed a massive girl crush on Selma director Ava DuVernay, whose closing keynote made me want to jump up and do cartwheels, I felt so empowered.
5. BlogHer can be overwhelming, but not because of crowds. The freebies are out of control! I had to buy a brand new suitcase just to schlep the freebies home (and I gave away a lot of it before I left). I want to talk more about this, and how I would like to see us reduce our need to have so many things while learning about wonderful new products. All of that stuff doesn’t help me with my need to simplify in the least. Eek.
7. Jessica Lahey: get to know her writing and her philosophy on raising children. Jessica was not only superbly gracious, she greeted me with a hug, signed my book, and introduced me to two of the most fantastic women who gave me terrific advice about getting a book published, and advised me on my Today Show dreams.
8. It feels so great to be 42 and be inspired by women of all ages. During one of the sessions on memoir writing by Brandi Bowles of Foundry Literary and Media, I noticed the woman in front of me was writing on a page, and I could see three exclamation marks on it. I love people who take handwritten notes! I snapped a picture because it inspired me so, and it represented so much enthusiasm and hope. Well, what do you know? The woman who wrote it is the lovely Hope Arcuri, a 19 year-old Duke student who writes Words of Hope Blog. Hope writes with such truth and has so much promise as a young writer. Go read her blog; I expect big things to happen from her.
9. I also met a woman in my age bracket (but man, she doesn’t look like it!) named Amy who writes the hilarious blog, “‘A’ My Name is Amy.” I shared just enough time sitting on the floor talking to Amy to know that her kids and her readers are very lucky people indeed.
10. I overcame my paralyzing fear of public speaking by reading for an audience at the Listen to Your Mother Open Mic. There, on stage in front of a room of women, I read one of my blogs. Now I know why comedians get addicted to the work. To read something I wrote and to hear others laughing was a complete rush. To have women approach me later in the conference to compliment my work was a thrill I can’t describe.
I’m forever thankful to the sponsors and the organizers of BlogHer15. The only thing keeping me from my sadness in it being over is the promise of another conference in 2016.
Go live your dreams, friends! It’s all within reach — you just have to want it.