08 August, 2013

Pieces of Me at BlogHer13

Many of us have made deep and meaningful relationships that exist only online. I have felt loved, protected, cherished and helped by people who I have never stood next to. And for all of the ways that it has also allowed strangers to call me names, or generalize me into stereotypes that I am thankfully aware, do not apply to me, the Internet has mostly given me a sense of community, a platform to do good works, a way to connect with other people in similar situations, and an ability to carve my life up into little segments where I am able to learn the language of advocacy, friendship, shared interests, or home organization.

And because the Internet doesn't require plane fare, and is rarely guided by a strict sense of time, this community has been available whenever I have needed it, from wherever I am. I'd say, overall, that I am a wholly better person for knowing the people I have met online. Those relationships have depth, and have endured for years, even as some of my neighbors have moved, or families around me have split up.

So then I am walking down the hall of a Sheraton in Chicago and a bright voice calls to me, "Jen! Jen! Hi, it's *so* great to see you!" and I am instantly mortified because I have no idea who this person is...until I read her tag, and wait, Yes! I DO know who she is! And I know about her precious son, and her new baby, and that we have talked about all of these little details of life already, and now she is here in front of me.

I've just met an old friend.

And BlogHer is one of those experiences where you get the feeling that you are always just about to run into a long lost friend, or a new best friend, or a perfect career opportunity, or someone who will make you think differently, or maybe you will just get a chance to hug a person who managed to hold your hand from far away. Or you will be thanked, to your face, for writing something that made a person's life easier, better, more manageable, because something you wrote made their life bearable on a day they didn't think they could get through.

I really enjoyed all the pieces of me being stitched together this year. I got to speak, well, really I was supposed to manage a round table with Ellen Seidman, but of course I spoke a bit, because when, ever am I quiet for that long. And I got to learn, and cry a bit, hearing from Pamela Merrit who is ahead of me in many, many, ways, and helps me see the long road. She's leaving a clear cut behind her, and for that I am grateful.

I got to stay up late and chat, meeting someone wonderful, then spending hours talking about our children before figuring out the degrees of separation between us, (her friend is married to a man who sang at the wedding of the man who was the best man in my wedding....among other connections).

They "liked my schtick" in Chicago. It felt good to be funny, and have people like me being funny, and thanking me for lifting their spirits. I'm sure they would tire of me, but for those short hours I loved making my friends laugh. I love to laugh, and I love it when our table is laughing the most, happy to be stared down by others who are not fortunate enough to guffaw, perhaps inappropriately, especially at themselves.

I walked a million miles, ate a lot of food that made me think I could add a few items to my family's diet, and only had one migraine. While it's true I am an extrovert, I've figured out that expo centers, with their bright white expanses and tall ceilings and two-story escalators, suck at my life force, and I will be happier in the future if more of the functions and sessions are held in the confines of a cavernous hotel, where I have a chance to run back to my room for something, or rest for 20 minutes. (I'll also be happy if, next time, dropped-to-my-room-swag does not include a full-sized Denny's menu with accompanying cupcake cup, and a set of size-your-own-bra cups that we used for many, many other things before leaving them behind.)

I'm glad I went. From the cab ride I shared with a lovely woman who is moving to California in a few months, to the giant pretzel that practically called me names, from meet ups and new friends, from the lunchtime party at a back table, to shutting down the karaoke party (without my needing to get up on that stage and fall over), to the great information, interesting keynotes, and a new friend who made leaving and airport-waiting bearable, BlogHer13 was a great conference.

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