Oh, here we go again, me about to spin my yarn about how I got on an aeroplane in ye olde 2006 and flew to California for the first time, pretended I knew how to make a "podcast" so this nice lady who ran this blogging conference would spot me a ticket while I proceeded not to try to wreck her audio recording situation.
It's quite a yarn.
This is a different, more recent one. I just thought I'd get that shot out of the way early. You know how sometimes, in 2006, you fly to California, and then five years later you're standing at the same, now way huger, event, next to a giant toilet? Yeah.
Then there's the part about how I didn't know anyone before I got there, and I had never been to California before, and I stood awkwardly in a crowded party room with other people who had recently been hired to be editors for this newfangled lady blogger website.
I would also post photos like this on Flickr then, apparently. That's different from now.
And then I went to sessions and gawked at the same five bloggers everyone gawked at then, and made a few friends, and drank some wine, sat by the pool with strangers, didn't wreck the audio after all, and fell completely in love with this weird scene.
Then at the end I drove to Santa Cruz and came back to San Jose and flew home, and that was it. Goodbye, old life. Hello, new, strange, half-in-the-computer-half-out-of-it one.
I have since gone to six more BlogHer conferences and several other offshoots, the Foods and the Writers and the Businesses, the one in Boston and one in DC.
Barefoot in a San Francisco hotel lobby at 5 a.m., waiting for a cab to take me to a bus and then a train. That happened.
Also in SF, this was on a telephone table by the elevator, by someone apparently needing to check in about her conference experience. Or maybe his. Is that Neil's handwriting?
I've written for the site for seven years. I've taken pictures for the events. I met my best friends writing for it, and some of my most valued professional and personal mentors (who also happen to be my friends, which is nice.)
In May I quit my teaching job as an indirect result of the path that first conference set me on, and now I am trying to find a combination of life and work in the things that blogging reminded me again that I love the most -- writing and photography and, interestingly, a sense of community, shared and sometimes opposing ideas, with the common denominator still for me that in 2012 we have the power to strike keys and press a button and send our words around the world.
And maybe meet childhood toys come to life. That too.
I will never get over that this happened in my lifetime, even on days like a few lately when the internet drives me crazy and I want to leave it entirely. It is still the defining thing, for me. I spend too much time in and around it, I feel like, sometimes, but this is the straw I drew, and I'm not sorry.
I can't tell anyone how to get ready for this conference, or what kind of time they'll have, or if it'll be like what they thought or wanted or didn't. I cannot help you with shoes in New York or with social anxiety, because I never bring the right ones for my terrible feet and I have such terror sometimes of making an ass of myself that I actually do it, and for an introvert I am generally quite shy around people at first, even if I act like I'm not.
This yearly trip into the island of misfit blogger toys is the core of my core. It is what it is, every year, and what it is is always good, so there really isn't a whole lot to say about that part.
This year, because I quit my job in May (which is something I need to keep saying over and over again, it seems, until I get used to it) I have had the challenge and the opportunity to try new things online (in the online SPACE, as the cool kids say. Space. The online space.) This has included working with a couple of events, helping to bring their on and off-line communities together. That means that this year I'm the bizarre fairy den mother charged with hosting BlogHerAtHome on the Twitter, and on the BlogHer website.
No, I will not myself be at home. But I will be roaming around the Hilton New York, trying to share content from this conference with people at home who, although they won't be there, can still benefit from learning from the speakers, mostly, and I want to help them access that. I'll also be sharing real-time photos and tweets from parties and expo hall activities and whatnot, and just the general knitting together online of one person's conference experience.
I'm most excited for the people following along and hopefully speaking up from home that they'll get to be in touch with other people, maybe make some new Twitter contacts, share their blogs, try to connect in a good way. The space (I can't stop saying it now, see how that happens?) is so crowded now. When I went to BlogHer San Jose, there were maybe 350 people there? I don't know. Math. The projection this year is for right around 4,000. 4,000 people, people.
But my guidelines for what gets you where you want to go online are just like they are anywhere: Talk to people. Listen for opportunities. Work hard. Know what to turn down. Talk to people. Listen. Listen listen listen.
I wouldn't have any of the gigs I've got now if it weren't for friendships and professional relationships that developed from conversations, from writing I did that turned into more, from photos I shared online that somebody liked, from conversations I had in hallways that turned into deeper exchanges that turned into "Hey, I know someone looking for someone who does what you do."
It elevates us all when it's right, I think.
So if you're going to be home, follow @BlogHerAtHome, if you're into that sort of thing. If you're going to the conference, I'll be the one over there, hoping you're having a good time.
It is my favorite thing, every year. It's good to know that about a few good things, and a lot of good people.
(Oh, and PS, one word of advice, so I totally lied about not telling you what to do. If you like good writing and good people, I highly recommend NOT skipping Voices of the Year or the Listen to Your Mother Salon. Also do not eat at the "microbrewery" down the avenue from the Hilton, because it sucks, and if you're going to the meat cart, please bring me something, because I can never stand to stand in line that long. Otherwise, do your thing. It's totally allowed.)