For a long time, I worked on a theme park account. Which sounds like the greatest thing in the world–or the absolute worst. It all depends on your perspective.
Every so often, a cynical LA colleague, new to the account, would receive a brief, and roll his eyes at the prospect of spending time there. I explained that you could embrace the idea that you’ll be drinking margaritas out of giant plastic cups, posing for pictures with guys dressed like superheroes, and waiting in line alongside tourists wearing branded everything from their college team shoelaces to their Dr. Seuss hats; or you could spend the weekend whining that it’s not Paris.
The former was always way more fun.
That’s how I felt this weekend at the Blogher conference. It wasn’t a trip to Paris; it was a conference for networking, community building, and professional development.
It left me convinced of one thing: people got back as much as they put in.
Commit to fun, and you will have fun. Commit to learning, and you will find yourself enriched. Commit to drama and…stay away from me. I’m too busy learning and having fun.
On the plane Sunday night, coasting over wispy white clouds, with the half moon glowing in the still bright sky, I was experiencing that odd feeling I always do after Blogher; that thing where half my mind is processing the weekend behind me, and half my mind is anticipating the hug of tiny arms that I missed so much.
But one thing I felt that I haven’t for a while is inspired. Wildly inspired.
Once again, the community keynote had me marveling at what a community of creation the blogosphere is.
Kathryn Tucker, an new friend who is not a blogger herself, kept turning to me between presenters and whispering with surprise, this is really heavy. This is really amazing. It was a treat to watch her discover that it’s not all about diaper giveaways and marketing connections round these parts. Although I did adore my panel about forging better connections with PR folks (transcript here) and I hope it was valuable to the people who attended.
Still, I think the thing we give away best of all are our stories.
Simply for the chance to be heard.
I realized that I spent the weekend in the company of writers like Eden Riley, who blew me away with her poignant Every Little Thing. So much so that I chased down during a party, nearly knocking over 6 glitter-clad women, just for the chance to shake her hand and give her a hug.
Kate Inglis eloquently encouraged us to suck less in our writing, by giving ourselves permission to suck more. She and Bon Stewart make me want to be a better writer, and I doubt I’m the only one saying as much.
There were few dry eyes when Cecily K described being sober for 15 years. Or Lori OHara’s terribly sad yet inspiring post about her best friend’s mother, who encouraged her to wear red underwear.
And then there was my dear friend Kristen Chase, who does beautiful prose as well as she does snark, speaking for every mother when she closed the event with a stunningly personal observation about the one thing she can’t even say out loud.
How could I not walk out of that session wanting to be a better writer?
How could I not walk out of that session wanting to be a better person? To support the community better? To not just listen more, but to hear more?
Thank you to all of the readers that night. You gave us a gift.
The next day, I was privileged to spend an hour that may have been the culmination of all that I was feeling on Friday. I was invited to join a very small group of bloggers for a chat with Indra Nooyi, the remarkable CEO of Pepsico and one of the most powerful women in corporate America, who I truly believe is helping to change the way the world does business.
I had seen her speak at the White Ribbon Alliance dinner I attended in 2009, also known as the Night of 10,000 Supermodels and Liz. When I reminded her of the evening she offered a funny anecdote about being asked by the press about what dress she was wearing.
“Does it matter?” she responded.
My kinda woman.
This hour together, before her Blogher keynote speech, wasn’t the corporate hand-shaking roundtable you might expect. It was a safe, warm space in which we shared our inspirations and our challenges as women and mothers. Everyone who spoke did so beautifully, but a few really stand out to me today. Stephanie Nielsen was candid, in a room full of working mothers, about her commitment to family and her faith beyond all else. Niri captivated us with her coming to America story from a difficult life in South Africa.
Audrey McClellan spoke with such conviction about wanting to be a role model for her boys so they know what a strong working mother looks like. Jaden Hair told us about her passion for food politics which inspired her to start a small farm on her own property. (Chickens, people! She’s going to raise chickens!) Jill Johnson Pattee spoke so lovingly about her husband and his essential support of her work that I haven’t stopped thinking about how lucky she is. Let’s just say Nate and I would kill each other if we worked together.
And then I shared my challenges as a working mother, my need to connect with others through my blog, and my stalwart belief that whether you start a foundation or simply share your stories, one person can make a difference.
Indra nodded soberly, “I believe that too.”
Again, my kinda woman.
Then, she went on—her own lovely daughter by her side— to impart her own challenges and struggles and sacrifices over the years as a busy working mother. I was reminded again that no one does it all. And when we’re not afraid to say it out loud, we can start to get past our own issues.
Afterwards, Lindsay confessed that she was holding back tears through the entire meeting. No one disagreed.
This year, what I took away from Blogher was far more valuable than any coupon or freebie; any gift bag at any swanky party. If you’re not hearing a lot about swag this year, maybe it’s because so many of us felt the same way too.
What a community this is, friends.
I’m so honored to be a part of it.