I arrived alone, and I left alone. In between I built on past relationships and set the foundation for new ones, but ultimately it was me. Alone. Like I am all day, every day. Just me.
Instead of sharing a hotel room with another blogger like last year, I stayed with family members who happened to live five minutes away from the convention center. It was the only way I could afford to attend this year’s BlogHer, cutting corners and accepting hospitality. Ultimately, this fostered relationships with relatives I only get to see infrequently, so I didn’t mind in the slightest that I was away from the hub of excitement. I probably slept more than I did last year. Hell, Ariana Huffington cheekily told us to “sleep our way to the top.” You could say I was just following orders.
When I showed up to meals by myself, I’d search the room for familiar faces. As I am chronically early for events, I’d sit by myself and wait for people to join me, or I’d approach a table and ask to join them even if I knew no one there. I’d munch my chocolate croissant and guzzle coffee without intimidation. I write. I blog. I belong here. My greatest takeaway from this year’s BlogHer is that people don’t have to like me for me to like myself. If no one appreciates me I can move to another table. There’s always a table where I will be appreciated; I just have to find it, or let it find me.
If I saw a familiar face, I approached it and introduced myself. I’m a fan of your work, I’d say. Or I’d just strike up a conversation in line for the bathroom, and meet like-minded souls that way. There were people who did not care to meet me, so I set them aside and moved on rather than fawn over them and try to win them over. I’m done with the acrobatics of trying to make everyone like me. BlogHer has encouraged that in me, too.
It’s not like me, this confidence. Where did it come from? Sure I had it when I was a girl, but years of bullying and people trying to force me into their boxy idea of who I should be made me doubt myself. Lately, I give no fucks about who people think I should be. I love it. I write. I blog. I belong here.
I went to the seminars I wanted to go to, left the ones that didn’t fit what I needed. I absorbed. I listened to people’s stories. People’s stories mesmerize me, transform me. Like A’Driane Nieves‘ story. And Janelle Hanchett‘s story. And Ashley Garrett‘s story. I will tell you now without an ounce of shame that I cried during their VOTY readings. Stories are how I connect with the world around me, how I can feel what you’re feeling and laugh with you and cry with you and rage with you. I seek out these stories because I want to connect. I don’t want to always be alone.
But I am alone. Yes I spent time with women bloggers and writers whom I love. You know who you are, ladies, and you encourage me to be my confident self, my best version of myself.
Still, I am alone. I came home from BlogHer full of stories, and now it’s just me and my laptop. We all retreated back from whence we came, behind our screens, reaching out to one another through the void.
This is why I tell my stories. After a month-long blogging hiatus, a painful separation from my writing, I was beginning to wonder why I do it. Am I adding to the noise? It feels like my stories don’t matter sometimes, like I don’t matter. The world doesn’t need another itinerate alcoholic writer performing what amounts to public emotional masturbation, does it?
I don’t care if it does anymore. I need to tell my story. I need you to tell your story. This is how we connect.