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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Only Cried Twice. {The BlogHer '13 Recap}

I hold out my hand to shake another's, smiling and introducing myself by my given name as the woman in front of me does the same. I wait the half a second to see if that registers, watch the vague confusion cross along her line of sight, and accommodate. I glide my name badge up my torso and over my face to below my eyes, so they may see my Twitter handle and otherwise online moniker. My eyes still smile above the plastic sheath of my placard, but my lips go tight behind it at the anticipation of recognition, or worse, the lack thereof.

I don't know why I expect people to know who I am. It all feels like a farce on my part, but I oblige, because ever the sociologist, I am always collecting data, which is presently skewing in the direct opposite direction of my hypothesis.

"Oh! I know you!" they say, one after another with varying degrees of excitement or surprise.

The voices in my head overlap.

Are you sure?

Thank God, yay!

You're just humoring me.

And I continue on with the conversation wherever it leads, invisible in my extreme visibility, because I can't believe that anyone should ever know who I am.

And yet, a little voice whispers that maybe they do, maybe this is all far bigger than you understand it to be.

And the dance continues, the next woman appears, the name badge comes up, and it cycles again.

I had the time of my life at BlogHer. From the tweets encouraging me to get to Chicago at warp speed to the chemistry with my roommates and the friendships forged and bonded both existing and new (at least to my knowledge) this conference was the exact opposite of my experience last year. 

Mostly, I found my people.

I suspected it towards the end of the year last year, that maybe I had a place to belong, but I convinced myself that my small (yet loyal!) following couldn't hold a flame to those of the people who spoke kindly to me. They were just taking pity, just being friendly.

This year, this year caused that self-doubting voice to sit down and STFU.

I went to sessions that left me feeling empowered and on the right track, that moved me to know that I'm not the only one who sees blogging through x,y, and z lenses. I spoke(!) and had women approach me and say such positive and awesome things that it took my breath away because are you kidding, I'm nobody, I'm just a stay-at-home-mom with bright hair, nothing more, I'm nothing to aspire to, trust me. I went to parties and met new people and wasn't scared at all, wasn't worried too terribly much about what anyone thought. Most everyone was too busy having fun to notice.

I hear, now, that that wasn't the case, but whatever. Insecurity fuels the hatred flame and it has so much more to do with the haters than the targets. C'est la vie.

I worked hard on listening to other people and not filling the silence with drivel because when I'm nervous I talk too much. I became very practiced at saying thank you as genuinely as I could to every person who paid me a compliment (it was mostly about my hair, but there were some personal doozies too) because I suffer hard core from Impostor Syndrome. I tried to be proud of my few accomplishments without feeling like a braggart. I met more idols and discovered that to a few, I was one. I fangirled and was fangirled upon a smidge. And I laughed and cried and hugged and smiled with friends, people who seemed to truly get me and that I think I get pretty well while still, quietly, trying not to take too much to heart so as not to get my hopes up, my endless and largest shortcoming.

Grace and humility and kindness were my hopes for people's impressions of me this year, because last year, that's all I wanted from anyone else.

And everywhere I went, I was greeted as if I'd finally made it home.

Though my emphasis on my Chronic Bitchface being just that may have helped, a little.

The first thing I noticed when I walked through the door were how big Kiedis' hands are. He's about due for a growth spurt and of course it would happen right before school starts. Tova had a fat lip because she fell and forgot how her hands worked, and Kyle shaved his beard a little of which I disapprove (the shaving, not the beard). I heard the echoes of the voices of the women I had just left as we all dispersed back to our homes, our lives, the things we write for and about, and I thought about doing better by my family.

I have often thought about the fairness of this situation, of taking our story and making it mine and putting it out there for everyone to see, and lately I have been pulling back, preferring to speak in Instagrams because somehow that feels less intimate, less revealing. I have doubted myself and my story, our story, and it's relevance and interest to people outside our real lives. I have swallowed my words more often, not knowing where in the story I stand it its tellability and in fear of rammifications mostly imagined.

But as I stared at my family, I realized that it is so much bigger than the four of us in this old house. It is this community that sustains me and inspires me and holds me accountable. It is the other mothers who care as much for my children as I do theirs despite never having actually met. It is the friends who see in me what I cannot and encourage and push me while telling me to kindly STFU and just do it, already. It is the women I just met and those moments when we look each other in the eye and there is a knowing of the parts of each other that most don't see.

I have spent the last eleven years of my life -- that's the entirety of my twenties, save the next six months -- 
chasing this ghost and this past weekend, finally, I caught up to it.

And I was home.