It's been almost two weeks since I attended BlogHer '09 in Chicago, and the longer I wait to reflect on my time there, the less interested we all become. To be honest, I'm half-way there already, but it's important to me that I document this for my archives. Plus, I really think I can write about it in a way that highlights my unique experience instead of rehashing everyone else's talk tracks. So here I go.
To start: this has been a weird blogging year for me. On one hand, I'm the diligent worker bee, consistently posting updates to Parents.com three times a week (except for those first months I had Kara and Nathan. Slacker!). I rack my brain for story ideas. I follow comment threads. Occasionally I add to the conversation. And while I've never been the most sought-after blogger over there, my traffic is consistent and respectable. And that's the goal, right? A frequently touched blog with vibrant signs of life? All of that should have left me in pretty good spirits about going to BlogHer--meeting readers, sharing my blog with others, even just feeling like an active participant in the blogosphere as a whole.
It should have. But it didn't. Not when it's such a tightly controlled space representing such a segmented part of my life. And I when I say that, I don't mean that the editors influence our content. We've always been given free reign over the topics we choose to write about. No, it had more to do with a sense of longing on my part to reconnect with THIS blog, where I first fell in love with blogging. This is where I can paint a picture of my life using broader brush stroke, where I can curse freely and post silly little writings, where my history includes a life before children, before marriage, before my graduate degree and move to Indianapolis. It's the URL I type in whenever I comment on somebody's site (admittedly a rarity, these days) even if the most current entry is three weeks old because this blog will live longer than any freelance gig, and it's the one that best speaks to who I am. I have thousands of readers on Parents and only a few hundred here (Red Rover, Red Rover, let Parents.com readers come over), but on the World Wide Web, this is home. And I miss it. So, so much.
(Thus ends mushy love letter to a non-living entity. Get a room, Frema!)
I was so excited to attend the conference, but once I got there, I was surprised to observe how disconnected I felt from everything. For BlogHer 2007, I had a close-knit group of online gal pals to have dinner with and attend sessions with and overall just have a good time with. I even had a real-life blogging buddy as a roommate! And in the weeks leading up to it, we were in constant contact with each other through e-mail and comments, so by the time we finally met each other, we didn't miss a beat. We talked about our non-bloggy lives and rubbed bellies (well, mine got rubbed, anyway) and took pictures and laughed and hugged and enjoyed each other's company. BlogHer WIN.
This time around, my buddy didn't come, and I chose to bring my family instead of looking for somebody else. I didn't take part in any meet-ups or even make a concerted effort to find out who was going. My hectic schedule has resulted in me falling out of touch with most of my old blogging circle, so while I did chat with these ladies for a couple of minutes at the start of the conference, unfortunately, that was the extent of it. (It was so good to see both of you, though!) And I found that inserting myself into situations with new people (which I did during lunch and between a few of the sessions) wasn't actually the best way to connect with them. I much prefer doing that in the context of being around people I know and who know me.
Pair my loneliness with keeping tabs on work, learning quite suddenly about my Parents contract being allowed to run out, mourning the relationship I used to have with my personal blog, missing Luke and the kids, and feeling conflicted about the increased marketing presence (yes, I'm grateful lunch was free, no, I don't want my picture taken with a life-sized jar of spaghetti sauce), and it's no wonder I looked like a deer in headlights the entire time I was there. My sincerest apologies to those of you gracious enough to approach me and introduce yourselves, as I know I wasn't the most engaging or captive audience.
To top it all off, I only took two pictures while I was in Chicago. This one of Luke on the Dan Ryan driving to the hotel:
Taken with my smart phone for work. Fancy!
And this one of the "Room of Your Own" session featuring the women of MamaPop:
No, I'm not a professional photographer, why do you ask?
That all said, I did have a good time. I walked (most of) the BlogHer 5K hosted by PHAT Mommy, Nathan happily in tow via baby carrier, and after the stress of the last few days, it felt so good to just hang out with fellow shredheads and cuddle Nathan close as we traipsed along the lakeshore. I also liked most of the sessions, though a gem to keep in mind for next time is to attend sessions based on the speakers even if the topics themselves don't grab my attention as opposed to going on topic alone, because the former were the ones I found the most entertaining. Another nugget would be to attend on my own dime, because while I did glean some tangible to-dos for my company's social media strategy, I often felt restricted in how I spent my time. The MamaPop session was one of the few guilty pleasures I gave in to.
As I wrap up my time with Parents, I'm allowing myself to feel the loss of a job that, while tedious, also provided a legitimate reason to write about the minutiae of my life as a new mother, minutiae that otherwise might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I have a four-part birth story for Kara's baby book and monthly updates for Nathan's (your story's coming, son, I promise). I have a shiny new bullet point for my resume and a much better handle on how to negotiate a freelance contract, the details of which I will be more than willing to share with you when it's appropriate. Finally, I have a chance to return to my blogging roots and relax a little, to post because I want to and not because I'm being paid for it. Though I am still interested in being paid for it, so long as it's managed differently and the content doesn't compete with what already appears here. Amalah and her various columns for Alpha Mom spring to mind as an ideal compromise.
So, despite my personal turmoil, BlogHer '09 couldn't have come at a more opportune time. And when the logistics didn't meet my expectations, I thought about how much I loved loved LOVED meeting blog readers. Seriously, you guys can't fathom how much you made my day just by saying hello. Who knows? Maybe BlogHer '10 will be even better.
That is, if I can afford to get there without being sponsored by a jar of spaghetti sauce.
(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)