Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blog Conferences and Famous People

Everyone has their list of celebrities/famous people they'd like to meet.

Face it, we do.  It's human nature to want to surround yourself with successful people; not just for their knowledge but also because we have this sense ingrained in us from the moment we are old enough to realize it - that spending time with these people in very close proximity will end with at least a little bit of their amazingness rubbing off on us.

It doesn't always happen that way, but sometimes - just sometimes - it does.  And when it does?  Oh Man.  When it does ... it's amazingly fantastic and completely unforgettable.

I like to liken myself to a blogger, even though we all know I'm not even remotely close to being as successful as others, I like to write and I think I'm pretty decent at it.

I've been to exactly ONE blog conference in my very infantile writing career.  One.  That one blog conference touched me so very much (not that way ya perverts) I couldn't wait to go back ... only... only this year I couldn't go.  Instead of dealing with this like a calm, rational adult - I spent the entire week leading up to, the weekend of and moments after (so far) whining like a five year old who has to watch her little brother/sister open all sorts of birthday presents while not having any for herself.

Now, I'm not the most mature adult there is - I know this - but these bloggers?  They're my people.  They are my tribe.  They are my audience, my encouragement, my readers, my fans, my Friends.  They're My People.  I am forever grateful for the twist of fate that sent me reeling into their orbit, into their path and standing alongside of them for pictures, seminar sessions, 80s themed proms and free drinks. 

Last May, still trying to wrap my head and heart around our new normal, I joined a twitter party.

If you've never been to a twitter party, I suggest it so very highly - it's impossible to keep up 100%; because you don't know every single person that is taking part.  You only see those you follow, those who use the hashtags that you use, those that are retweeted or commented to by those you do follow .. It's horrible and wonderful and amazing - take it from me, try it once.  

Okay, back to me.  Last May, I logged into twitter at the urging of some of my friends; this twitter party was different than any other I'd taken part in.  This twitter party offered prizes.  Books, mugs, swag - and a free ticket into the Blog U Conference's Inagural Year ... I don't need to tell you how farfetched I thought winning anything, let alone the grand prize, was.  I'd had the worst year to date, and I knew my luck was less than stellar.

On top of that?  I'm not a really real blogger - not of the same caliber these bloggers are.  I don't have a following, I barely post - and when I do, it's all self-serving.  These bloggers - men & women alike - they move people, they start movements, they make money with their writings, they share the deepest parts of their souls, they host amazing give-aways, they are so talented I don't compare.  I didn't think I would belong, I wouldn't fit in, I would stand out because I was an imposter.  And that was only if I won!  There was no feasible way I could have gone otherwise, it just logistically and financially didn't make sense.

There are four questions asked during this twitter party.  Four.  Four chances to win swag -- or your way into the conference.  I answered each one, had some great laughs and "met" some fantastic women.  Nearing the last few moments of the "party" I started to feel my heart rate accelerate.  This was it.  The one chance I had to go.  I don't even remember the question, or my answer, but I do remember the 2 minutes between when I answered and when Kim responded "Congratulations, @Tink_143!! You're The Grand Prize Winner!!  DM @TheBlogU with your email address.  We'll see you in Baltimore!"

I couldn't breathe.  I think I responded something like "Get the fuck outta here!!!  are you serious!?" or "No Fucking Way!" I won my way in and I couldn't have been any more grateful than I was in that moment (or so I thought.. more on that later)

BUT ... here's the best part.  Up until I'd won?  I didn't have my name on my Twitter Account.  There?  There I was just @Tink_143.   The next day, when Kim and I were chatting on someone's status update - I told her "I'm Tink" ... she was floored.  Out of all the years we'd been talking, (really, I'd been cyber-stalking her) she never knew I had a blog or a twitter - because I don't promote myself.  She had to prove to the others involved with the Twitter Party that my name was selected randomly, because all of those involved were some of my favorite bloggers and they'd all been made aware of our recent tragedy**.
Amy Effing Mayo didn't fit

Back to my original thought.  We all have these celebrities we'd love to meet; just for a photo op, autograph - ask questions - have a meal - share a laugh ... we all have a list.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I do have a list of movie stars and TV show actors/actresses and musicians I'd give just about anything to spend 5 minutes with.  Even more than that?   These bloggersThese women (sorry Mike - I hadn't read your words prior to BlogU14) these women were my celebrities.  They were the ones I would have sold my soul to meet.  To hug, to laugh with, cry with; to have them accept me into their Tribe.  And here I was, just a few weeks away from acheiving that very goal. 

I don't fly.  Ever.  I hate it.  I have such anxiety that it physically hurts, and I was flying - for the first time in over 9 years - ALONE. A.L.O.N.E. What the fuck did I get myself into??  Adding my anxiety about flying to my anxiety about arriving in Baltimore and attending an amazing conference where I didn't feel like I would belong - I was a hot.freakin.mess.

For My Minion - Who Has Never Flown .. Yet
Cue Andrea.  Andrea - my darling friend, who lives so freakin' close to me I'm horrified we'd never met before - Andrea used to fly all the time, she knew just how to keep me occupied.  She kept me talking the entire freakin' flight ... and I bet she has no idea what I said, or what we talked about because I don't remember it.  All I remember is her snapping a quick picture of me for Emily, my snapping a few shots of out the window for Emily and rambling about who knows what.  I wouldn't have survived that flight.  She set me at ease (as much as one could) from the moment I heard her voice "Amy?? Amy is that you!?  It's me - Andrea!  UDG!!! is anyone sitting with you? Can I sit here?"  There is no way I could ever properly thank her.  Ever.

Once we landed, I had to find the amazing bloggers who were going to rescue me from an aimless airport wandering and hoping some kind blogger would find me and take pity.  Thankfully, even though I found them - we found Michelle's van - drove through Baltimore at what felt like warp speed - I got motion sickness and made the WORST first impression ever (dude, that crash test dummy standing guard in that parking lot was glad to see me go!) - these women are among my closest friends, even if they don't know it.
... This Restaurant Hated Us ...

After a lunch date with nearly 50 other bloggers where we took over an entire restaurant (Friends, tell me you didn't go back there this year?!), where I met even MORE amazing women and where we completely turned the waitstaff against us.  "really, separate checks!?" we finally headed to campus ... where we were met with open arms, squeals and tears.  New friends greeting us as if we were old friends.  New friends that would remain friends for the weekend, and beyondI met my roommate, who is fucking amazing.  She's smart, kind, talented, beautiful, open and loud.  All the things I hope to be!  I also met a wonderfully charismatic, beautiful, hilarious, talented blogger named Tabatha.  I have this amazing feeling that these women (and Mike) will be in my life forever.    

Megan, Maddie, Tabatha & Me - NickMom Prom 2014, Baby
Between laughing so hard we couldn't catch our breath, learning so many amazing things from so many amazing women, learning tips and tricks I'd never considered and rescuing fellow bloggers from errant blinds - friendships were forged, relationships were solidified and a tribe was born.
HRH Amazing Amazon Bongiorno autographed all of her books for me.
Shit-Tay-Tay ... The Amazing Stacia <3 comment-3--="">

Why has it taken me a year to write this out?  I think I've just come to grips with how perfect that weekend was.   Truly, perfect.  All of it!       The weather was gorgeous, the campus was out of this world, the bloggers were ... indescribable ... That's why it hurt so much that I couldn't go back this year.  

The one regret I have from BlogU14?   I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted to.  I was (believe it or not) shy and completely lacking self-confidence to ask for them. 

I have photos with some of my favorites - that apparently my computer refuses to relinquish (look for an edited blog post in the future) and I couldn't link to every single blogger there - because It would just be a list of amazing people to read.

I couldn't possibly begin to tell you about each and every amazing person I had the pleasure and honor to share space with.  This blog post is littered with more than enough reading material to get me through a day, so hopefully, for you all at least the summer.  Well.  To at least get caught up with the amazing things they've written so far.

I'm telling you - these bloggers.  They're inspirationalThe mountains they've conquered, the ocean's they've crossedthe words they've written, the Marathons they've masteredThey're the reason I want to go back.  They're the reason I have my passion back.  Well, okay, not the only reason, my life is a ridiculous story that begs to be written about.  But these women?  These Bloggers?  That one lone dude who has larger cahones than I've ever considered to be the ONLY dude at a Blog Conference with at least 200 strange (in the best possible way) WOMEN ... his wife loves him a great fuckin' deal.

I missed the lessons, I missed the learning, I missed the prom and the open mic .. but I missed my friends the most.

It's on - BlogU16 ... you'd better be ready.  Amy Fucking Mayo - Is coming back. 

Brace yourselves.

My apologies to anyone I've inadvertantly missed, or omitted .. please know you're all incredibly important to me.  More than I can ever say.

**I'm trying so hard not to focus on this - because it does not define me, it is only a piece of who I am.  But it's important to note: each one of these women supported me and my family in our rebuilding, our loss and our needs.  Mentally, emotionally, physically - in all the ways life-long friends support you when you're in a situation as dire as ours was.   They were there for us.  Women I'd never met.  Banded together, to be there for me.  To make sure I knew I am important to them, just as important as they are to me.  And I will never forget it.