Last week, 2400 bloggers (including myself) swarmed the BlogHer 2010 Conference at the Hilton New York in New York City. This was my fourth BlogHer Conference in five years, and each year BlogHer helps me grow, discover something about myself, and move forward to a new chapter of my life online. Each conference has been empowering to me in a way that has been hard for me to quantify. For me, BlogHer has been, and continues to be, nothing short of a revelation, an unfolding of a new area of myself to explore and nurture over the coming years. So, my BlogHer recap this year is not about the parties, the sessions or the friends I hugged (there were many; they were fabulous), but a recap of what BlogHer has meant to me over the years.
BlogHer '06, The Writer: I was a fly-on-the-wall at BlogHer '06. I had not been blogging long, and really didn't know where I was going with this newfangled blog thing. I didn't know any of the bloggers outside my little Silicon Valley momsphere. The bloggers I read but didn't know personally, I was way too intimidated to just introduce myself to. I didn't think of myself as a writer, but a lawyer with a blogging hobby. At the closing keynote speech, I heard my personal blog-heroine Grace Davis say, "If you have a blog, you are a writer." That was my revelatory moment. I realized that having a blog helped me to realize the joy that I get out of writing, and reading the work of other women who love writing as much as I do. I decided to keep blogging and exploring what the inner-writer in me had to say.
BlogHer '07, The Activist: In 2007, I realized the power of community and the power that words have to spur people to action. At BlogHer 2007, I heard Elizabeth Edwards in conversation with Lisa Stone about her husband's campaign and the issues she cared most deeply about--healthcare, poverty, and the environment. I had the chance to speak with her personally, and felt a kinship to her and her ideas. Soon after that, Stefania, Beth and I met in a coffee shop in Palo Alto and gave birth to our own form of on-line activism: MOMocrats, a collective of like-minded, highly-spirited, outspoken moms. Although the Edwards campaign (and Edwards himself) faltered, the MOMocrats flourished. Within a year of launch, we had interviewed Barack Obama, gotten Michelle Obama to guest-post, and were invited to be part of the media covering the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I met women through MOMocrats that I consider to be part of my tribe and my lifelong friends.
BlogHer '08, The Speaker: I spoke on a panel called "Mirrors: The Media's, Our Culture's and our Kids'" with Kelly Wickham, Tracee Sioux and Laurie Toby Edison at BlogHer '08. I admit, I am not the greatest public speaker; in fact, I dread it. It's not that I can't do it, it's just that I don't enjoy the anticipation leading up to it. When Elisa Camahort asked me to do it, I couldn't say no. The session was more about self-reflection and parenting than about blogging. We talked about how we see ourselves versus the way society sees us, and how we hope our kids see themselves for the lovely, special people they are. I'm glad I did it--it was an incredible, empowering experience because of the interaction with the audience and the other panelists. After that, I sought out other speaking opportunities and no longer dread it, but embrace the anticipation of reaching out to a crowd. Since then, I've spoken at Netroots Nation, Mom 2.0, and on television. Now, it's impossible to shut me up.
BlogHer '09, The Traveler: I didn't go to BlogHer '09. I was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Sea of Japan while the conference raged on without me. I watched via Twitter whenever we were in port and I could get a Wifi connection strong enough to carry the constant stream of chatter across the world about the conference. I missed being with my tribe of women friends I met on and off-line, but I was having a grand time with my family, so I could not complain. I was concerned about the corporate-focus and the stories I heard about the Great Swag Wars of '09. I was a little discouraged by this news, and wondered aloud if I should continue blogging. Instead of quitting, I decided to re-focus my blog on the thing I am most passionate about: family travel. Since making that leap, I've been accepted into the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa "Bloggers We Love" program, and am contributing to a travel book with that group. In a way, not being at BlogHer led to the next chapter of my life online.
BlogHer '10, The Veteran and ??: BlogHer '10 for me was about having one-on-one conversations with people, some of whom I've known and loved for several years, and some of whom I just met. I had many conversations with women who were just starting to blog, and wondering if this platform and community is for them. Most of them were surprised when I told them I had been blogging for nearly five years. My blog is not that well known, but it gives me joy and pays in ways that can't be measured in dollars or pageviews. As a veteran, I tried to offer some reassurances to the newcomers that blogging is what you make of it. I don't think the impact of BlogHer '10 will be apparent to me for a while. Sometimes it takes a while to gel, for me to figure out what the right direction will be for me.
Because of BlogHer and the community of women I am a part of, blogging is now a part of my identity, a part of who I am and how I fit into the world at large. When I started blogging in 2005, I never would have imagined some of the wonderful opportunities that would come from just giving my point of view on the world through writing and photographing the things I see. For many people, blogging is a commercial venture, where success is measured in pageviews and sponsorships. For me, my blogging success has nothing to do with financial gain, but everything to do with the wonderful people I have met, the experiences we have shared, and having a receptive audience to what I have to say.
Often, when I open my blog, I reminded of the first line of David Copperfield, "Whether or not I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."
Thanks to BlogHer and the community of women I know because of them, I can say that I am truly the hero of my own life, with a little help from my friends.