At close to the last minute, I decided to attend BlogHer17 in Orlando at the end of June. It frankly took a lot of justification to get me there. I wasn't excited about the location. I didn't know many people attending. The timing meant not being at home for my 15th wedding anniversary and the kids' last day of school.
And, let's face it, I'm barely blogging these days.
But after witnessing so many joyful posts from another blogging conference, and feeling a hefty dose of FOMO, Marc encouraged me to go. I needed a break, something just for me, and I wasn't likely to find that in any other avenue (side note: why don't I seem to have the kind of friends that go away for a "girls weekend"? Who are those people?). I'd make my own fun, somehow. And the hotel had a lazy river ride too.
As the conference drew closer, the two members of my tribe, my hook, could no longer attend. The big announcements from the conference organizers, that come at the last minute for amazing speakers and hosts and parties, weren't as big as they had been in past years. I definitely had the vibe that this might be the last BlogHer, and attending further confirmed that for me. There were lots of newbies, and maybe the conference will continue in some other form, but I don't think the BlogHer of yore will be back.
There were still some amazing speakers - the panel with Chelsea Clinton and Cecile Richards was so good, and I will never forget Margaret Cho's definition of a hate crime - but I had no interest in hearing from the many sports legends (sorry, Serena Williams) that were involved in several of the panels. I only made it to one breakout session, and one of the authors saw my tweeting about her book and sent me a copy afterward, but I heard other sessions, especially on SEO, were great. But after 10 years of blogging, I've still never bothered to look into that, and I doubt that I will now. There was too much of a push to go to Disney, which wasn't my point in being there, and too many vagina-centered sponsorships. Which, don't get me wrong, many attendees bonded over the humor inherent in that, but also left us questioning things many previously hadn't pondered. Even the annual highlight, Voices of the Year, left me less inspired than usual, and LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER'S open mic got a bit derailed. (Please, please, my friends who run these events, do not see this as criticism, I know how hard you worked to make these a success!!)
Despite all of this, I had a really great time with many conference attendees. It was hard to put myself out there, feeling like this was the last time I might see some of these people, and questioning the value of having more Internet-only friendships in my life. But in the end, I don't think I held myself back. Prior to the conference, Danielle introduced me to Stacy, and I enjoyed a lovely lunch with her and her wife. I walked the Expo floor with Ashley, and we had deep discussions together over dinner and in the pool. I got to watch Melisa and Momo race in the lazy river, and Tracey and Erin discussed politics and saw me develop a sunburn in the pool the next afternoon. I hugged Jen and Lea, and got to know Kate. I met Wendi and Anna and Aliza, all writers I've read for years. I got a bit of closure to the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER experience over lunch with Ann, Deb, Taya, Melisa, Tracey, Kristin and Jill.
I didn't quite get the name of the woman who shared the story of being propositioned for a threesome at the hotel bar, but maybe that's best for everyone involved. ;)
My biggest takeaway from the weekend, other than memories made with these wonderful women, is that if you are still reading someone's blog? Let them know. Leave a comment. Share a post. I still love reading blogs, and it means so much when we get a chance to actually connect with others through what we write. And if it is the last BlogHer, I'm glad I was there. But I hope I can still see all of these great people again some day.