In August of that year, I resigned. My husband had been working hard for a few years to build his company, and it was time for a change. Standing on the edge between relative safety and nothingness, I jumped from the cliff, not knowing what was ahead. After more than two decades on a professional career path, I was stepping off the track, and I wasn't exactly sure who I was going to be.
One thing I knew, courtesy of the BlogHer conference I attended that July, was that a spark of possibility was waiting to come to light.
Making the most of my time in Chicago, I arrived early and packed in as much of the experience as I could. Lizz Porter, whom I had never met but knew through online interactions, was in the lobby when I walked into the hotel, and her bear hug said "welcome" in the best way possible. The sessions were interesting, the people fascinating, and the networking opportunities as wide and as far as the eye could see.
The real magic, for me, occurred during the Voice of the Year presentation. I knew of Ann Imig through my Listen To Your Mother experience, and she seemed larger than life up on stage. Casey Carey-Brown's essay about her experiences as a gay woman astonished me with its honesty. Tears rolled down my face as I listened to Adrienne Jones. And Kelly Wickham blew me away with her emotional and vivid story.
I want to be one of them, I thought to myself. I want to be up there on that stage.
That January, I set my goals for the year, and it seemed a major stretch goal to be a Voice of the Year myself. When I got the news in March that I had been chosen to read my piece "More Than Words" in front of the BlogHer crowd, I picked my son up and swung him around with a smile that split my face in half.
There are people who look at me now and say, "I want to be like her." Opportunities opened up. My career started to soar. And stepping into that abyss felt like stepping right over a rain puddle instead.
The annual BlogHer conference is the experiential learning in workshops like Rita Arens' "Build a Better Headline" session and the HerStories team's session on personal essay writing. It's seeing someone you recognize from her picture and saying, "Hey! It's you!" and sharing the excitement of an in-person meeting. It's having pizza at midnight with some of your closest friends, the ones you met online and cemented your love for each other with a real hug. It's Elisa and Jory - two of the founders of BlogHer recognizing you and saying, "Welcome back!" It's the emphasis on #blacklivesmatter and amplifying black voices and listening and learning.
The friendships are the key - forging these relationships one at a time builds a network so tight and so sturdy that you could fall down and be lifted right back up. This net gives you the chance to try new things and speak up on topics you never dreamed you would speak about in public in any forum. This circle of friends give you the strength to help others through your words.
BlogHer brought me this: my net, my circle, my home.
Highlights of the conference:
- My second Voice of the Year award for "The Four-Letter Words I'm Teaching My Son"
- James Oliver's wrenching reading about what he should tell his young son after Eric Garner
- Samantha Futerman's incredible story about finding her twin sister on the other side of the ocean
- Ava DuVernay's keynote speech
- Meeting Liv of Unbelievably Human - beautiful inside and out
- Disney's Destination Imagination session
- The Today Show Parenting Team breakfast
- The Listen To Your Mother Open Mic night
- Seeing the Marvel Ant-Man movie premiere, hosted by Paul Rudd
- Boys II Men live at Pier 84
- These women, and so many more: my net.
|Me, Arnebya, and Angela|
|With Ellen McGirt - she inspires me always|
|Angela, Me, Devon, and Jamie|
|In Times Square with Kir, Angela, Angela, and Leigh Ann|