Standing in the lobby of the Rogers Embassy Suites, I kept looking down at my name tag and my blog title would flash back up at me.
Who am I? Who am I to be in this hotel, surrounded by dozens of female writers and acting like I belong? Who am I to be wearing a name tag that bears the name I gave to a little space on the Internet I paid for that I fill with stories about my life? Who am I? Why do these strangers care?
This weekend I attended Arkansas Women Bloggers University as my debut into the blog conference world. Although those initial fears crept in when I realized what I was doing, they melted fast. I spent approximately three minutes wondering whether anyone would care that I was there, then I pushed those thoughts aside and let Outgoing Jessica make a splash. She admits to being squashed by anxiety sometimes, but she's my favorite. I let her come out and play as often as possible. I began introducing myself to others, and was shocked when someone told me she thought Nora was cute. Someone told me she liked my writing voice. Someone told me she liked my blog design. They knew me. And I knew them!
I think AWBU may be one of the only places where it's flattering to be a stalker. The majority of these women I have only known through their blogs and social media, but I found it easy to talk like we'd been friends for years. It was okay to bring up topics I had read about them, and they were happy to do the same for me. There were no strangers at this conference. After the initial shock wore off, my newbie status did, too. I was part of the community, and my community was rallying for me. It was incredible.
Most of these ladies are much more talented than me, but instead of making me feel inferior, they gave me aspirations. They showed me what I could become and handed me a set of road maps.
I picked up so many buzzwords at AWBU. Storytelling. Branding. Vlogging. Publishing. Connecting. However, I think number one is friendship. Although I attended a handful of blogger meet-ups with women from my area, it wasn't until we were stuck in a car for six hours that true bonds were formed. I laughed until I cried, I grew closer than I thought possible, and I came home with four amazing friends. Friendship is important, and it can be hard to find. There is zero chance I could have met these women without AWB.
Photo is obviously taken by Karen of Ting's Mom fame.}
Thank you to The Park Wife for having the sense to turn bloggers into friends and thank you to every single blogger who attended. You gave me inspiration, you gave me courage, and you gave me acceptance. I can't tell you how much I needed all three.
And a quick post-script: If you are a blogger and any of this sounds as awesome as I wanted it to, join up! First get registered at Arkansas Women Bloggers, and then be sure to join us for AWBU next year. If you just so happen to live in my corner of the state, send me a line and we'll get you hooked into our group, too. I guarantee it's worth it.