Tuesday, September 1, 2015

AWBU: Feels Like Home

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name {and blog title}.

My weekend was spent with a tribe of people who don't look at me questionably when I toss around the word blogger. It was my second year to connect with the wonderful women I occasionally stalk *ahem* research at the fifth annual Arkansas Women Bloggers University. I wasn't just Jessica there. I was "The Bauer Bunch" and that felt good.

I found the conference's Hospitality Suite at 10:00 Friday night {the Al Capone room at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, complete with escape chute in the closet, FYI}. I had spent a couple hours traveling from the far reaches of eastern Arkansas, after having left my grandmother's house for the final time. Emotions were high and I was still iffy on whether attending AWBU was the right thing for me. There was no turning back at this point, however, and I quickly kissed my husband goodbye. As the door pushed open, one of my very best friends/bloggers/roomies, Karen of Ting's Mom, jumped off the couch and wrapped her arms around me. This was followed by The Park Wife herself, founder of Arkansas Women Bloggers and all-around hero, and many more who welcomed me with open arms and a sympathetic word. I sat down on the couch and the laughter began. I was right where I needed to be.

Last year's trip to AWBU was spent getting to know people, cracking open my shell, and actually talking to the bloggers I'd only admired online. This year was different. This year I was my blog. I spent less time introducing myself and more time hugging necks and catching up. There was no nervous assimilation period, only jumping in and letting go. It's weird to call people I've only seen in person twice friends, but if the support that goes hand-in-hand with AWBU isn't friendship, I don't know what is.

The sessions I chose for Saturday surrounded coming to terms with the fact that I am a writer. Even though I held the title of "staff writer" for years at a newspaper, that standalone word seems untouchable. I am, though. I am a writer. I'm going to be a better one, too. I also garnered the inspiration to keep my momentum rolling. The speakers at AWBU gave me the confidence to do what I love, seek growth opportunities, and see if I can find success along the way.

I don't want this to read like a fifth-grade essay about what AWBU means to me, but it was more than a learning experience. I appreciate having these wonderful, talented writers at my fingertips to answer my every question, but it's about community. They knew me, they knew my blog, and they accepted both as they are. These women told me they liked the way I told stories, and honestly, that is my goal. It was a satisfying nail-on-the-head moment.

I carried so much encouragement home in my suitcase among the wrinkled shirts and scribbled notebooks. The women who are my biggest inspiration are my biggest fans.

Thank you to Karen and Alicia and Ashley and Jodi, the friends who traveled from my little corner of the state. It's been amazing getting to know all of you and I look forward to continued meet-ups and deepened relationships in the months to come. Thank you to Stephanie for having the idea to grab a bunch of women who call themselves bloggers and turn us into a powerhouse. Thank you also to every blogger in attendance last weekend. You are part of something incredible, and I hope you felt that as strongly as I did.

I'll see y'all next year.

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Unknown said...

Again, I am so proud of you. It seems like forever ago that we connected online and now we are in each others real world. I am so grateful, so blessed that this community of women keeps so focused on the heart of the mission. Also, did you see that picture of you and Karen on the slide presentation OKWB did? You looked BEAUTIFUL!
Blessings sweet friend.

Amanda said...

Great post girl. I'm so glad we connected in Real Life. Love your blog and you! I have to agree with Stephanie. You looked beautiful in that picture! We will have to pencil in more time for each other next year. Keep blogging girl!

Jessica Bauer said...

Thank you both so much! I love that this group has brought us all together as in-person friends, but the weekend seems to go by so fast. I'm already looking forward to my road trip to Fayetteville next year. :)