This year's BlogHer in New York City was big. And different. In some ways, that made me ecstatic. In other ways, it was sad.
The first time I went to BlogHer, I trapsed around behind the women I knew and tried to take in all of the squeals and conversations and pomegranate mojitos that I could. Still, the sessions, the size, the number of events to attend were all manageable enough that soon I was navigating my own way.
Years later, I stood in the middle of one of the floors of the expo hall and thought that I cannot imagine what it would be like to step into all of that for the first time.
But BlogHer, as we all are in our own individual and interesting ways, is evolving. And change is hard.
Even when it means that there are more women doing what we do, that we have the attention of hundreds of brands, that the conversation is bigger and louder and more intense and more diverse, that there's just so much more to pack into two (or three or five) days, it's hard to let go of what the conference and blogging and this time together once was. Back in the day. A few short years ago.
It made me sad that the influx of corporate events pulled people to all parts of New York City, so that I never caught a glimpse of people I knew were there. The hotel bar was not ever packed. The friends and colleagues I did see were often rushing off to a Nikon or Martha Stewart or some other event that sounded fabulous and filled their arms and carry-ons with swag but seemed to extract some really vital voices from sessions and late-night conversations and coffee before the keynote.
I didn't get invited to very many events. That was OK and I affirmed that by turning down the invitations I did receive. I wasn't sad about what I was not asked to attend and it wasn't any kind of rebellion that I chose not to go to places I was asked -- I would have loved to meet Nate Berkus or drive a Buick into the countryside where I'd be met by a top chef or walk a runway with a famously crass housewife. But I had to leave early and I had a big launch at BlogHer for Shine and anyway, it all seemed like too much.
I wanted to keep it simple. BlogHer, however, is anything but simple these days. To counteract all the craziness and packed-full-edness, I reminded myself a thousand times that I didn't have to see everyone on my list to see, I didn't have to visit every booth or collect every bit of swag, I didn't have to view every moment as an opportunity. I just had to be there and do my thing.
When I was in that place, BlogHer was amazing. I had a great dinner at a table full of Korean dishes chosen carefully by the divine CityMama, surrounded by women I admire, adore, and who know the woman and mother and blogger I am, far deeper than the pre-printed name tag around my neck.
My girls Bad Kitty, CityMama and Foodmomiac.
Bad Kitty snuggles up to Kristen.
Glennia gives me some love (and good mama-to-a-boy advice) while Sheila peeks around.
I had spontaneous and productive and animated meetings with a savvy woman from HuffPo and the I-so-want-to-be-friends-with-you editors of Cafe Mom's The Stir.
I sat happily in the audience of a few sessions that were surprisingly informative and inspiring. I had room service and Prosecco with two of my favorite women while on a conference call. I stole away with Foodmomiac for a heavenly mani-pedi at Bliss.
And, yes, even the sun shared his story with Shine.
The best part of BlogHer was Shine's booth, tucked back in a corner of the expo hall and filled up with lines of women who were there to be filmed about the ways they've reinvented their lives. A part of a program I created with lots of love and good intention and was executed brilliantly by a team of people that took it to a much bigger place. I teared up every time I approached the You. Reinvented. booth, with its cameras and on-air talent and makeup artists and production assistants and executive producers and social media maven and so many women so willing to share part of their lives on tape with us. Inside a weekend that was already buzzing with activity, that booth was alive in its own right.
I was so proud to be a part of it. It made meeting Padma Lakshmi and watching Marmaduke dog bits swing past (ahem) and taking a Polaroid with Dora seem...well, great for all of the thousands of other bloggers there.
I left before the final parties on Saturday night, missing out on the Sparklecorning and CheeseburgHering and groggy, hungover, need-to-pack next-day breakfast gatherings. I was sad to speed off in a cab, away from women I won't see until the next conference (maybe) and unable to toast the colleagues who were breaking down the booth and in awe of all we accomplished in that little space in the enormous expo hall in the outstretched bounds of BlogHer.
But I was excited to get back to my own city, my own goals, my own ideas about where I am going in the next year as a woman with a blog.
The stuff that is placed in our hands and on our schedules as a part of BlogHer does not make me want to write. Even when the swag is a score or the party is a hit, I feel so overwhelmed by the glitz and show of the conference that I don't even know where to begin acknowledging or reviewing or even mentioning all of that on my blog.
It's those moments when I slipped away or escaped or just winked at one of my friends across the room that inspires me to keep writing. Even when there's a lot of background noise. Even when there's this external and internal pressure to be a bigger brand, to make more money, to get on those invite lists. Even when there is so much going on that even I, a social being, want to escape to familiar territory.
I had a few adventures when I returned from BlogHer in NYC. I went to Lollapalooza, I went on vacation, and I returned to be completely engrossed in the videos produced in Shine's booth. In the midst of all that, following BlogHer, I needed some quiet time to just absorb and keep reminding myself that I didn't do it all there, but I did it how I wanted to do it.
That, for me, is huge. Bigger than any expo hall, more expansive than any party at MOMA, better than Nate Berkus.
Psst. I love Glennia's take on how BlogHer has evolved and how she has changed with the times, too.