Two years ago, when I went to BlogHer for the first time, I didn’t expect much. I’d only been writing for a few months and I knew that I knew pea turkey squat about the world of blogging. I met this one really cool woman, Heather, who was starting a blog, too. When I asked her what she wrote about, she said, “Well, I’m not really sure what my niche will be…” I looked at her with my gob hanging open and replied, “You’re a lesbian vegan parent of multiples, one of whom has special needs…and YOU can’t find a niche? I’m screwed.” Heather and I were standing on the Expo floor, surrounded by sponsors who wanted to establish relationships with bloggers–maybe like us?– who could generate content about their products. Air freshening candles, tapioca pudding, car seats, vibrators, seltzer water, hair care products from Best Buy…what the ever lovin hell?
I couldn’t figure out where I fit in. Then on Friday night, the Voice of the Year keynote blew me away. In the midst of all the expo noise and the SEO tips and the social media optimization strategies, these women were recognized for getting up on stage with a microphone and telling stories. I had found my niche. Telling stories.
So last year, I went for it. And I got a spot on that stage with that microphone. The entire trip to BlogHer14 in San Jose centered around that seven minutes on the stage. By that time, I knew I could sustain my blog. I knew I could tweek widgets and self-host and run ad code and learned even more about those things at the conference. But the whole conference was pre-VOTY nerves and post-VOTY high.
Something different happened after last summer’s conference. I kept my place at the blogger table on social media. I friended other writers and I followed people so I can learn from them. My friend, Dee, said, “Why are you liking stuff on a site about natural hair for Black women?” Because Patrice at Afrobella is a pro. I’ve been watching how these women build community by participating in their communities on line.
In the days leading up to BlogHer15 in NYC, I’ve found myself more anxious than I have been at the previous trips. And that’s completely weird because I know far more about blogging and branding than I ever have before. I’m not looking for a niche, or the spotlight this year.
I’m looking to meet my friends.
I want to hug A’Driane’s neck because for a year I’ve been learning from her about how to raise boys with quirks. I want to see what shoes Luvvie will be wearing and I want to vote for her Red Pump Project HIV charity to win The Pitch. I can’t wait to see the dress that Alexandra ordered from China–it’s a gem of a clustercuss. I want to talk happiness with August and books with Thien-Kim and parenting with Vikki. I’ll listen and learn from women who aren’t like me. I’ll go to the Queerosphere party and I’m going to dance at killer karaoke like a white woman who learned her moves from Molly Ringwald sometime in the mid-80s. I want to hug the ones who are hurting and promise them that they will be OK.
All of those connections that we’ve been building over the interwebz for 12 months will have to step out into the light of day. I don’t know what anyone’s voice sounds like. I don’t recall who is tall (well, Arnebya is) and who is short (Queen of Side Eye…ahem). I know Casey is handsome and her daughter is fancy. I’ll find these dear people in a crowd and then…
I’ll be me. Simply me. And I’ll be present. And I’ll be OK, too.
Because what I realized today is that this anxiety stems from some whack idea that when I am seen in the light, I will be revealed as that awful person that the voice inside my head sometimes tells me that I am. Even if that person isn’t real, if they don’t exist anywhere except inside my head. I might be the sum total of the worst parts of me instead of the best parts of me.
Hello friends. I am afraid of you because of how I might judge myself in your presence. But I have found my niche among this band of storytellers and I am thankful for the place at the table.