I've never been graceful.
In any situation.
I am either falling over my feet, or inserting them in my mouth following a particularly inappropriate/insensitive comment.
In school I regularly discouraged coaches (field hockey, lacrosse, soccer AND basketball thankyouverymuch) with my utter lack of control and fluid motion. More times than I care to remember, social events have involved me me sitting in a corner in silence, or drunk dancing and shouting incoherently. Even my drunk dancing moves are heavy-limbed and clumsy, causing people to avert their eyes or remove themselves from the dance floor. And I have absolutely no natural ability to start a conversation with someone I don't know. Hell, I can barely bring myself to send a friend request on facebook because I am afraid of getting rejected.
I have never attended any sort of blogging conference before, mostly because it is really hard to justify buying a plane ticket from Maui to an event that focuses on that thing I do for free sometimes while the kids are at school, just for fun, to "express myself". This isn't my job. I don't have a job. Why would I go to a conference? But this wasn't a conference, silly goose. Oh my no - this was CAMP. Camp Mighty was.....different. It wasn't about blogging, it was about living. And not just getting through each day - about getting the very most out of it.
I needed that.
And when I registered, it didn't occur to me that there would be people there that - in my very small blogosphere - are internet famous. So when I arrived at Camp Mighty and immediately started recognizing people, I broke out into a cold sweat. I saw a group of faces familiar to me from avatars and websites I have seen over the years, gathered in a relaxed circle by the pool, and I immediately thought to myself "Just stay quiet and maybe they won't realize you are a complete and total imposter."
"After all," I said in my frantically spinning brain, "these are women who clearly know each other and probably attend these sorts of events all the time, their trips paid for by their advertisers or employers - of which I have neither. Do not draw attention to yourself for the love of god DON'T DO IT." I pulled up a chair behind them, content to claim my seat and my role at this event as outsider. Sarah, who doesn't read blogs and had no idea who any of these people were and really wouldn't have cared even if she did because she is So. Much. Cooler. Than. I. Am., was having none of it. "Aren't we going to go register?" I looked around, bewildered. Register? She pointed to the tables that had apparently been set up for just that purpose. I stood up as a few people looked over at me with faces that said "Oh, the poor sweet dear. Bless Her Heart she can't even figure out how to check in by herself."
Way to go, there, with that "invisible" thing, Daffodil. I felt like crawling uder the registration table and just eating the s'mores they were handing out.
The only coherent thought I could process was "What the hell am I doing here?" I mean honestly. What am I supposed to say to someone when I have read every post they have written for the last two years, and they have no idea who I am?
Let me guess. You wondered the same thing? Yeah, it turns out, we are not the only people who were having that thought. Isn't that amazing? As soon as I put it out there, as soon as I turned to a stranger in the hot tub and said: "So. This is totally freaking me out." I was reassured that pretty much everyone felt this way about someone who was at the conference, and possibly even sitting next to us in the hot tub.
Now, I'm not going to wrap this up and tie it with a pretty bow - I never worked up the courage to speak directly with several writers I admire, because I just had no idea what to say and never found myself in the situation where I could approach them without veering into crazy fangirl stalkerville. I have my regrets about that. And the sad thing is, I didn't approach them in a desperate (and in the end, completely pointless) attempt to avoid embarrassing myself.
Because don't you worry.
I managed to totally embarrass myself.
Over and over again.
The first night went by like a dream. We walked into the opening night reception (which sounds so ooh la la fancy because it was) and walked right up to that open bar. Which might explain how gosh darn easy it was to relax. But it was more than the wine - Sarah and I were greeted almost immediately after walking away from the bar by a table full of smiling faces. It was such a relief. Total strangers saw our panicked looks and called us right over to join them.
And thus, the Palm Springs Posse (aka "da PSP" which sounds like a hallucinogenic but wasn't. Unless you count the Tang we were drinking.) was formed.
My utter lack of grace and confidence vis a vis the world in general and Camp Mighty in particular was overlooked by my beloved PSP. Together, we skipped over the awkward new-ness of it all, and launched right into getting to know each other. I think that every convention should have a welcoming table of friendly folks who just smile and wave and shout greetings at people as soon as they enter, offering hugs and a place to stash your bag and a nice compliment about that scarf you have on. There is strength in numbers, and everything was so much less overwhelming with a new friend on each side, holding your hand and passing you a kleenex when necessary.
If only someone had been there to hold my hand as I tried to get in the hot tub the next night. After a full day of rigidly trying not to embarrass myself, I decided to climb into the hot tub and "relax". Instead, I fell into the hot tub almost directly on top of Megan, while Maggie watched the whole thing and greeted me with a "Well, NOW you're in the hot tub!" when I popped up to the surface.
That is when I lowered the bar from "Don't embarrass yourself" to "Try not to ugly-cry until you get home". Which meant that I had a face cramp and a whomping headache for the next two days.
I need to send a lot of love and thanks out to Team Four (who formed my beloved PSP), Maggie and Laura, The Ace Hotel Palm Springs, The TonTons for making the opening reception so rad, the generous sponsors of the event, and all of the amazing and inspiring speakers throughout the weekend (see the list below). I laughed and cried, and made lists and crossed things off, and ate and drank and swam and danced. It was exactly what I needed.
Thanks to all:
Brian Piotrowicz (Who is not afraid to cry. About anything. Ever. Love him.)
Evany Thomas (Who taught me the power of cantelope, and showed me the most disturbing photo I have ever, ever seen. Long story short, if somone suggests a puppy pile, head for the exit.)
Kenna (Who's mom is really concerned about when he is going to meet a nice girl and start having babies. Somehow, I don't think it's going to be a problem, ma'am. And Happy Birthday.)
Lisa Congdon (Who single-handedly made me feel like starting over at my age was what all the cool kids are doing. And doing it better than those young whipper-snappers ever could. I wish I had thanked her personally.)
Buster Benson (Who gave me a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and then told me I couldn't eat it. NOT NICE, BUSTER.)
Catherine Connors (Who led an inspiring session that I missed out on because our team was in the middle of some serious group therapy. Bummer, because I brought my tutu.)
Johnson & Johnson - I am excited to hear more about their new &you platform
Ronald McDonald House Charities - When your child is sick, they can help you be there for them.
Intel - They sponsored Maggie's Life List, and think clean water is important too.
Care.com - They gave me s'mores and a tube of toothpaste. And can help you find care providors.
Alliance for Biking and Walking - I think I agreed to ride a bike from San Diego to somewhere in Mexico. I should follow up on that. peoplepoweredmovement.org
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