Great jumpin’ Jermaine Jackson. I started this as a short post and it ended up being a brain sprawl. Sorry. If you make it through this one, I’ll give you a cookie.
And now on with our story, but only a little more on. Truth be told, my ADD is flaring up. I’ve already bored myself into oblivion, talking about the whole Presentation Weekend, or “geekend,” if you will. I’m not quite sure what “if you will” means, but it sounds very nice and writerly, so I used it.
It was all pretty swell. There were probably about two-hundred people in attendance– web gurus and gurettes, developers, content creators, social media geniuses and, um– me. Amadeus came along for moral support.
The environment was kind of corporate and I felt rather old school– like a cavewoman at a Microsoft convention. I’d gone as a representative of team Personal Blog, and was astounded to learn that the franchise was so small. For the most part, I was surrounded by people who’ve figured out (or are in the process of figuring out) how to successfully earn income from the web, something as elusive to me as reupholstering a sofa or cooking an egg from scratch. For most of the weekend, attendees were plugged into laptops, notebooks, iPads and cell phones, sending out blow-by-blows via Twitter. Having been out of the business world for a few years now, it slapped me upside the head, catapulted me into the present and opened my eyes to the big wide world of electronic social interaction. In the old country, our language deals with dreams, perceptions and emotions; suddenly, I’d landed in a place where everyone spoke Search Engine Optimization. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but it was a brain-opener. I’d hoped to learn the lingo, but I have to admit that in the end, I was as lost as I’d ever been. It was all just too much for my McNugget-sized brain.
There were a couple of self-published authors there, but I didn’t attend their sessions. I somehow overlooked one of them, and the other– a very funny, social media-savvy mommy blogger with 8000 Amazon reviews and stylish hair– was speaking at the same time as yours truly. It was a shame too– if there was anyone that I felt might be a kindred spirit, it was she. I’d found the one person I could probably learn the most from and I was going to miss her presentation. Apparently, she’s hugely popular around here, and since I’ve always quietly written under a pseudonym, I’m an unknown. I began to worry that I’d be playing to an audience of one– Amadeus– and he’d heard my presentation before, in our living room.
Let me backtrack a little here. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I put the “anx” in anxiety, the “orr” in worry. Deep down inside, I always feel a bit like this:
It’s my inner ragamuffin– the little lost girl with the crappy background and the too-small shoes. I’ve learned to love her, but I sometimes wish she’d stop tagging along uninvited. She causes me to fight feelings of otherness, of being a stranger in a strange land. At the same time, there’s a part of me that puts a protective arm around her and kind of guides her through. “C’mon kid,” I say. “Let’s do this thang. It’s all gonna be just fine.”
It was hard to write about all of this until now, because it took a while to process it. I can never just “go” to something. I go and have feelings and overthink. Afterwards, I review and digest and pour it all back out into about fifteen cereal bowls. Everything is multi-dimensional. It sometimes wears me out.
Life is high school, over and over again. And while I love, love, love life, I hate, hate, hated high school. Nowadays, I tend to see myself as a homeschooler in a world of proms and pep-rallies. There are no mean girls or bullies at my academy, no prom queens or kings. We all do well on our ACTs. At my school, there’s no social strata- everyone’s on equal footing. It’s a kind and gentle environment.
There’s a big, organized network of bloggers in this area. They seem to be mostly women, and I’ve perused a few if their sites. I read with interest about the adorable things their kids say and do. Some of these ladies share beauty secrets, recipes and decorating tips. Others tell funny stories about marriage and home life. A lot of them grew up here. They go to church on Sundays and some go to work on Mondays and they update their websites and bond with other mamas and some make money in the process. A few attend blogging conventions together; some hold monthly meetings. On their blogs, I sometimes see photos of them with their families, all stylishly dressed in crisp clothing, standing on perfect lawns and in perfectly appointed living rooms. I read about their lives and I feel no connection. It’s a world I don’t relate to, and it sometimes seems as though I’m reading an anthropological journal about some faraway tribe.
I’m not just a misfit in the blogging world– I’m aware of my oddness everywhere I go. I visit bookstores and listen to women my age read poetry about wolves and dolphins and sending up prayers to the Goddess and I feel as out of place as a sardine in a can of Pringles. I hang with granola-eating friends who discuss the latest in New Age wisdom, knowing that in fifteen minutes or so, I’m going to go home, order pizza and watch “Pawn Stars” with my husband. The online writer’s group I recently joined is chock-a-block full of talented people from various backgrounds, and I cannonball into their Facebook page, searching for the five or six people I’ll be able to relate to.
Weirdly, I love it all. I admire Those Who Feel At Ease. It’s beautiful to witness. The grooviest thing is that, while I used to look at my otherness as a negative, I now see it as a neutral. No one’s really better or worse than anyone else (unless they’re mean– mean people really do suck. Stupid’s not so great either). Everyone has a story to tell, and I know from experience that there are skeletons in the closets of those better homes and bodies buried in the gardens. I dislike hatred and bigotry and shallowness, so I distance myself from those things, but otherwise, bring it on. The interactions may not be smooth, I may feel graceless, but for God’s sake, give me the experiences. It’s what makes life so rich and gooey. I can’t play it like the big boys, but I still want to play.
So, I went to this thing. I was awkward. It was great. The week before the presentation, I discovered that everyone was Twittering like a flock of sparrows about the Big Weekend. A really kind woman in my writer’s group gave me a thirty-minute social media telephone crash course and I jumped into the fray, trying my best to publicize my presentation via Twitter. It was a fun challenge, trying to figure out how to attract attention in 140 characters or less. In the end, I wrote, “Come to my presentation and I’ll give you a cookie.”
And you know, the most wonderful things happened. People came, probably twenty-five or thirty of them. One was a woman I used to work for at the university, a smart, savvy woman with a Ph.D., who was now hoping to learn from me. Wow. I took a breath and did my thing. For forty minutes, I blabbed about blogging, and enthused about the power and healing inherent in sitting and doing what I’m doing right now. I encouraged the audience to give it a try. I assured them that by journaling their journeys, they’d receive love, support and encouragement, and that along the way, they’d meet wonderful people like you. They’d find their tribe.
It was quite lovely. The people listening seemed warm and receptive. Afterward, the university woman told me how helpful it was for her current project. A newspaper editor wrote that mine was the best presentation of the weekend (squeee!). Another woman told me that it was the only session from which she’d gained something. The room was fuzzy and warm, full of unicorns and bunnies. We were all speaking a common language, and this time, it was my native tongue.
As Amadeus and I left at the end of the day, he swiped a poster that was Scotch taped to one of the glass doors in the lobby. It had my name and the title of my session printed on it. I think he was extremely proud of me, and wanted to take home a memento from the weekend. They were probably going to trash it anyway.
For a few days afterwards, I experienced a bit of sadness. The embers of the afterglow were burning out, and while the presentation was a success, I was left with niggling feelings of awfulness. I’d met some friendly people, but I hadn’t fully accomplished my mission, which was to expand my knowledge base and learn to earn. I was a failure at networking. My entrepreneurial spirit sucks. I was more aware than ever of my square peggishness. I was back to ground zero.
Amadeus and I sat out on the patio last night, small in our chairs beneath the stars and the trees. “You know,” I said, “the things I set out to learn are never the things that I learn.” I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I know he was giving me the look that says, Okay, I’m going to try to follow you and your whacko brain train, but no promises. I’ll just hope for the best.
“I was kind of disappointed about the geekend. Everybody was so up on technology and web development and social media. And they’re all incredible self-promoters. Most of the time, I didn’t even understand what they were selling, and I sure as hell didn’t understand what anyone was saying. I felt like a kindergartner at Harvard.”
I stopped for a minute and we listened to a rowdy bunch of cicadas singing some Van Halen tune.
“But I did learn something,” I continued.
“What, pray tell, was that, my darling?” my husband asked, dying to hear my brilliant take on the matter. Okay, he totally didn’t say that.
“Not everybody with a website is an entrepreneur, a marketer or a developer. Some aren’t interested in social media, they just want to express themselves. Some people just write. And I was there for them. I represented.”
“That’s right, baby,” he said, and he really did say that.