As I write tonight, I'm sitting in the back garden of the holiday let we've rented in Wales. The house is not familiar, but the surroundings are: the bells ringing at St. Mary's Church, now next door instead of across town. The utter lack of the sound of cars, just voices carrying softly as people pass up the lane. Bumblebees buzzing in the jasmine. The odd hum that the washing machines make here as they tumble their very tiny loads of wash.
We are back in the UK. It almost feels like home, but it isn't, not any more. We've really only been gone a bit over six months, and in a way, it feels like it was just yesterday we left, particularly while walking around town. On the other hand, my children have sprouted, British accents completely washed away by the Midwestern inflections they grew up with. They have grown, the children we've left behind have grown – evidence of the time that has passed.
The strongest realization to hit me today is that I feel more comfortable in my skin here than I do back “home” in Illinois most days. I think here is where I started to find myself, and push myself more with the blog and my writing in general. Here I made friends that weren't entirely based on baby playgroups and swim classes, not that that is bad. Here I wasn't just “Sam and Maddie's mom”. Which again, isn't bad, just not ALL who I am.
Here in the UK, I had my perspective, my “hook” – the American in Wales. Here, I could offer up a unique point of view for readers in both the US and the UK. The PR firms that I had built relationships with are UK/European based, and while (I think) I still have my UK readership, I'm not physically in the UK, so I don't know what that means for them.
At home, I have felt, at times, like I'm stumbling a bit to find, and refine, my voice again. I think part of that is deciding who I am – in the US, an American back in her homeland. Thankfully throughout all this my follower numbers have grown, something which gives me hope that I am headed in the right direction.
When I leave the UK, I head directly to BlogHer, where I will meet and mingle with about 5,000 other bloggers all in various stages of their blogging careers. There is much to be learned from each and every one of them, be it inspiration, motivation, gumption. I am looking forward to meeting and connecting with other women who share this crazy, often-times soul-baring activity called blogging.
And sure, there will be goodies and parties and whathaveyou. But what I hope to get most out of BlogHer?
It is to connect with others, meet some really great people, and ultimately, gain confidence and find my mojo again.
And while I haven't been to a conference as big as BlogHer, I have been to conferences in the UK, and this is the advice that I will pass on to new conference goers:
Be yourself. Pick out your favorite outfits, your favorite shoes, the things that make YOU feel fabulous. Put on your best smile. By all means, brush your hair and avoid food in your teeth *and we will tell you if your skirt gets caught up in your spanx, thankyouverymuch* but don't go changin'. If you don't have anything that makes you feel this way, I'm giving you permission to shop. But. This is NOT the week to try to learn to wear makeup if that isn't who you are or what you do, or shove your feet into heels if you are a Birkenstock girl.
Wear your sparkling personality instead. That is what is going to make the strongest impression on anybody.