Community - The Whole Is Not Merely Equal To The Sum Of Its Parts
By My Life As Lucille on August 12, 2014
What some of you might not know (or even suspect) after meeting me at #BlogHer14 is that I suffer from severe anxiety. If I hung out with you at all during this year's conference in San Jose, you'll probably be scratching your head on that one. The reality is, at times my anxiety in public and social settings is almost crippling. Couple that with the fact that I have almost no filter, and it makes for a great circus side show.
And yet, I choose to attend this massive culmination of renowned speakers, activists, humorists, artists, writers, editors, experts, and modern philosophers hosted by #BlogHer.
Not because I'm a glutton for punishment, although I am. But to force myself to face my fears and insecurities. To push myself beyond the limits of my abilities. To learn from my mentors and peers. To hear the voices I might not otherwise hear. To grow.
Emotionally, intellectually, socially, and professionally.
I began my blog at least fourteen or more times, because. Self-doubt. It began as a hobby and a source of therapeutic consciousness for me. As a former professional turned stay-at-home-mom, my family had recently relocated to another state leaving everything that was familiar and comfortable behind. I was thrown into a tailspin of isolation and depression. So I would write. To get the yuck out. And as I wrote and published anonymously, something strange began to happen. People shared and read my posts. I finally had actual real life comments that weren't even spam on my posts! Until I accidentally deleted them. Twice.
Readers would comment with words of encouragement. And they shared their stories and voices with me. For the first time in my entire life, I openly (anonymously) shared my struggles out loud and heard a resounding, "ME TOO." It was life-changing.
Twitter became a lifeline. One of the first people I met on Twitter who was genuinely kind and friendly was none other than JC Little. I had no idea who she was, only that she actually replied to me. She welcomed me to the community. She, along with many other people from all ages and vocations invited me in as a newcomer. And I couldn't have been more appreciative.
Through Twitter, I met many other virtual friends and fellow bloggers. Today, some of my deepest and closest friends are people I only knew through their writing to begin with. For the first time in over six years, I finally felt a part of a growing community again. I didn't feel quite so alone.
This community of virtual friends from all over the globe, celebrities, authors, and writers weathered many horrific events together. Hurricane Sandy. Sandy Hook. The Boston Marathon. And more. We clung together as a whole. We supported one another. Looked out for one another. One blogger and friend I knew even offered to another on the opposite coast to check in on a family member after Hurricane Sandy. We were...ARE a family. That is something that is difficult to explain to people on the outside.
The members of this community supported and encouraged me. And I achieved one of my lifetime goals of being published as a result. At one of my lowest points, I took a chance and submitted a Mother's Day essay to BlogHer. To my wild shock and surprise, it was syndicated on BlogHer. It was my first official paid writing gig. I finally felt legitimate as a writer.
Then, in July of last year my daughters and I were in a horrific accident. We were cut off by another vehicle and lost control, rolling and totally our vehicle and camper. Fortunately, we were all safe. Mostly. Only for anyone who suffers from anxiety, you can imagine what an incident like this does to you. I was a mess. I drove home in a rental from another state with my shaken children and the belongings we could salvage in boxes.
I reached out and the social media and blogging community wrapped me up and comforted me. My children weren't hurt, which was amazing. And it served as a number of profound lessons for me.
#BlogHer13 - I had hoped to attend BlogHer since the announcement was made of its location earlier that year. It would be my first time attending and meeting people in person who had helped keep me afloat over the past four years. Only I had missed early bird registration. I didn't feel I could justify going anyway, since I wasn't a "real writer." That, plus I really wasn't in any mood to socialize.
Again, I shared on social media about my disappointment and mixed feelings over missing out on BlogHer in Chicago. One of the people to respond was Alyson Shitastrophy. She basically said, "Look. Take the Amtrak. It's a 40 minute ride. You're rooming with me. The end." She told me I needed and deserved to do this for myself. And Desi agreed.
My first ever blogging and writing conference exceeded my expectations. Alyson was like a friend I had known my entire life. She even lent me her jammies and we had only just met in person that day! Evidently, our husbands were both a little apprehensive about our rooming together, being relative strangers in real life terms. But they trusted our judgement and we both arrived home alive, proving to our spouses that the other was not, in fact a serial killer or pedophile.
So how do you describe a community of people who have never met in person, yet know as much about one another as a friend in real life? You can't. It is only possible to understand it when you are a part of it.
BlogHer and the community of friends and followers bring voices together that might not otherwise be heard. It brings people together in a way that the whole is not merely the sum of its parts. It is much, much more.
Lucy Ball @ MyLifeAsLucille.com