I touched down at O'Hare with two phones in my purse.
That's how I roll these days: my spiffy work iPhone and my old scuffed andriod with no data plan, jostling each other, jockeying for space in a purse that was never meant to carry more than a slim credit card sleeve. It's only been three weeks, but I've accustomed myself to this life, to trying to remember to charge not one but two devices, to the different beeps and tweets and hiccups and burps, like two children.
On the train towards downtown, I texted from my android with Kathy from Bereaved and Blessed, who managed to pick up my BlogHer conference pass and bag by showing them my texts in real time. Then I swapped phones, replying to a few more work email messages that had come in since I'd landed, swaying, becoming more accurate with my pointer-finger aim.
By Thursday night I conceded: it would be easier to manage the conference by downloading Facebook and Twitter to my work phone. And I would eventually use them for work anyway, wouldn't I? The conference app was easier to manage from my iPhone, too. But I could delete that later. Besides, that was how I'd gotten here, two and a half weeks into a new
job: my supervisor generously reassured me that I would be learning things that would
apply to work. And so began the blurring of boundaries, personal and professional, work responsibilities, and responsibilities to myself.
On Thursday before bed I pored over the conference program, trying to balance participation in sessions I imagined I should attend "for work," versus the sessions I really wanted to attend. They were definitely different things: I found myself circling the writing track, but thought that for work, the marketing and technology tracks would probably be more important. (Part of my job entails helping students with their writing, but I conveniently decided that was not applicable. This becomes important later.) I bookmarked several sessions in each breakout, figuring that maybe I could session-hop a little, and satisfy all of the responsibilities I thought I had.
On Friday, I juggled the two phones and my laptop, trying to keep up with the conference tweet stream (which, by then, was trending nationally), respond to student email and do work things, and touch base with my blogging friends so we could find each other for meals. By late afternoon, as I rode down the escalator, watching some of my favorite bloggers go to the sessions that I'd sort of wanted to attend, too, I became acutely aware of trying to do two things at the same time, and doing neither of them particularly well.
Working parents in the audience ... sound familiar?
I session-hopped, trying to get as much as I could of everything. Or maybe more of the social media and marketing skills than the essay and memoir writing.
And finally, on that last day, before the lights dimmed for the introduction of Gale Anne Hurd, I broke.
Maybe it was the leave-taking, saying good bye to the bloggers who continue to seek out my work and encourage me to write, even when I don't post anything consistently for weeks. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, even though I didn't go to a single late-night party. Or maybe it really was the realization that I am first and foremost a writer, and the fear that I'd been given an opportunity to interact with some of the most talented writers I know, and I'd squandered it. Depending on the path my life takes, I may not be able to go to BlogHer again for a long, long time.
I felt ridiculous, because I'd tried to imagine what my supervisor would want, knowing that she didn't actually have any expectations of me, that she trusted me to go learn something useful. I tried to shove aside the thoughts that I'd done myself a disservice, that somehow I'd cheated myself, for no reason at all.
Don't get me wrong. BlogHer '13 was wonderful, just at BlogHer '12 was wonderful. I spent some intense connection time with bloggers I love and admire, people whom I count among my dearest friends. I got to attend some inspiring writing sessions. I got to sit right there with Sheryl Sandberg and Guy Kawasaki and Ree Drummond and Randi Zuckerberg. I brought home some cool swag for my kids, who love pens and flashlights and stickers (anything else is icing on the cake). But most of all, I was reminded that I am a writer, and that I need to be true to my heart; whether that means really not worrying about marketing and monetizing my blog, or quantifying my success by the number of followers I have, or by being gentle enough with myself to allow myself to write the crap that needs to come first before I produce something really good.
As I boarded the plane on Saturday, I powered down. Just me, and my pen, and a pad of paper. Because sometimes, two cell phones is two too many.