The Community Keynote: Twenty-one women and one man, bloggers all (and therefore I imagine mostly introverts and probably mildly terrified) took the stage in front of hundreds of people to read some of the funniest, most revealing and most poignant pieces of writing I have ever encountered.
It reminded me that so many bloggers really are writers. Good writers. Many of the writers on that stage were absolutely as good as any I have seen on a printed page.
But even more than that, it reminded me how incredibly powerful what we do really is. Seeing women stand up on stage and talk about things like mental illness, body image struggles, pregnancy loss and suicide, and then seeing those women receive standing ovations from a supportive crowd, made me more aware than I have ever been that blogging matters. That even what I write here, in a little backwater corner of the vast and varied internet, matters.
Never before in the course of human history have so many ordinary people, particularly, so many ordinary women, been so empowered to share their life experiences through the written word. And it seems to me that, as more voices are amplified and preserved by this extraordinary medium, more people who are yet afraid to speak are discovering that someone else has already told, or is already telling, a story that echoes their own.
On the day when I wrote my very first post here, I was feeling so incredibly lonely. My first and only son, whom I loved more than anyone I had ever met in my life, was slowly starving himself. I didn't know why. I'd taken him to a dozen different doctors, and none of them seemed to know why, either. I felt like a terrible parent. I felt like a failure. Whenever I was around the few other parents of young children I knew in person, I was a terrible person to talk to, and I knew it. All I could think about was the fact that I was failing at the absolute most basic responsibility a mother has: to nourish her child. And so all I could talk about was failure. Failure to thrive. Not my son's failure, I thought. Mine.
No one I spoke with, none of the doctors, not even my own husband seemed to understand at the time how I felt about this failure. How it had not only taken over my thoughts, but possessed my soul.
I wrote about it because I had to. The words were already in my head unbidden and desperately needed a place to go.
I put the words where others might find them because leaving them in journal under my bed or in a file somewhere on my computer seemed almost like leaving them in my head. And I needed them out. I needed the possibility that someone else might read them.
But I didn't really expect anyone to.
And yet, here I am, years later, and several of those who read those first words are still here, reading these words, today.
(Thanks, by the way.)
On one of my darkest days, I shouted my sorrow into what seemed like an empty room.
But there were echoes.
I've been there, too.
I can't understand what you're going through, but I'm a mom, too, and I do understand your love, so I still want to help.
It saved me.
There have been plenty of days, since then, when I've forgotten that, a little. When I've questioned the point of my spending all of this time writing here, in this particular forum, not gaining fame, not getting paid.
You see I sometimes think that maybe I don't need you all quite as much as I used to. My son's health is better. My life is better. I'm a more confident parent now.
But the keynote snapped me back to that first post. And suddenly I realized that not only did I still need you all as much as I always have needed you, even before I knew I needed you, but also, some people out there right now might still need me.
I'm not just telling my story. You're not just telling your story. We're telling our story. The more voices, the better.
I don't think I'll ever forget that again.