This is a post that has been
3 years ago I went to my very first blogging conference. I was terrified. I really knew what felt like nobody online or off- I simply hadn't broken into the inner circle of the blogging world. And I am going to tell you in all candidness now that I have pretty strong anxiety in face to face social situations. I guess that's why I have a blog, right?
Nobody online ever believes me, but ask any of my friends in 'the real world' and they'll tell you that I was the most quiet, mouse of a person, before they finally broke me out of my shell. It's part of the reason I do so many social activities I honestly would rather not be doing (bowling in a league, for example) because they build a sense of community that gives me the confidence to slowly conquer my fears and anxieties.
So, back to my first blog conference- I am sure I was a wreck and I am certain I missed more than half of the amazing events and opportunities because I was freaking out in my hotel room. My roommate, who had been ever so kind and understanding (as bloggers tend to be) had promised she would try and buddy up with my throughout the conference so I'd at least have one familiar face by my side as much as possible. But I couldn't very well ruin her conference experience stalking her all day, so there I was in our room staring at the back of our door nervously wrenching my laptop bag's shoulder strap, taking a deep breath.
I tried to pretend there were no other people at that table, but I felt as though 4 pairs of eyes were staring at me, analyzing my every move. I could not eat my bagel slow enough if just to pretend I had a strong enough focus to ignore them. My phone buzzed, and I scrambled to pick it up, hoping I hadn't drawn any attention. In a room so alive and buzzing with chatter and noise I felt as though I were the only one anyone saw, that I was the main attraction, a freak show. It might sound narcissistic, but that's what social anxiety does to a person. It's the feeling of being uncomfortable in your own skin.
After answering a brief text I looked desperately for more 'busy work' I could engage in on my phone. The break had to be ending soon. Please let it end soon. But what happened next was nothing short of a lifesaver for me. The tall woman with the red pixie cut hair to my right happened to catch a glance of my smartphone background before the screensaver kicked in wiping it blank. In a behavior some might find rude, she scooped up my phone and began pressing buttons in an attempt to make the image reappear. This should have thrown me into a full blown panic but the following words from her mouth immediately pulled me from whatever dark place the anxiety drags me into.
"Oh my gawd! Is that your cat! That has to be one of the cutest photos I have ever seen, and I have 3 babies of my own! Human children of course, but I bet this princess is just like your baby!"
Truffles. My cat. She'd found my connector. A topic so overwhelmingly passionate for me that even the strongest of social anxieties wouldn't forbid me from engaging. Immediately, I was a different me. The real me. The me my family and friends know. In a crowded lobby packed with thousands of strangers I looked up from my bagel and began talking to several women I didn't know just seconds before. Not an ounce of nerves.
Animals have provided an anchor, a safe place, for me and my nerves through countless events in my life. I am far from an expert, maybe it's the endorphines they release, maybe it's just the unconditional love they give- but I have always been able to open up to anyone, anywhere, about animals. I wish I could say it's because I have a heart of gold, but that's the main reason I served as a regular volunteer at our local animal shelter. So, it's easy to understand how the emergence of modern technology and mobile sharing has helped me connect beyond my anxiety with the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of places.
I have made real life friends over a simple compliment of my screensaver or wallpaper on my phone. It always begins simple enough- "Aww your dog/cat is so cute!" or "Your dog/cat looks just like my baby!" Which is followed by me whipping out as many photos as possible, regardless of the location or convenience of the encounter- and of course, me handing over a business card asking the individual to connect or get in touch some time. All this without an ounce of panic.
Why am I telling you all of this?
I was going to share with everyone a 'Jenna explosion;' a video, a stop motion, a craft project, a recipe for dog treats. But the simple fact is that, after an awful week I will not drag into this post, I realized something. I am known for being a colorful, creative, over-the-top, entertaining and heartfelt blogger. Those who read my blog know I turn cat litter discussions into posh cat scratcher tutorials, and make grooming day fun by throwing a pretend pet salon on the lawn for the kids. That no matter what. I keep pushing. I do everything 110% with as much of myself as I can give, and I never give up.
They know this.
But what I've shared here. Most of them do not. And this post might not have been full of funny anecdotes about my adorable pets, or really anything I've spent the past 2 weeks putting together. But 2 years ago Patty Woodland of Broken Teepee shared every step of her Blog Paws Conference journey on social media and blog and my heart skipped with joy. That, that looked like a conference I NEEDED to be at. So much joy, and such a passion for pets and animals among like-minded individuals that just so happened to also blog. The following year she shared her journey again, and I longed to be there with my online friend, meeting other online friends, and making new real-life friends. But the location was simply too far and the only events I've managed to budget are ones I volunteer at. It's a great way to get to an event, but in honesty one doesn't quite get to have the full experience.
When Blog Paws 2016 was announced, just a state over, I dropped ALL plans to go to ANY other event this year and began saving and planning to go. As I'd told Patty the year before, this year I was going to make Blog Paws my top priority. Which I've done in so many ways.
#BlogPawsOrBust series on Instagram. (Thank goodness for DropBox uploads.) I apologize if the photos don't line up with the text- sometimes life doesn't quite 'line up.' I wish I could share with you all of the creativity I tried to inject into my submission, but a quick search on Instagram for #BlogPawsOrBust will hopefully supplement that.
Why do I want to go to Blog Paws? Aside from Nora's rocking new threads, it's the perfect venue for me to grow as a blogger AND individual with my four-legged child by my side. The prospect of going not only excites em for what I might learn, but for that which I might be able to share; new connections, photography techniques, creative storytelling- I have just as many skills to offer within networking as I have to gain. And that makes me a solid investment! (Of course I think Truffles has just been campaigning for me so she can get 4 nights off from the dog!)
Day 5: Today we talked pets at our after school group. Everyone made their favorite pet in a fun craft we'll be sharing #ontheblog soon. They have a special message to share.....but they may be a little biased! #BlogPaws16 #BlogPawsOrBust #kidsofinstagram #catsofinstagram #dogsofinstagram #crafts #crafty #kidsprojects #papercraft