I remember making the same mistake last year after the Aussie Bloggers Conference, I started reading everyone’s incredible recap posts and suddenly developed a terrible case of doubting myself. It didn’t help that I had been having some serious concerns about the state of my blog and I wasn’t entirely sure that I really wanted to fit myself into a niche.
It’s been over a year now since I moved from blogger to a self-hosted wordpress blog. I have had no regrets at all and love having the extra control over how I display my photos and manage my domain. What hasn’t changed are my doubts over where my blog should sit in the niche world of blogs. This weekend in Melbourne was about embracing our own individual voice and one of the big messages I took away from the Digital Parents Conference 2012 was that I can use my blog for social good no matter how big or small my voice might be. A powerful message.
But the devil is in the details right and I bet you want to know what it was like to kiss my family goodbye and fly off to Melbourne for three nights? Short answer, it was bloody amazing! Ron is a more than capable parent and although he needed a few checklists – ballet shoes, easter hat craft, homework bag, lunchbox…. The rest is just parenting which he does everyday alongside me and I knew the girls would be absolutely fine.
I have learnt a valuable lesson about Amy this year, although she is a child who needs information, I control how much or how little I give her and I am slowly figuring out which is the exact amount to satisfy her curiosity about how things will work without giving her enough facts to make her anxious. I am pleased to announce that I nailed the amount of information for this weekend and she happily went off to school after dropping me at the airport on Thursday morning. It’s the best feeling in the world to be off on an adventure know that there was nothing holding me back from having the best time possible.
Which is exactly what I went on to do! I travelled with one of my all time besties, the ever talented and divinely gorgeous Fe of Lumsdaine Photography. The fact that Fe happens to have inside knowledge on Melbourne meant I was happy to leave the details to her and we stayed right in the middle of the city, spitting distance (literally!) from some of the famous Melbourne laneways.
The difference about this conference for me personally was that being a destination function it meant I could happily accept invitations for everything and that was how I found myself around a table enjoying tapas and margaritas with some of my favourite bloggers ever on Thursday night. I always experience that strange out of body feeling when meeting someone in the flesh who I have only known through the wonders of the internet! We moved onto the official pre-conference drinks held at the very cool Melbourne Wine Room at the George Hotel in St Kilda. This was a great way to ease into the social chaos that one of these events can be, there were so many incredible women I was desperate to see and it was brilliant catching up with old friends and new before the serious business of the actual conference the next morning.
Fe and I managed to stop talking for long enough that night to get some sleep and were up at the crack of dawn, seeking coffee before catching a tram down to the hotel and conference centre. From there it was straight down to business for Fe, the official #DPCON12 photographer while I met up with my partner in crime for the day, the lovely Lani from Missy Boo we are in-real-life friends despite only having met each other once in person in the five years we have known each other online.
I really want to write about the conference with a clear perspective, about how much I learned and what blogging lessons I took away but to be brutally honest, for me, it’s all about the people and the stories. This time last year I was having doubts about which way to take my blog, towards becoming a business and working with PR companies to develop my brand or to maintain it like I have for the last five years, an online journal recounting my stories and the stories of my girls.
After this post last year I haven’t looked back and have no desire to change the direction of my blog trajectory. Of course I want to continue improving my blog, writing more frequently and with more consistency, remembering more stories and recording more memories, connecting with more friends online, but the essence of who I am is strongly embedded in the nearly six years of history contained within these archives.
Friday’s conference was about the people, the incredible people telling their incredible stories, making themselves accountable to themselves and their readers, sending their words out into the world and welcoming back the comments, growing and changing and doing it all in front of an audience. That day I laughed, of course I cried, I changed a little inside. I felt love for my friends and felt loved in return. I stepped outside of my comfort zone and found people I had wanted to meet face-to-face even though it made me feel anxious and occasionally self-concious.
I even took a one hour nap right in the middle of proceedings when after ten minutes of a panel on blogs and brands I lost my internal temper and accepted the fact that its just not for me so I asked my lovely friend with a room in the hotel upstairs if I could borrow her room key! She said yes, but only if I asked her on twitter! So I did and went upstairs for the best hours sleep I have had in a long time!
Later that afternoon between the conference ending and the dinner and dancing beginning I sat with my friends, drinking, talking, sharing stories and felt so completely at home and comfortable within myself and my situation, the stress of the last few months fell away and I was aware of how easily I could breathe for the first time in weeks. I walked away from the group and found a quiet corner to call home and I listened to my girl’s voices and missed them but loved that they were having such a great time with Daddy.
The dinner and dance was an epic event, better left slightly blurred in its description! There were boob tattoos and inappropriate gropings, there was misbehaving in a photobooth and some really embarrassing dancing. I drank just enough to feel invincible and not too much that I got sloppy and that night I slept deeply and peacefully.
Saturday was a moment in time for me, we slept in and woke slowly and took ourselves down to Centre Place for eggs benedict and mugs of milky coffee while we people watched. Later we wandered up and down laneways, two photographers with no time constraints and lots of inspiration. We found ourselves down by the Yara at which point it was time to go back to the apartment with a six pack of beers. We sat on the little balcony and put the world to rights, later I went for a nana nap before we dressed up and went out for a tapas dinner in a groovy little Melbourne restaurant where the waiters and bar staff were just too cool for school. Jugs of cocktails and a late night wander through the streets, I was awed by how desperately cool everyone in Melbourne seems to be.
Everyone said I would love the city and they were so very right. I felt quite at home despite being far from cool! Sunday slipped by quickly despite the extra hour we got thanks to daylight savings and I was so deliriously happy to see my girls and Ron when they drove up to collect us from the airport.
This weekend in Melbourne filled my lovetank in so many ways and I came home more relaxed, more patient, more content. I love my life in the suburbs with my husband and my girls, I love my photography business and the freedom it gives me to explore my creative drive whilst still bringing in a small income. I love my blog and the space it gives me to talk, vent, connect. This weekend was the best combination of all of those things that make me happy. Its going to be a long wait until the next Digital Parents Conference!