I feel like I may be the only person who attended Blissdom Canada nearly two weeks ago and who hasn’t written a wrap-up post about it as of yet. I usually pride myself on being able to write a quick and neat little post-conference blog piece, neatly explaining everything I learned and the personal experiences I had.
But this time… things were different.
If you’ve been reading my blog or following on Facebook, you already know that I have been facing some pretty big realizations about life since I got home. I’ve been back at work, fighting a cold, and trying to get back into the swing of things. At the same time, I’m preparing for our amazing upcoming trip to Disneyland, as well as lining up the Christmas season which is quickly approaching. But even these responsibilities haven’t been keeping me from writing about my experience at Blissdom Canada this year.
The reason I haven’t really written much about my experience at this conference is because I haven’t been able to find the words to say what I want to say. I don’t know how to share the things that I learned. I don’t know how to express myself and what I felt about this conference, and it’s because I have never had an experience like this one before in my fourteen years of blogging.
I knew, going into this experience, that I had grown as a person since I had attended the same conference last year. I knew that my people skills had improved, and along with them, my ability to reach out to strangers had also improved. I had come through a lot of challenges and I believe that I am better for them. I believe that I know myself better than I did, even a year ago. I am far more comfortable than I was, and I was confident that I could better seize the opportunities presented to me this year. I knew that from a personal standpoint, this was going to be different for me.
I have been to a lot of blogging conferences. And I’m not saying that I’ve been to as many conferences as a good percentage of most career bloggers (and that’s a term I define really loosely), but rather that compared to the average human being, I’ve been to a lot of blogging conferences. If you think about how many bloggers there are, compared to how many blogging conferences there are… there’s only a certain percentage of us who see it as worthwhile to spend time and money on blogging conferences. Since 2009, I’ve gone to a conference a year, sometimes up to three a year, and that’s a fairly decent number of conferences… I believe. I have been absolutely blessed to make a wonderful connection with Tara from Tara’s View Of The World, who I am now honoured to work under and consider one of my closest friends. I have had the chance to work with and get to know Shasher from Shasher’s Life, and have had some wonderful experiences over the last three years with both of these amazing ladies. They are the reason that I feel so welcome and at home at Blissdom Canada, and the reason that I keep returning. I know that I love traveling back to Ontario timeand time again because I love connecting with these two, as well as other people who blow my mind on a regular basis who are too numerous to name. I felt like this year I was going to make even more of my trip to Blissdom because I knew where my heart was at, and I was open and ready for a change.
What I underestimated in returning to Blissdom Canada this year was how many others there were also open and ready for change, including those who were organizing the event. This is where my hat goes off to Jennifer, Shash, Shannon, Tara, and all of the hard workers behind the scenes who put this event together. Because it wasn’t just the sessions and the food and the swag and the parties and the entertainment and the passing in the hallways smiling and saying “hi”!
I found something out two weeks ago. I found out that if you approach the hard topics, like in the amazing Social Etiquette conversation that was hosted by Neil Hedley featuring Glen Canning and Glennon Doyle Melton, you open people up in an incredible way. My heart was changed in a way that actually slightly destroyed me. I sat in my rental car, alone in a parking lot, weeping openly and asking myself what I was doing to really change the people around me. How was I positively influencing the world. The truth is that when you sit in a room full of people such as these, with such experience and strength to open their souls and tell their stories, you can’t help but reflect and be changed. You can’t help but feel renewed, or at least… I can’t imagine coming away without a shifted outlook. I believe that it is an environment like this one that allows someone incredible like Shannon Fisher to stand up and tell one of her stories which is hilarious, but also full of vulnerability. I believe that it is an environment like this one that allows Chris Read to stand up and share his own journey into and out of depression to a room of people who once were strangers. I believe that it is an environment like this one that encourages young writers to flourish and grow.
And then to watch a young woman like Tenille, a country singer from Grande Prairie, Alberta, singing songs that uplift young men and women in such a wholesome way; it washed a sense of hope over me that is really hard to explain. I felt uplifted knowing that there was a young, beautiful woman with the motivation to encourage kids to be everything that they wanted to be… And I was excited to buy her music and share it with my daughter. I was excited to spread the word about this artist with awesome intentions and messages within her songs. I ran into her on my way up to the rooms and she was just a tiny ray of sunshine. She complimented my shoes and I was just completely overwhelmed by how genuine she was.
And to close the conference out with a presentation by the charismatic and fabulous Drew Dudley, seen here in this now famous Ted Talk, was just the icing on the cake. Again, I asked myself, what are you doing to be a positive light in the world today? How are you changing those around you with your love? How are you being an everyday leader?
I feel like the organizers of this event went out of their way to do something more than educational or welcoming for writers of all skill or success levels. I feel like the organizers of Blissdom Canada went out of their way to think outside of what is acceptable or expected of a conference like this one, and took it a step further into asking what needs to be heard within our community. I’ve heard and read a lot of poetic waxing about how we need to support and love one another, but never have I seen a host of a session call out specific incidents and say, “People in this room were involved in this and it was wrong.” Never have I seen panelists asked difficult questions and give difficult answers and come up into such a supportive environment. Because of these bold moves, the drama that can often be associated with writer’s conferences that consist primarily of women was all but absent. By pushing these envelopes and delving into the harder topics, the Blissdom Canada conference managed to address and challenge the problems within the community that we often silently accept by saying, “if you’re not part of the solution, you are doing nothing to end the problem”.
I went to Ontario this year in hopes of connecting with some of my old friends, solidifying fledgling friendships and making some new connections in the writing world. I left Ontario this year with the reality of reconnecting with myself. Blissdom Canada changed immensely in a year, and I changed immensely over the three days that I was involved. For each and every person that I connected with and those who changed me in ways they’ll never know, I am forever grateful.