BlogHer13This year, I vowed to do things I had never done before at BlogHer, beginning with my arrival — because aside from a stopover at O’Hare Airport 30 years ago, this was my first time in Chicago.

I went on to do new things by (1) wearing a dress (something I may have done before but cannot recall, because it is pretty hard to make me don anything but t-shirts and jeans)… (2) participated in the annual 5k Fun Run (which in my case, was a walk)… And (3) actually spoke on a panel. (It was a sponsored session for US Cellular, so was not part of the official program — but I did have to speak to a small audience. And I am told that I did not do or say anything particularly embarrassing, so yay me!)

There were other firsts this trip that were less enjoyable. You know that “BlogHer flu” everyone seems to come down with after they get home? I contracted mine on Saturday, so I was feeling kind of miserable as I began writing this post back at O’Hare on Sunday.

I’ve delayed publishing this because I think feeling crappy colored my mood when I was writing this. Instead of walking away from BlogHer feeling inspired, what I was experiencing when I wrote this was more of a sense of … loss.

My Facebook timeline is plastered with excited posts from others who attended the same conference, and they are full of excitement and energy and inspiration. Just like my BlogHer posts of yore. And these posts go all the way back to 2005.

And I did get to spend some time with women I adore: Old friends like Liz Thompson and Jenn Satterwhite and Kim Moldofsky, and new ones like Melisa Welles, Stacy Jill Calvert and Michelle Lewsen (who may or may not be a distant relative). Inspiring women like Deb Rox, Shannon Colleary, Vikki Reich, Dresden Shumaker and Leslie Marinelli. Awesome, intelligent political women like Kelly Wickham, Anita Jackson and Jill Miller Zimon.

I got my usual hugs from Lisa Stone, Jory Des Jardines and Elisa Camahort Page, the three women who founded BlogHer. If they can’t inspire me, I’m a lost cause.

I spent my share of time on the Expo floor. I posed for pictures on Serta mattresses, and with La-Z-Boy chairs. I surprised myself by preferring Folgers Bold Silk coffee to my usual Starbucks brew. I had a nice long chat with a woman who represents gardening companies, who said she would put me in touch with someone who might teach me not to kill everything I plant. I won a three-month supply of a product that promises to do something about my thinning hair.

The Expo is fun — but BlogHer for me has always been about the sessions. And the people I meet. I did all the things I usually do when going to BlogHer, and came away feeling flat.

Maybe I’ve become jaded. I had hoped that making it to my tenth year of blogging would give me some new energy for this site, but instead I feel like I am at a crossroads. My daughter is nearly all grown up. It is time for me to start doing something else. But what?

I mentioned this to a friend while I was at Netroots Nation last month, and he set about trying to point me in the right direction. “What is it you want to do,” he asked.

I could not answer him. For the first time in my life, I honestly don’t know.

He named an array of the types of jobs and organizations I might want to apply for. Nothing sounded like a good fit.

My husband is frustrated with me, because we both agree I need to get back out in the world. But that world isn’t exactly rushing to welcome back 57-year-old women who have spent the last 15 years on the mommy track, no matter how smart or skilled or competent they might be.

A couple of weeks ago, I even applied for a job at McDonald’s and it was apparent from the application that they might consider me over-qualified (it asked questions like “Has anyone ever complained that you are not punctual”). I don’t really want to work for McDonald’s or Starbucks or any other fast food outlet. But in another time, not that long ago, that was a place you could go to bring in a little money while you figure out the next step. Now, those low wage jobs are being filled by people who really need them as their primary source of income. High school students and retirees have to compete with former middle managers for minimum wage. It doesn’t sound promising.

My sister is facing a similar dilemma. While we were in Chicago together, she finalized the sale of a business she started over 20 years ago. She is returning home a “free woman” — with no idea of what she’s going to do next.

We have been trying to get another blog running together, but so far have been unable to figure out what we’re doing with it. It’s got no direction. Just like us.

Linda read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” and was excited to hear Sandberg speak at BlogHer on Saturday. Her advice to women resonated with my sister, but there was nothing in it that spoke to me and my situation, which led to another first for me at BlogHer: I cried.

I cried, and I left my sister in the ballroom as they were breaking into smaller, “Lean In” circles. She was concerned for me, but the truth is that I had wanted to sit in on a political panel that was set to start right then. I settled in, began taking notes and forgot that I was feeling sorry for myself.

And it occurred to me that I am not a “mommy blogger” any longer. The thing that excites me now is news and politics.

Unfortunately, those activities don’t pay, so the search for some kind of income continues. Perhaps it will be in partnership with my sister.

And this may turn out to be my last BlogHer.

I’m glad I finally got to see Chicago.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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