Ok. So. I’m trying to figure out how to tell you guys the story of this weekend – one of the most mind-blowlingly amazing, life changing and intense weekends of my life. It was a weekend that made me so profoundly grateful for each one of you – the commenters, the lurkers, the listeners the writers, the cheerer-oners of each other. Profoundly, profoundly grateful. But to tell this story I’m going to need to back up a little bit and start at the beginning.
On April 21, 2003, a few days after my 23rd Birthday. I found Andrea Scher’s website. On the website there was a link that said “journal,” And I thought, “What does that mean? What’s an online journal?” (ha!) and that’s when I found out what a blog was. I’ve written about the rollercoaster ride that was my 20′s in New York City working in the arts. It was a hard and confusing time, and Andrea, this woman I’d never met or spoken to, held my hand through all of it. What she wrote helped me figure out who I was and what I wanted and how I was going to make that happen.
Flash forward to 2006, when David and I were preparing to uproot our lives, take a step toward adulthood and move to San Francisco. Right around that time, I fell headfirst into Maggie Mason’s writing at Mighty Girl. Maggie was five years older than me (big sister age, and I don’t have a big sister) and lived in San Francisco. But more than that, she was, and continues to be, this amazing woman who wrote her own rules for life. She was having a baby and staying in her one bedroom apartment in the city, building a career that didn’t really exist yet (professional blogger), and was blowing every preconception of motherhood out of the water (travel all over the world with your son during his first year? Done!) Maggie, this woman I’d never met, held my hand through my late 20′s, my move to San Francisco, my engagement, planning my marriage. She gave me faith I could live life on my terms, even when people told me it was impossible. David likes to call Maggie, “Meg’s Oprah” or “Meg’s biggest celebrity.” True. Also, I always just wanted to hang out with her, because it seems like we’d get ALONG.
So last year Maggie through this crazy amazing party for a bunch of her blogger friends, in one of my favorite places on this planet. I literally stared at the website for the event for two weeks last year thinking, “I have to go to this party next year. I have to. I just have to figure out a way.” Which of course made no sense, since at that point I had a non-pro website, and didn’t know Maggie, or anyone she knew. But I had to go. I was totally sure of that.
So a few months ago, Maggie announced she was doing the party again this year, but different. This time it was going to be called Mighty Summit, and was for women leaders in media. It was going to be all about life lists and realizing dreams. And they were taking applications for attendees. So, obviously, I applied within 24 hours, even though I knew I didn’t have a shot of getting it. I mean, please.
And then I got in.
So, I spent this weekend, with a group of the most amazing and intimidating women on the planet. I didn’t know them when I got there. When I looked at the list of attendees, I saw among others, one of the most popular bloggers in the world, the woman who invented Movable Type and owns Typekit, an Oprah show producer, the user experience manager at You Tube, and dear God, both Maggie Mason and Andrea Scher. As you might imagine, I was thrilled, but I mostly spent the days leading up to the conferance feeling like I was going to puke from fear. I mean, whatthef*ck?
And now I’m home from the most emotionally intense weekend of my life.
We spent the weekend doing a lot of amazing things that we were beyond lucky to get to experience. We went wine tasting, we had amazing food, we got presents, we got massages. It was great to feel taken care of for a weekend. Blogging can be draining, and sometimes I get emotionally tapped out. And this weekend I was not in charge. I was taken care of and I was cheered for by three women I didn’t know, for no damn reason other than they thought I was worth it.
But that wasn’t the point, at all. All of that was fun, but extraneous. What the weekend was about was 30 of the most amazing women you’ve ever met, sharing their stories and figuring out they could help each other. It was about always saying yes to each other, about saying, “Not only do I believe you can do that, I believe you can do something ten times bigger. And I believe you have a responsibility to do it, and to help change the world, and I will personally do everything I can to help you accomplish your dreams.” And it was about all of you guys too. It was about this movement we’ve created together, as women in the social media space. It was about continuing to shape that into a force to be reckoned with. It was about shaking up the media establishment. Of telling our stories, your stories.
I don’t want us to be silent in the face of the wedding industry anymore, on a big media level. I want to her WOMEN’S stories, WOMEN’S experiences. I want the wedding stories being told to be about the bride who fed her family at In-N-Out after her Las Vegas Elopement, about the bride who bravely called off her wedding, about the industrial designer bride who made her wedding dress out of chopped up scraps of lace. I want the stories to be about gay weddings, non-white weddings, small weddings. I want there to be a place for all of us to tell our honest stories about marriage and sex and money. I want smart and funny women to speak up and speak out and stand up for each other. We’ve got that at APW, and I want MORE of that, much more. I want it to grow and grow and grow.
And this weekend, I saw a microcosm of dream. I saw the revolution gaining steam. I stayed up till 2 in the morning two nights in a row, while we sat in the hot tub and each told a short version of our life story. I saw that these women I was intimidated by had amazing stories of love and grit and survival. I heard about miscarriages, surviving drug addiction, of homelessness, of fending for themselves at 17, of losing a child. And I marveled that these women who had been through more than I could ever guess and who were never handed anything, had drawn their power togetherand built marvelous things. They had said yes to life, they had asked for what they wanted, they had taken risks and worked past the fear.
These women have big dreams, but their dreams are about more than just themselves. On lunch on our last day, we went around the table and everyone stood up and asked for help accomplishing something on their life list that they were going to work on this year. Mena Trott stood up and said she wanted to help 20 women learn to sew a dress, and could we let her teach us? Heather Armstrong stood up and asked her to help her give selflessly to those in need. Heather Sphor stood up and asked if we could help her find ways to support other women with children in neo natal intensive care, after losing her daughter. And someone else stood up (to be named at a later date), and asked for help throwing a wedding. A wedding the wasn’t sure she deserved, with a baby, and not a lot of money.
So APW is going to take this project on. I’ll be helping to throw a wedding for an amazing woman who deserves to have her relationship honored. Not just for her, but because I want to see women standing up and saying I will fight for your dreams, not just for mine. You know, what you do in the comments every day? That. I want to to that.
So thank you. I thought a lot about your brave, selfless, smart, unconditional support of each other this weekend. I thought about the way you challenge each other and give each other wedding dresses and cheer for each other and support each other when things get dark. You all are my miracle, and I’m so grateful for that.
Now it’s time to kick some ass.
Pictures: Intel sponsored photography for the weekend, so I never had to pick up d*mn camera. You can see the whole set here. There were also a million other unbelievably thoughtful sponsors, who made this weekend something everyone could come to, money or no. I’m really grateful to them. The weekend wouldn’t have been what it was if it was open to just those of us who could afford to spend a pile o’ money right this second.
PS Can you think of a better place then Mighty Summit to spend the last hours of Yom Kippur? To pray for renewal and returning as the gates close? Yeah. Me neither.