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For those that only like DIY and don’t like the personal stuff, skip ahead to tomorrow’s post or peruse the project gallery… there are some BIG things happening at the UDH this weekend that you won’t want to miss!
It’s Wednesday afternoon, which means that around this time three days ago, I was at the end of one of the most mentally exhausting experiences of my life. And although the events and my emotions leading into the Haven Conference this year were certainly different from years past, I can honestly say that this experience was, at this exact point in time, what I needed, where I needed to be, and with the people I needed to be with. If this is your first time hearing about the Haven Conference, I’ll allow Kirsten Thompson to recap it for me:
350 home decor & DIY bloggers gather in a gorgeous hotel in Atlanta for 3 1/2 days to mingle with brand reps and other bloggers while learning gobs of stuff to help improve their blogs, eating too much yummy food, and dancing the night away at a soiree. Oh, and swag. SO. MUCH. SWAG.
While it would take way, way too long to go over every little detail (and I don’t even have enough pictures for that), I decided today to share some highlights about what teaching for the first time at a blog conference taught me. You can also watch some video recaps on Periscope and Facebook Live that I published yesterday if you want to see words come out of my actual face instead of reading and see the things I hauled home, but there are different things I covered below versus in those two videos, so choose your own adventure. If you want to see past years’ recaps, you can find them here, here, and here too. Here were this year’s takeaways.
Find Your Voice… Over and Over Again
I strive to be transparent on this blog, on social media, everywhere — sometimes ramblingly, clumsily so. I share the mistakes I make so that you guys don’t wind up accidentally imprisoning a family of squirrels in your attic… that sort of thing. Normally, I don’t really have a hard time putting my thoughts onto paper or even talking to perfect strangers (I consider myself an extreme extrovert under most circumstances), but I’m also a very nervous public speaker. It’s also hard to find that line of wanting to share my life, the funny-to-me things that happen in this house, the DIY lessons I learn, etc. with you guys while also having some common sense of what can or even should be shared. There’s really no manual, so it’s kind of like fumbling around in the dark, hoping to hit something and stay consistent enough (hell, I know a thing or two about that — the breakers in this house are all mislabeled!). It’s also the unforgiving beast that is the internet, where everything is permanent, screenshotted, and people are frequently both strangers and friends at the same time. It’s experimenting and testing my comfort level, and I feel like I make a lot of mistakes and then spend a long time reassuring myself that I didn’t so that I can find the courage to say something again.
This year, there was a new person in my life after having spent a majority of this blog’s existence without, and I was struggling for many months to get used to the idea of even putting their presence whatsoever on the blog. Things seemed to be going well enough to think it might last awhile, but second-guessing and cautious planning are kind of my default settings, so I had a lot of internalized questions. Would it look weird? Would not providing info be more confusing? Would I feel dishonest to not share and my writing changes in some obvious way? etc. etc. And just like I wasn’t prepared for someone suddenly arriving to this independent, strange world I’ve created, I wasn’t prepared when they were suddenly gone from it, either. And within a matter of weeks, I was heading to a conference of mostly married-with-children women who (I thought) couldn’t possibly relate to any of these things while also telling them how I do things my way. I felt in over my head and procrastinated like the day was never going to actually arrive.
Leading up to the very minute I was sitting in front of the first of my two-day panel discussion, I didn’t know whether to skip lunch, cry, or take a run around the hotel to work off my nerves. I did none of those things. Instead, I built a piece of furniture with Jaime Costiglio. ;)
This entire feeling i’m describing above is more commonly known as Impostor Syndrome… or some variation of it, assuming I’m probably wrong and don’t even know what that is. Put more simply in a way that I understand, it’s really just arrogance, because it’s believing myself to be more important than I am while feeling anxiety over not being the thing I just told myself I was. And that kind of magical thinking is probably how aneurysms form.
The good news about a niche blog conference like this was that it’s full of people who feel the exact same way. Each of us are entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and obsessive hobbyists who never learn to take breaks, who beat themselves silly with comparisons, and yet still file into rooms with each other to share notes and secrets and build each other up. There will always be someone more successful than us in each of our eyes — someone with a larger Pinterest following, a better eye for photography, or a better understanding of web analytics. Still, whether it’s a “community” or a “tribe” or simply a room full of people, we’re all doing this one weird thing because we enjoy it enough to pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and then hundreds more to travel and stay in a hotel and then stay up until 2AM with each other… even though we’re already exhausted and losing our voices. We talk about things that only we get because our significant others, parents, and friends don’t always have the passion and enthusiasm for it like we do. And then we have a dance and get dressed up. It’s fucking awesome.
Soak It In
No joke: I took more photos of this donut door than I did of my friends while at the conference. Which is the coolest way I’ve ever seen someone display breakfast:
But the fact was, I wasn’t sitting around in groups and trying to document the moments. I was trying to absorb what people were saying, relating to people about my own anxious feelings, and getting really, really into my panel. My confidence grew back because I felt I actually knew what I was talking about and could answer the questions asked. I got back tenfold, and the discussion went far better than I expected. People feverishly wrote down notes and gave us feedback on how they are already going about fixing their blogs based on our discussion. Two of my clients came to introduce themselves at the end of the first panel, and one even gave me a gift to thank me for my help on her blog. I was stunned.
I got to have big bear hugs with some of my favorite people and keep tradition on the dance floor with Chelsea from Two Twenty One (the utter ridiculousness of which I hope everyone experiences at some point). I had long talks with Jacque from The DIY Village and got to finally meet some of my other friends in person (and make a few new ones!).
The closing ceremony speakers were John and Sherry from Young House Love, who after years of admiring, I’m very happy to now call them friends. They gave out some great advice about their famous decision to quit blogging (or in most of our cases, how to avoid burnout and then quitting), and I thought this image they shared from Waiting on Martha was especially cool. In fact, it brought back memories of a post I wrote a while ago, written at a time where once again, I was struggling to get all the words right. So, I guess what I thought was a new feeling for me… really wasn’t at all.
In the end, I started off in a kind of weird place leading up to this conference, and even though there were times I probably acted like a total weirdo, these are exactly the kind of folks where being a freak is what it’s all about. Worth it, worth it, worth it. <3
Another post is coming up for you guys tomorrow. I have some BIG deliveries making their way to my house as we speak, and I’ll be sharing some of it as I go live on Facebook and Instagram. Stay tuned!