I was a kinked up coil of nervous energy when I woke up Friday morning. In an hour, I knew I was going to have to walk into a room filled with food bloggers I’ve read and read about for some time. People I respected, but did not know. People I assumed all knew each other. People who do what I do, but do it better.
I felt like a junior year transfer student on his first day at an All-Honors high school where everyone was smart and funny and popular. Would these people let me sit with them at their lunch table?
Oh, dear Lord in heaven. Lunch.
I couldn’t bear to think about the meal because I knew that, afterwards, I was expected to get up on a stage and be an “expert” on writing. On storytelling. On using one’s own voice. In front of smart people. As I walked up the stairs to the third floor conference rooms, I had half a mind to turn right back around, go home, and crawl back into my bed. I wanted to hide.
Fortunately, I never got the chance to do that.
I wasn’t five steps into the room when a man I’ve long respected but never met before (only Tweeted with) yelled, “Michael!” in his booming voice, gave me a big bear hug, and pulled me into the room. I was taken by surprise, but all of my anxieties were squeezed away when he put his arms around me.
That one, kind action from him made me believe I was welcome in that room. That brief moment allowed me to feel as though I belonged there.
It was the first of many gestures that blew my mind and made my heart want to explode. The warmth, heart, good humor, and generosity I felt from so many people over the last weekend has overwhelmed me. It’s two days later and I am still high from it.
I have decided to follow at least the first part of Mr. Hemingway’s advice again and write drunk; edit sober so, while I am still intoxicated by the experience, I want to write it all down and thank those of you who got me high in the first place. No names. No particular order. If you happen to read this, you will hopefully know who you are.
To the man who gave me that bear hug: Thank you. You already know what that meant to me.
To the show-tune loving lady who soon after told me I had a beautiful voice: Thank you. You helped give me the courage to use it.
To the mother of the wide-eyed child who, in the middle of our Storytelling Panel, thanked us for talking about telling stories: Thank you. I was unsure I was getting my message across coherently in that darkened, post-lunch room. You turned the lights on for me. You made me feel like I was making my message clear.
To the cute young man I liked to think of as my Prom Date to the conference: Thanks for keeping my spirits high. That meant a lot.
To the Merman-loving redhead who dares to name food items “thingies”: Thank you for charming the socks off of me and showing me that people can find success and still maintain a sense of humility and quirky humor.
To the sexy blond woman who sat with me over dinner in that over-priced Asian restaurant: Thank you for sharing your stories of waiting tables with me. It made me feel as though I’m not alone in my struggle. You feel like my soul sistah.
To the lady who sat next to me on the stage: Thank you. You were my very first blog crush. You did not disappoint.
To the Canadian lady who sat next to the lady who sat next to me on the stage: Thank you. Our prior discussions and questions really helped me to organize my thoughts. You helped me to think and think clearly. Besides, you know I have a thing for Canadians.
To the spiky-haired lady who takes pictures: Thank you for the late-night talk and for letting me eat all that garlic with you. Your power to inspire people is crazy, crazy strong. The force is with you. You might want to think about starting your own cult if the photography thing doesn’t work out.
To the lady with the flower in her hair who gave me a ride home: Thank you for asking me “What’s next?” Thank you for your willingness to listen. And to talk.
To my adorable part-Calabrese paisan: Thank you for being the glue that holds many of us together. I know I’ve already told you that, so thank you, too, for always being around to hear me complain, give me advice, and set me straight (a-hem).
To the woman who stood at the back of the conference room with me, shared some spiked coffee, and told me that a tampon dipped in boiling water is ideal for creating steam in food styling situations: Thank you for always making me feel like I’m smart enough to be in the room with you.
To the unbearably cute girl I met in the elevator, whose mother I hoped wasn’t a famous T&A television star: Thank you. Your energy and excitement were so palpable that I think I fed off of them in that tiny little space. Like a vampire or something. You, Bear Hug Guy, and I need to continue our conversation. I think something amazing could come from it.
To the exquisitely armed woman I keep running into over and over again through the years: Thank you for showing us that funny, smart, geeky, kind, and sexy are not mutually exclusive qualities.
To the straight guy with the guns: Thank you for underscoring for me the joys of following one’s own path. And, of course, for the trivia lessons. I’ve never met anyone quite like you. We really need to work on that cheese idea.
To the beautiful, quiet woman who sat at the back of the room as I nattered on about storytelling: Thanks for letting me know that I’m not the only one who leaves off writing until the last minute; that it’s good to keep things spontaneous and raw. And thank you for inspiring me to get out my brother’s old camera and shoot real film– it makes me feel closer to someone I miss every day of my life.
There are so many other people that I want to thank, and I will. Right now, however, I have to make my re-entry into the real world and go to work.
Thank you, everyone, for making the BlogHer Food 2010 Conference a wonderful experience. I hope I never entirely sober up from it.