When I was thirteen I went to my first Unitarian youth conference. I arrived at the UU church in Aptos with a few close friends and with no idea that I'd be meeting 80 or so people that would change my fucking life. I spent the next eight years devoted to that community- organizing, mentoring, participating and holding. It was cuddle puddles and 4am talks of spirituality, sexuality, social justice and which semi permanent hair dye was the longest lasting (Special Effects still wins, BTW) and days of sleeping as little as possible to soak up the amazingness of the people around me and the feeling of safety that came in that space. When I aged out at twenty one after deaning our week long Summer camp with my two best friends, I was ready. It wasn't my space anymore and it was time to let the youth I tried so hard to mentor as well as I remembered being mentored step up and take my place.
I was a left with a hole in my heart much larger than the one that causes my murmur. Don't get me wrong, those people are still my closest friends and I still very much identify as a Unitarian (even if my current church attendance record is about once a year), but that feeling of community, that feeling of (yes, I'm going there) intention has been missing from my life.
Last weekend I met 59 other bloggers in Las Vegas. 59 other people who also in some way expose themselves for the entire internet to judge. 59 other people who I felt like I already knew without having even met the majority of them before this past weekend IN REAL LIFE.
We use that term a lot, us bloggers, IRL, as if the internet isn't our real life. It's funny, because I think for so many of us it is. The internet is where I'm unabashedly me. Where I am all the things I keep myself from being "too" in real life. Too emotional, too excited, too passionate, too ready to break into dance at the slightest provocation while wearing a sequined dress, too, too, too. The magic of meeting internet people in the real world is that they already know the real version. I don't feel like I have to impress anybody or hide anything because, look, EVERYTHING ABOUT ME IS RIGHT HERE ON THIS BLOG, from my worst decisions to my best decisions, from my struggling with my childhood to my thankfulness for my supportive family, from the bell jar days to the days where I want to shout from the rooftop that life is wonderful, it's all here. All of it. So trying to pretend to be anyone else is just stupid.
So this weekend I got to relax into being me. I got to meet some of the most wonderful, supportive, silly people I know of existing. I spent as much time awake as possible and went to sleep Sunday morning with the sun rising and the birds chirping, only to wake up a few hours later and have to say goodbye. The kind of goodbye that was filled with happy sadness.
And as I left Las Vegas and headed for a mini visit in California, I realized I had found my people again. I realized that this blog and the community I get to be part of because of it has done for me what church conferences did for me as a teenager. It has helped me grow and gain confidence and support others even when exposing the weakest version of myself. It's helped me stay in touch with who I am while nudging me towards the person I want to be. It's given me a whole helluva lot of people to whom I would say my guest room is always open and I'm always available for talking in the midst of a crisis.
When Lara picked me up in San Francisco and asked me if I was sad the weekend was over, I said "Remember that end of con feeling? When you were sad that you had to leave everyone but ready to not be sleeping on a church floor anymore? It was like that. Except Vegas was the church floor".
To my fellow BiSC-uits, I can't wait to see you in real real life because I'm sure as hell not waiting an entire year for the church floor that is Vegas, let's plan a get together soon.
Like, maybe tomorrow.