For eight years I spent a portion of my summer at Camp Favorite. (Real name. I know.) When I was seven I begged my parents to let me go and they agreed to five nights. By the time I was fourteen I was spending a month there as a Counselor in Training (CIT).
I loved it, which I guess is pretty obvious. There were many counselors who returned each summer. And an even larger number of campers who came back year after year, meaning that in my final year there as a CIT, there were many of us who had known each other for half of our young lives.
And yet, I did not ever truly feel like I was part of it all. Like I belonged. A true Camp Favorite regular.
When a counselor would remember my name the following summer I was always truly surprised. When fellow campers followed up and wrote letters to me throughout the year, I responded eagerly with letters of my own, impressed that they thought to stay in touch.
This is not to say that I did not fully absorb myself in all that Camp Favorite had to offer. I most certainly did. When we had to create binders as CITS that listed hundreds of camp songs, activities, sailing terms, grace songs, arts and crafts and bike trails, I filled that sucker in faster than a raffle ticket. Oh, I was definitely involved and enthusiastic. I adored camp.
But I never felt like a true member of the group.
I have seen this pattern in myself again and again. Growing up in a small town, I never shook the feeling of being an outsider, no matter how many years passed. In college, I never joined a sorority, didn’t stay in touch with the groups within which I did make friends, and can clearly see on Facebook that I am the one missing from bridesmaid photos. During Teach for America I not only trained and taught with my corps, but spent two years in graduate school with them. And yet, I somehow never felt like I was ‘legitimately’ part of the crew.
So, here I find myself again. I am about to attend a huge conference, called BlogHer, for my third time. Yes, I’ve made friends. No, I don’t sit in the corner. Yes, I read and comment on a variety of blogs throughout the year. No, I don’t go around punching people in the face when I meet them. Yes, I have worn deodorant each year.
As I can imagine you have figured out, I don’t quite feel connected to the community, though. Or not as connected as one might assume I would feel after three years.
Clearly the common denominator is me. The people in all of the these groups are not bad people. And I am not saying that I am a bad person, either. I just repeatedly notice that while it is easy for me to become friends with people, I don’t do well becoming – let alone remaining – a solid fixture in any group. What that says about me as a person, I still don’t really know. But for the moment, I am most concerned with what it means for me during this conference.
Many bloggers suffer from social anxiety issues. Their ability to shine online, from the privacy of their own homes, makes sense. But I don’t feel nervous about the social situations I will face at BlogHer, per se. Going into a room full of strangers – while not always super comforting – does not exactly give me the sweats or shakes. Instead, I feel some anxiety (and some sadness, truthfully) about the fact that I still feel like I am attending a conference made up almost entirely of strangers. That I am somehow not a valid attendee. Like a fraud, almost.
That I don’t belong.
My time will be spent hanging out with the friends I have made in the past two years of blogging, meeting as many new people as possible and participating in everything I can for three days. While all of that is fun, and the learning that takes place at BlogHer is astounding, I am hoping to have a new experience this year.
I am hoping that I can figure out how to see myself as a part of this. As a component equally as important and legitimate as any other.
As one of the gang.
Wish me luck!