You Have to Know Who You Are

Each morning when I dress the part of the human I’m pretending to be, I think about the contexts in which people will see me. An all-kids day means I wear a geek T-shirt, skort, and pair of worn-out Chucks with red recycled-kimono laces. A meeting with clients means a suit (despite the fact that I’m still clinging to pre-kids suits that are way too tight and too short. Because children, apparently, made me grow several inches. Or made my rear-end absorb several inches of pant-length. Probably the taller thing. Because science.) I reject heels with those suits in favor of sturdy brown wingtips with yellow recycled-kimono laces.

When I’m headed to a conference I feign disinterest and fight my personal love of tweed trousers. I pair a crisp French-cuffed shirt with jeans. Sometimes a tweed jacket. Because I can’t help myself. Oh, my word, the draw of elbow patches. I would put elbow patches on T-shirts and jammies if I could. To fight the corporate-academic look I wear boots, especially my canvas and leather jump boots. Because nothing says badass-academic like jump boots and Scrabble-tile cufflinks.

But an upcoming conference poses a perplexing problem. I’m headed to Chicago for BlogHer, a massive conference for bloggers that I never really thought I’d attend. I’m not sure how I got caught up in the excitement and the joy of this conference. Except that I know exactly how it happened. I won a kind-of-a-big-deal blogging award.

A lovely human named Alexandra, who blogs her infectious love of life, family, and women in several places including at Good Day Regular People has been outrageously kind with me since she found my blog last year. She has connected me with sites she thinks I should blog for and has cheered my accomplishments. She’s my age, but I think of her as my abuela. She’s kind and supportive in the way everyone’s families should be.

And when the BlogHer Voices of the Year submission process opened, Alexandra tweeted to her Empire that everyone should submit because everyone is worthy.

Trying to learn from her example, I slammed the door on self doubts and submitted three pieces from last year.

And promptly forgot that I had entered. I was proud enough to have sneered at the internal, “why would *you* ever…” long enough to submit. I didn’t actually think about the process or the possibility that I might be selected.

But my post on autism is one of twenty-five blog posts being celebrated for inspiration at the upcoming conference.

And when I found out, I was incredulous. Then I cried. And then assumed that all further references to Voice of the Year would necessitate an asterisk.

“Tonight we celebrate 99 bloggers who inspired us, and one extra, whom we chose to fill out the extra seat next to them.”
“We have worked diligently to select some of the best writing online this year, and are throwing a bone to a post by a mediocre writer at whom we shrug a lukewarm nod. You know whom we mean.”
Seems a rather disrespectful view of the judges. [Not of myself or my writing, by the way. The judges did all the work. And the other writers. And the webmaster. And conference planners. And the snack vendors. They all deserve the credit.]

After a bit of this disrespectful drivel, I started to think, maybe, perhaps, there are a few other honorees who similarly think their mention is a mistake or footnoted pity vote. That when I’m clapping for the other bloggers whose posts just *wrecked* me with humor and heart and compassion and truth, perhaps one or two might be hanging their heads in embarrassment, too.

Probably not.

What did this to me? What makes me think what I make doesn’t matter? Or shouldn’t count? Or that when people say, “I read that and liked it” that they’re wrong/lying/trying to be nice? Why wouldn’t I say thank you the way I do when clients like my writing or academics like my writing? Why is creative writing, unpaid writing, heartfelt writing less worthy?

I did feel proud of my writing when I hit “post.” And I did feel satisfied enough in my writing that I entered a contest, something I never, ever do. So why would that pride die when I won? What kind of headcase freakiness is this?

All the other VOTY posts I’ve read, without exception, have floored me. They’ve made me want to write more.

And dozens of people commented that my post was important to them. I have a responsibility to those readers, including the judges, to smother the ridiculous nonsense in my head and to take a bow.

So I’m going to straighten up, allow the smile to settle in, and sit proudly with those wonderful writers at the Voices of the Year celebration later this month.

Because I need some applause in my life, yo. And all I have to do is stop knocking myself down to see the hands making that noise. They’re lovely, gentle, raucous, funny, smart, activist, human hands.

So now to the last, little problem.

What does one wear to act the part of someone who is learning to shut the door on self-doubt and to take full possession of her body, brain, and writing? Is there such thing as a tweed skort and french-cuff shirt with recycled-kimono elbow patches? Designers? Call me if you can hook me up with that kind of swag.

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20 thoughts on “You Have to Know Who You Are

    • I only own what I love, but what packs well and conferences well and isn’t pretentious or goofy or pathetic or…embrace the jean jacket. And rest assured I will *never* covet it. ;-)

  1. One of the most breathtaking moments in life, is when our dreams come true. It shouldn’t be shameful to want a nod of acknowledgement, to feel proud that your writing is held up as something that brings peace to a troubled soul. There are those that blissfully find themselves in the writing of others whom get lost in that which makes them uniquely off that which only they can — and where would one be without the other? We both need each other just as much. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU. And I remember the exact Saturday morning when I found your blog, I spent 45 minutes here. And felt like one of the luckiest people in the world that day. xo

    • Look at that lovely avi of your mama.
      You’re just a delightful person. The world is lucky to have you, women are lucky to have you championing their writing, and the blogging world is lucky to have you traipsing in and out of our foyers.
      You have a big hug coming the end of this month, young lady.

  2. Chicago! I’m very jealous. Scrabble tile cufflinks ONLY. Why would you need anything else?! You are truly great. Do you get to go BY YOURSELF AND HAVE A HOTEL ROOM TO YOURSELF, which would be the greatest prize of all?! FAntastic, Nappy!

    • 2020! I’ve missed you!
      Yes, Scrabble tile cufflinks with my initials are about as awesomesauce as I get. And that’s superduper awesomesauce.

      I get to go BY MYSELF and have a HOTEL ROOM TO MYSELF! Was gonna scrimp and try to find a roommate, but dang. Room of one’s own is pretty rare and worth its weight in useless conference marketing swag.

  3. Your autism post was AMAYYYYZINGGGG. I hope you feel pure love again, lots of hugs, kisses, hoots, and hollers… inappropriate or not, don’t care. You get them. Because I know you… you will give them out. You don’t hog hugs and kisses and cheers… they go through you to another person.

    Know what you need? A bodysuit. Acid jean shorts. *Jelly shoes*. AMEN SISTER. Get down with your bad self.

    • Oh my word. You’ve called me kind and retro 80s in one breath, unicorn!

      Acid jean shorts.
      Hives.
      Jellies.
      Nostalgic hives.
      Bodysuit?
      Confused hives.

      I will get down with my bad self, mythical one. Maybe with glitter and stickers.

    • Thank you so much, Melissa. I really appreciate that you’re still reading after all these years (and all these kids!)
      Do, please let me know about the skort. I’ll wear anything, but letting my skort flag fly is always a bonus. ;-)

  4. I just wrote a wonderful cheering glittery comment and got “sorry, your comment could not be posted” so will keep it brief this time just in case. Chee, congrats, love, and admiration.

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