A few weeks ago, I attended the final (and my 3rd) Bloggers in Sin City. It took me awhile to find the time to write because while I was not at a loss for words, quite the contrary actually, I couldn’t quite articulate the uniqueness that is BiSC. I still didn’t articulate it all that well but oh that’s okay. Sorry in advance, it’s a long one. But I do tell a very personal story, so there’s that.
Bloggers in Sin City attendees are all bloggers. We like words. But no matter how vivid, articulate or descriptive we get when we recap BiSC, there really are no words that can fully justify or capture the magic of it all. BiSC is an experience. It is not a conference and it is more than just a weekend retreat in Vegas. It is something magical. It is a feeling. It is more than a tribe; it is a family.
It wasn’t until Sunday morning, as I got up to speak – or rather ugly cried - at the farewell brunch this year that I truly reflected on how my life has changed since I signed up for it 3(!) years ago. Never in my wildest dreams, did I anticipate how that one little weekend in 2011 would have affected the rest of my life.
Let’s back up for a quick story. When I was 12, I was a victim of bullying. Girls are evil as hell at that age and long story short, the so-called Cool Girls told me (cowardly in a letter!) that I wasn’t wanted and that I always invited myself places. And although I knew their claims weren’t true since I barely even hung out with them, my heart was broken and my self-esteem, self-worth and confidence were shattered. After that, I never went anywhere without an outright invitation, never felt like I belonged, questioned friendships, and always felt judged. I never felt safe enough to completely be myself. I’ve always been a giving-friendly-nurturing-motherly-save-the-world! (insert air fist pump here) person but it was the mean girls who everyone seemed to like. I thought I was the problem and that there was something wrong with me.
Fast-forward 16 years to 2011: 4 years out of college and I thought I was happy. I was living in Chicago, had a decent job (but not a career) and had a boyfriend who loved me. I had accepted my life as it was but was not challenging what it could be.
How I gathered the courage to ignore the 6th grade demons in my head and invite myself to go to Vegas, of all places, to meet 58+ complete strangers from the Internet, I’ll really never know. All I do know is that I knew in my gut that I needed to make Vegas happen.
And I’m so grateful I did – it was the turning point of where I began to find myself, to truly live and feel alive.
Year One Recap: For the first time, I felt apart of something and included and didn’t feel judged. I didn’t have to put on a façade to impress anyone. I was reminded what it felt like to laugh so hard your abs hurt. I was surrounded by positive people my age, who were following their dreams, starting their own businesses, writing books and living the life (and doing jobs) I didn’t even know existed. They were being themselves, living their passions and not just living their life on lather, rinse & repeat.
Unbeknownst to them, just by being themselves, they inspired me to look within myself to find my own passions and re-evaluate what I was doing with my life. Upon returning home, I was on an emotional high that I couldn’t shake. It was like those Claritin commercials where the fog is lifted and suddenly you see everything with a new perspective.
It was because of BiSCuit influence and friendships that I had become a stronger, more confident person. The friendships and support of my fellow BiSCuits gave me enough confidence, courage and strength to be able to leave the comfort of a steady relationship and face the single-world alone knowing that as long as I had my BiSCuits, I wasn’t actually alone. It was because of my new friends that I was able to get through my deepest darkest days. I got thoughtful emails, snail mail cards, and text messages of support and encouragement. Where others bailed, these new friends were my support system and were there for me when I needed it most; literally flying to my rescue and for that I am forever grateful.
Year Two Recap: It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Being with BiSCuits is cheaper than therapy.
I stayed out later and danced harder than I ever had before. I know I can’t dance to save my life, but I did anyway and no one judged me (that I know of). I felt safe. But when I returned home, it didn’t feel like home any more.
Year Three Jenn’s Recap: To be frank, despite having won the free trip, I knew I should be SUPER EXCITED but I just wasn’t. I think because while year two was fun, the first year was simply magical. But then I watched Almie’s 2012 video as I packed and suddenly, all the excitement came rushing back. While I didn’t have any massive revelations like I did in 2011, this was my favorite year. Not only was I much more laid back but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. As a third year veteran, I was giddy about meeting all the newbies, seeing bloggers who I hadn’t seen in years, and meeting my blog idols whose blogs I’d been reading for years but still had not yet met. Then on Saturday, a bunch of us went to H&M on whim. If you haven’t seen the summer line yet, it is hideous. So naturally, I thought it would be hilarious for us to do an impromptu ugly fashion show. It turned out to be one of my most cherished memories from the whole weekend.
Looking back over the last three years, I can’t help but be eternally grateful for the incredible people and experiences that BiSC has brought into my life.
I’ve always known who I was but wasn’t sure I’d be accepted. I didn’t feel comfortable being myself at all times. BiSC changed that. It gave me purpose and direction, hope and courage, strength and confidence. It lit a spark within me and pushed me to put my life in drive. It introduced me to the funniest, quirkiest, most real, creative, and genuine people I’ve ever met. You’ve all made me a better, happier, more fulfilled person. This group of driven, beautiful people helped me realize that I’m at a point in my life where I only care to surround myself with others like this; people who exude a positive energy, who inspire me to be a better person, who accept people for who they are without judgment, and who live their life by example.
You inspired me to pursue my own passions, to reach my potential, to be more confident in myself, to live life how I want, to take risks, to reach higher, dream bigger, to challenge what is there and to not settle for the status quo or the boring mundane and static life I had come to just accept. BiSC woke me from my daze, opened up my eyes and pushed me to hit a reset button on my life. I learned to listen to my inner voice and love myself for who I am. My mom used to call me her Love Bug but I hardened over time. Since BiSC, I have reclaimed the Love Bug in me. I am a more positive person and am more receptive to receiving and sharing love.
Because of this event, I did things I never thought I’d do. I went to a conference with strangers from the internet; asked a lady on stilts to pose with a Wheel of Tongues with me for competition just to win a contest; danced on the table tops at a Vegas club; experienced being VIPs: asked a BiSCuit to by my bridesmaid; went to a strip club and took our bottle of vodka with us and had some of the most real heart to heart talks. I got up and spoke without anything prepared, despite not liking public speaking; followed my dream of moving cross-country to live in a new city; started Social Impact Project; went to Africa to pursue my dream of volunteering abroad, and then climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I spent NYE ‘12 with BiSCuits and so much more.
Through friendships and experiences made through BiSC, I gained confidence and courage and became a stronger person. Without the friendships and support, I likely would not have had the courage to listen to my gut, to put myself first and walk away from a good relationship. Many people are afraid of ending relationships because of fear that they will hurt the other person or won’t meet anyone else. But you can’t live your life for others or be afraid that no one else is out there for you. Since BiSC introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise (from all over the world), it reinforced to me that I was going to be okay and that there are many more people out there that will cross paths with mine someday. I am so grateful for meeting people with all different life stories and backgrounds, all who have so much to share and contribute.
BiSC introduced me to my best friends, my people. People who get me, who make me feel welcomed and with whom I can be my self around. Maybe you are sparkles-and-glitter girl, maybe you’re not. Maybe you carry a Ken doll or make animals noises, maybe you don’t. Maybe you wear tutus and wigs or enjoy day drinking, or maybe that’s not your thing either. Whatever your thing is, you are encouraged to be your true authentic self and you are loved for it.
While we all laughed at “You had me at hello.” in Jerry McGuire, it really is a thing. In BiSClandia, your worlds instantly merge at hello and you suddenly you feel like long-lost friends, leaving you to wonder how you ever lived without them before. Perhaps we bond so quickly because we were all searching for new friends or because we all allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bare our souls for all to read on the Internet. Maybe not. Whatever the reason, something magical happens when you meet a fellow BiScuit and it is unlike any start to any other friendship.
BiSC even changed my career path. Seeing my friends doing what they loved pushed me to leave my comfortable dead-end job of 4 years. Because of my experience in Vegas and realizing the power of (online and IRL) relationships, I pursued a (short-lived) career in Digital Marketing, was inspired to start my own company and became a social media community manager. I later realized SEM wasn’t for me but it did help me land my current job, which probably wouldn’t have been possible if BiSC had not influenced me to try digital media in the first place. Going to a weekend in Vegas where you know NOBODY helped me reaffirm to myself that I am comfortable walking up to just about anyone and striking up a conversation. I am a natural networker and now I do that professionally.
This year, Jenn made a list of hilarious superlatives. I’ve never really thought much of superlatives probably because people never think to vote for me. I know it’s silly but seeing my name listed at all, let alone as a winner, makes me giddy like a little schoolgirl. I can’t help but be touched just knowing that someone thought of me when reading categories like “Most likely to be sorted into Hufflepuff” or “Most likely to change the world.” This makes me want to tell 12-year-old me to hang in there and know that eventually, I’ll be appreciated for who I am and to say, “Take that you stupid 6th grade mean girls!”
I’m not going to lie. All my insecurities have not just magically vanished. But thanks to my fellow BiSCuits, I’ve come a long way. While I still struggle with doubt, being excluded or inviting myself for plans with friends, I am a lot stronger than I was before. That 12 year-old girl still lives within me but my self-esteem, self-worth and confidence have grown significantly and I am a better, more fulfilled person because of you all. I don’t even hate young junior high girls. While being bullied scarred me and will live with me forever, it shaped me into who I am today and ultimately made me a stronger person and I’ve come to realize I like who I’ve become. 19 years later, BiSC has helped to heal my damaged heart. The love and support I’ve received has helped rebuild my self-esteem, self-worth and confidence that I thought were forever shattered.
Standing in front of the group at our farewell brunch I realized how different my life had become since I signed up for it 3 years ago. Now, I own who I am and am proud of it. I don’t know where I would be or what I would be doing today if I hadn’t ignored those 6th grade demons and invited myself to go that first weekend in 2011. My guess is that I would be married and living in Chicago, feeling lost and unsatisfied with friendships and that “What If” blows my mind.
I think the biggest lesson I learned (and I’ve learned a lot) is this: In order to have those experiences we all desire, you have to be willing to take risks, put yourself out there and not be afraid of the unknown. You might be surprised; where you thought was the edge of your comfort zone and what you were most afraid of might just be where you find yourself the most comfortable. What you thought you couldn’t handle may be where you feel most alive. Don’t be so afraid of taking chances that it stops you from living your life. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t. But if you don’t give it a shot, you’re no better off than you were yesterday and nothing will ever change. Yes, taking that first step can be terrifying but greatness and opportunity is on the other side. BE YOU. You’ll be happier and you’ll find that others accept you as you are when you accept yourself.
You never fail if you learn something. Don’t settle for just being content or scared of what might happen or what others think. There is only one of you and you are beautiful and meant to do wonderful things. Find faith and courage from within yourself to take that first step and know that you are not alone. No matter how big or small, any dream you have is possible, especially when you have 68 others who already believe in you.
I’ve seen people talk about “doing it wrong” or “being frauds” and that saddens me because that means we’ve lied to each other and ourselves at some point. This is the most authentic, loving, real & inspiring group of people I’ve ever met. No one is a fraud. Yes, we talk about all the glitter and sparkles and life changing experiences we get from this group. But I’d be lying if I said that I have never felt left out or doubted myself at some point during my weekends in Vegas. The thing is, when reflecting on it all, it’s not that I filter or lie, I choose to focus on all the positive ways BiSCuits have impacted my life. Because whether you have attended one or all five, it doesn’t matter. It works its magic on you and while what you take away from the weekend might be different than someone else, it doesn’t diminish your experience nor does it mean that you “did it wrong.” Maybe not yesterday or tomorrow, but one day you’ll realize while you weren’t looking, it crept in, and changed you, too. And you’ll look back and understand you can’t “do it wrong.” BiSC just happens to you.
While I know that BiSC is not 100% to blame, I do know this: my life is infinitely better and more complete because of the experiences and people I met from this event.
So lastly, thank you to all of you who are still reading and to whom I’ve met at BiSC over the past three years. Thank you for the best three weekends of my life. Just by being you, you have impacted my life and made it more complete. You have lit up my life and pushed me to realize my true potential, to feel comfortable being me. You are the most incredible, awesome, inspiring, and kind hearted group of people I’ve ever met. I am eternally grateful that you are in my life. While this is the end of our Vegas era, it’s not the end. I know it is just the beginning of our next chapter together.
And of course, I want to thank our sponsors for their generosity and support. This weekend wouldn’t be the same or as special without you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to: Gelaskins, Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, FredFlare, Vega, Cooper Tea Company, Craft to the Radio, QuirkBooks, Firmoo Sunglasses, KIND Healthy Snacks, Kevin Zraly & Sterling Books, Hail Merry Snacks, Moo Cards, HTC, CustomUSB, Stack Wines, and Lindsey Catarino.
All my vine videos combined:
Michelle, I posted this on youtube just so you can cross off your list, “Make a funny Youtube video”