This weekend I attended my third annual blogging conference, BritMums Live. If you are not a blogger, you may think this is going to be one of those boring posts about blogging, but it is not.
Well it is, but it’s not. If that makes sense…?
Ok, let me try to explain.
Essentially, we were all there to listen to expert speakers give us their personal tips and advice on how to build and improve our blogs. The agenda covered various areas of blogging including creative workshops on photography, writing and video; technical tutorials on wordpress & SEO; a social media crash course; sessions on finding your voice, working with brands and getting paid for it.
There was also the opportunity to pitch a book idea to a literary agent, hear Katie Piper’s incredibly powerful speech ‘Things Get Better’, and have your photo taken with THE Hedwig from the Harry Potter films.
But for me, it turned out not to really be about any of that.
So much has changed in my life since I attended BritMums last year.
But, this post is not about that either.
Well it is, but it’s not.
Bear with me.
In the last year, I have made more and more online friendships through this blog, through reading other parent blogs, and through social media.
Some of these people I have also met in person, and some of them I have not.
You may think online friendships can never mean as much as real life ones.
You would be wrong.
This weekend I hugged, kissed and locked arms with people I was meeting for the first time, but felt like I had known my whole life.
People who have followed my blog this past year came over to share their own stories with me. Some wanted to know if the Greek Godzilla is as funny in real life (yes) and others asked after my health. A few wanted to talk gluten-free, some commented on my shorter hair, and almost everyone mentioned wine.
I was so touched by the kindness and generosity of this amazing community that there were moments when I felt so completely overwhelmed, I had to stop and catch my breath.
A community that I originally only felt part of by default; but this weekend it totally stole my heart.
To close the conference, BritMums always ask a select group of bloggers to stand up and read a post out loud. As people stood up to share their happiest, funniest and most heartbreaking moments from the past year, I laughed and sobbed as though they were my own.
When it was time to honour Kerry, a fellow blogger who tragically passed away last year, I reached for more tissues.
Following a touching video tribute to this amazing woman, who I sadly never had the pleasure of meeting before she was taken from this world, one of her favourite songs – Firework by Katy Perry – was played. Within a few bars, people were up on their feet, and even though I had not known her personally, I stood up and belted that song out with the rest of them, and we all clapped and cried and held tightly onto the person next to us.
It was one of the saddest and most exhilarating experiences of my life.
These friendships all started online, but they could not be more real to me.
I came away feeling stronger, better, inspired, humbled and proud.
This community makes a difference. We are all a part of it and it is a part of us.
It is a part of me.
And, that’s what this post is about.
You can follow me on Twitter @grenglishblog, find me on Facebook, and on Pinterest as Grenglish