On October 27th 2013, my world was turned upside down. My mum, who was my rock, passed away quite unexpectedly. I had just started teacher’s college and was looking forward to sharing the joys and sorrows of my new career with the woman who had always pushed me to try new things and follow my heart. The last year has been hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be. I am immensely thankful for the support of friends both new and old, online and offline. Were it not for them, I don’t know how I would have managed. My best friend dropped everything and drove up when my dad called her and broke the news so that I wouldn’t have to hear it on my own. A close friend from public school and high school who I’d lost touch with came to the funeral. My classmates were phenomenal – the first week back was awkward because nobody knew what to say but they understood when I rushed out of a class in tears. My online community closed ranks around me and were there when I needed to vent and checked in on me if I’d been silent too long. I found a new online community as well – those who have lost someone close to them unexpectedly. We support each other through our ups and downs and celebrate the good times and try to make the bad times as short as possible. I can’t thank these people enough.
Grief changes everything. It is as if you are looking through the word through a mist. Some days you feel the fog is lifting but other days it obscures everything. I know mum wouldn’t have wanted me to stop my life, but some days it’s just so hard to find motivation to do anything. Routines bring comfort, I was back at school a week after mum died (mostly because my program demanded it), but some things brought back too many memories. It took a couple of months before I could return to my Pathfinder unit. Guiding was something special mum and I shared and while continuing in Guiding was what I wanted to do, the first time I put on my uniform I laid on my bed and cried for 2 hours.
I spent the last year trying to get back in the rhythm of every day life. I moved home after mum died, partly to help take care of dad who had lost his partner and best fried, but partly because I needed him to support me too. It hasn’t always been easy, but we have learned to lean on each other and take life one day at a time. I think we are getting closer to a ‘new normal’. I have battled the twin demons of depression and anxiety and while I’m not cured (nor will I ever be), I am having more good days than bad. I still miss mum every day, I still catch myself thinking “I should call her” when I get news, but I’m adjusting to life without her physical presence in my life.
Given all of that, I was surprised when I found myself entertaining the idea of going to BlissDom Canada. I’m not a social butterfly. I don’t like crowds of people when I know many of them. Interestingly, put me in front of a room full of strangers and I’m golden. I had no problem appearing on radio talk shows to talk about military history, hosting a podcast about Canadian Football, or lecturing to 400 students in an undergraduate class. Once I know more than 10% of the people though, I start getting really nervous and imagining all the things that could go wrong or all the stupid things I could say. It gets bad enough that I have broken out in hives at social gatherings. So why would I want to attend a social media and blogging conference where I would know many of the people either from real life or from social media? The answer is pretty clear – because mum would want me to. Mum always encouraged me to test my boundaries, to push myself out of my comfort zone and live life as fully as possible. She would see this conference as an amazing way to meet people, learn new skills, and have some fun. So I registered.
In the week since I registered, I’ve vacillated between excitement and dread. Financially, it was a stretch to afford the conference fee, but with the discount code from the Yummy Mummy Club and the Early Bird pricing, it was doable. I’m not sure about the hotel – I think it would be really good for me to stay over at the conference so that I don’t have the temptation to jump in the car and drive home, but it’s another expense and the thought of finding roommates brings up even more anxieties – what if nobody wants to be my roommate, what if nobody likes me, what if i make a fool of myself? – so I’m still debating that. I’m reading the posts in the Facebook groups, following the tweets, and reading the newsletters and website obsessively. I’m beginning to swing more towards excitement than dread but I’m still more nervous about this than anything I’ve done in recent memory.
The people I know who are going to BlissDom Canada are awesome. They are telling me how much fun I will have and how nobody will care if i need to escape out of the room for a few minutes to calm myself down. They tell me not to worry about what I wear but, of course, I do. I was never one of the cool kids. I was never what you would call fashionable. Clothes are something to be worn so that you don’t go around naked. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn heels. So I worry that I won’t fit in. I worry that I won’t know what to wear for the parties. I worry that I will be over dressed or under dressed or dressed in the wrong clothes. I worry that people won’t like me. I worry that people will decide I’m nowhere near as interesting as I appear to be online (which is pretty sad since I’m not all that interesting online!) and not want to talk to me. I worry that since I took the last year off from blogging (mostly because the thought of one more thing to do overwhelmed me – there are at least 15 posts that I started and never finished), I’m too out of the loop to be at a blogging conference. I worry I won’t have anything in common with the people I thought I knew.
Despite all of this, I’m still going. I have watched the tweets and posts from previous years with a twinge of envy. This year I won’t be reading the tweets and posts from home but from the conference itself. I’m not sure what to expect, I’m not sure I can get through it without a panic attack, but I am sure of one thing: Mum would have wanted me to go. So if you see me at BlissDom Canada with a look of terror in my eyes, come say hi. It’s not you, it’s me.