Monday, March 30, 2015

Because of CAMP: Amy Poehler, Late-Night Candy, and (Real) Selfie Sticks

 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 17_zpsihfplpbp.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 21_zpscyzgjz3i.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 2_zpsa8at0awe.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 1_zpsuefscoyb.jpg
 photo 2bf729fa-743a-470b-86e4-94119f0a3860_zpsf43bmqyf.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 6_zps0hs9zg6y.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 3_zps4xlkai9u.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 4_zpsm2jdwje1.jpg
 photo Campfire-by-Orchid-Grey_zpskmk1s9sn.gif
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 5_zpsheibqxeh.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 23_zpsuuqek8fu.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 8_zps2zmp5u1g.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 10_zpsodcskisg.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 12_zpsjbdxzeeg.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 18_zpsouibxaan.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 15_zpspdzggte7.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 7_zpsmfzxxpry.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 16_zps5mswqwgm.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 14_zpsbo1avbqn.jpg
 photo 10499170_699839650138322_144636647_n_zpsrwuk80iw.jpg
Liz, Megan, Jen, me, and Amy
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 13_zpsy13ru7fd.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 9_zpsrd5qd3w1.jpg
 photo TXSC part 02_zpst2f6oske.jpg
 photo OrchidGreyDancingGif_zps2ip5mbp3.gif
 photo 10549751_925320074198277_127552814_n_zpsgqpcmutv.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 20_zpsgayuh4oa.jpg
Who needs a selfie stick when you have an actual stick + a hair elastic?
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 19_zpse2mugw5j.jpg
 photo Orchid Grey TXSC CAMP 22_zpscohohjqn.jpg
 photo 11055527_1568957003363039_492825309_n_zps6qr25i7k.jpg
 photo Camp-gif-by-Orchid-Grey_zps5bzo45xc.gif
I went to an all-girls summer camp for nine glorious seasons. From the last day of the school year, the countdown would be on in anticipation of the month that I would soon be spending under tall pines in ages-old, much-graffiti-ed bunks, connecting with the other like-minded girls and young women from across the globe who descended upon those New Hampshire woods with equal enthusiasm. In a lot of ways, my blogging experience closely resembles that of camp: Throughout my years of blogging I've had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible women from around the world, and once a year -- typically -- we have the opportunity to convene and connect in real life, to learn from one another and share our experiences. It may not be a month of sleep-away camp, but to me it has always been the next best thing. Like camp, blogging allows us to check many of the harsh realities of our lives at the door... it doesn't matter if you're a weirdo and all the kids at school think so (hey-o!), at camp -- and in the blog world -- you'll find your people, and if you want to share those harsh realities? More power to you. Weirdos unite. Now let's make some lanyards.

It was fitting then, that the final installment of the Texas Style Council Conference be held at a Girl Scout camp in the Texas hill country. This year, TXSC would be CAMP-themed, standing for Create A Meaningful Experience, and it would be stripped of the many tenets of what we've come to expect from a traditional blogging conference. Gone were the seminars on how to monetize your site, no big-name celebrities would be sharing their style "secrets" with a disengaged crowed... shoes with high heels weren't even allowed (hallelujah). We were there to get back to the heart of it all, to learn from our peers, to share our stories, and grow the projects we are passionate about with integrity.

TXSC has been a favorite of mine from the get-go, and this was my fourth time attending. This conference always stood out to me, even when it focused on more traditional topics, simply because of the heart behind it. Founded by my dear friend Indiana -- who is a force I tell ya -- TXSC made blogging feel accessible, instead of a rat race of popularity and numbers. I always came away feeling inspired and lifted up by the other attendees and speakers -- that's the thing, I guess -- I learned just as much from the women attending as I did from those on stage. So this year, as much as I was saddened to know it was the final installment, the updated format just felt right. After meeting up with Jenni from the Digin at a hardware store, we drove out to Camp Texlake together, arriving a little later than the majority of campers. The kickoff keynote dinner was well underway when we arrived, with Jenny Lawson from The Bloggess on stage; I found a seat next to Melissa and commenced in being completely distracted by finding the faces of friends in the crowd. I was already hopped up on the high of FP's showcase from earlier in the day, and this pretty much tilted me over the edge of excitement into the territory of being annoying. Sorry, Jenni, I think I talked your ear off on that drive...

Just like the friendships I forged all those years ago at summer camp, it never ceases to amaze me how we can all just pick back up where we were, even after years of not seeing one another. Sure, the fact that we can read a near-daily account of each other's lives on the internet sure helps, but when you find your people, you find your people, and in the end it's those connections that have kept me coming back year after year. For many of us, our blogs "grew up" together, we went to meet-ups, were in the Delightful Dozen (little baby!) together, and leaned on one another for support and encouragement time after time. So it felt only fitting that I would be speaking with two of the closest friends I've made through blogging, Jen and Amy, on this very subject: SUPPORT.

On Saturday afternoon we convened with a small group of attendees to discuss the competition and comparison that often plagues the blogging world, and how we can extinguish that negativity to encourage growth in one another. My friendships with these two women are by far the closest I've made through blogging. We connected early, and sometimes it amazes me how much we've each grown and changed over the past few years, and that through it all we remained so close. My friendship with Jen was forged in the comments section of her blog, and we later connected over college admissions -- her being a high school art teacher and me being an admissions counselor for an art college in the same state. I later met Amy at a meet-up and eventually we'd come to work together at We've seen each other through marriages, babies, the start of new businesses, new jobs, multiples moves, successes, crises, celebrations, failures and achievements. Our lives have diverged in many ways, and looking back, there were plenty of opportunities for us to fall out of touch, or worse, fall into the pit of competition, comparison and judgement. Women are often unfairly pitted against one another, told that we need to be more beautiful, more successful, more desirable, prettier, thinner, heavier, better mothers, mothers in general... we see it everywhere. Screaming from the pages of magazines, across the internet, and occasionally in the comments sections of our own blogs. It is our choice to add to that noise and negativity. I'm not saying we shouldn't think critically -- for God's sake, please think critically and question the world! -- but it's not productive to tear each other down. Find the women or men that inspire you and lift you up, work together, encourage each other and collaborate. Amy Poehler said it best:

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

I came away from this conference feeling more inspired than I have in awhile, a feeling that I've been striving to hold on to for this past week. It saddens me when that spark inevitably fades. I met so many amazing people who are all striving to make their mark. I stayed up later than I have in --- possibly -- years, ate too much candy at 3 AM, and most mornings could be found double-fisting TOMS Roasting Co. coffee in the lodge, willing my eyes to open. I made new friends -- hi Megan! -- and met old friends for the first time. TXSC, I'm incredibly sorry to see you go, but I can not wait to see what comes in your place.

A huge thank you to Indiana for all that she's done to make TXSC possible for the past few years, to the wonderful folks at Tagspire for working with me (stay tuned for a post about this awesome new platform!), and to TOMS Roasting Co. for the excessive amount of coffee that I drank.