I attended my first blogger conference eight years ago. I was a newbie blogger and one of only a dozen or so bloggers in the audience who was nearly 50. I was welcomed among crowds of "mommy bloggers" with babies in tow. Despite our age difference, I was smitten with the blogosphere. There was an energy, a vibe, a camaraderie. The only thing that was missing was my boomer tribe.
Bloggers at Midlife Conference
Fast forward to March 2015. Now, I'm excited to say that the blogosphere is filled with thousands of female boomer voices who are reinventing their life after 50 and sharing their journey online. I joined up with 100 of these super-talented women last weekend at the first-ever BAM: Bloggers at Midlife Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn. The conference was organized by Sharon Greenthal and Anne Parris from Midlife Boulevard, and their cohorts, Teresa Kindred, of Nanahood, and Beth Rosen from ChicagonistaLIVE.
Rockin' Older Girls' Network
After spending the past few years growing friendships on social media (a Facebook group includes 1,100 midlife bloggers, thanks to the efforts of Sharon and Anne), it felt like a class reunion when 100 of us got together in Nashville.
We chatted about our second careers as writers. Several spoke of books they had published, agents they had signed with and novels being edited. We showed great compassion for those who suffered through loss or illness: breast cancer, divorce, widowhood, parents with dementia and Alzheimer's, and other disabilities. We celebrated our midlife successes: children off to college and work, children getting married, grandparenthood, 25+ wedding anniversaries, travel adventures and many individual transformations.
"This has been a dream slumber party," said Teresa. "Anybody who thinks older women cannot rock it—they are not here." (We all cheered, especially since we were the lucky ones to make it through the bad snowstorm that kept other blogger friends stuck at home due to canceled flights.)
A Community of Collaboration and Connection
Many speakers connected with inspiring advice to help midlife women conquer their fears:
- Elisa Camahort Page, who started BlogHer when she was 41, said: "Don't not take a risk because you are afraid to fail. Ask yourself what's the worst that can happen? Make your fear concrete, not abstract. Nine times out of 10 it's not as bad as you think."
- Danyelle Little of The Cubicle Chick, who had a child at 18, said: "I had roadblocks. It fueled me to go forward. It took years for me to go through college. My son didn't know we were poor or cared that we were eating spaghetti every day. My son is now in college."
- Elaine Ambrose at Midlife Cabernet spoke about getting published online and in print: "Keep writing. Get a finger puppet and transfer your worries there." (I always buy finger puppets for new baby gifts. Think I will purchase one for myself.)
- Debbie Bookstaber of Element Associates reminded: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." (I do this often. How about you?)
- Martie Duncan, The Food Network Star and blogger, who drove all night to audition for The Food Network Star and won after cooking her food at a firehouse, encouraged: "We're all at that phase of life where we are transitioning. Let's don't go quietly. Kick the door down. Ain't nobody gonna tell me what I can't do."
- Pamela Lutrell from Over 50 Feeling 40 said: "I'm small with a big voice. Fake it till you make it." (Pamela features a weekly column on her blog called "I Matter," showcasing how women of a certain age make a difference.)
Heartwarming Midlife Hugs and Emotions
The conference closed on a powerful high. There were hugs from the heart as our virtual friends became real-life, in-person friends during the best-ever, first-ever gathering of Bloggers at Midlife.
"How do you know you are at midlife?" asked one of the attendees shortly before the last panel ended.
"If you don't think you are old yet, you are at midlife," said Sharon. No one argued with the answer.
Ooh, ooh, ooh. I have to add one last thing. It's about you. Yes, you dear readers. For there would be no Bloggers at Midlife if there were no brave and adventurous midlife women out there willing to read our work and comment on our stories.
As Sharon said: "It's about connecting with people on an emotional level. What we're saying makes a difference. When I hear a reader say, ‘You just said exactly what I am thinking,' it makes all the difference."
Special thanks to my readers. Your community means the world to me.