It has been a mighty busy few weeks around these parts and I'm right afraid that it won't ease up any time real soon.
(Did you read that with an old western accent? Try it again, it's super fun.)
Today is the first day that I feel like I have had any time at all to sort out my thoughts, and with a messy house, four neglected children, and work piling up all around me, my time feels stifled. Which is too bad. I have been wanting to really put some time into sorting out my thoughts and sharing them with you, Jennifer. (I attended a conference this week and they suggested naming your blog readers. I'm going with Jennifer. It was a toss up between Jennifer, Lindsay and Walter, but Jennifer won. I am not sure if they meant to literally name your readers, but it felt right in my heart.)
I went to girls' camp (a church camp like a scout camp but with girls [duh] and a nonsensical amount of decorations) in Moab, Utah as one of the adult leaders. My daughter was there. Being there together was one of those moments in your life that you can actually see a shift in a relationship. It was like she turned that switch on teenagers have that allowed her to see me as an embarrassment, where before I was a delightful and quirky mother. Now, among her peers and the older girls she respects so much, I am a plight on her social advancement and acceptance.
To which I say, "Get over it, sista!"
Oh Jennifer, why do our children grow up? I don't remember being this difficult to my mother, although I am sure that I was. Except I am sure that my adorable nature overshadowed all of my awkward teenage issues. Can I get a collective UGH from the parents of teenagers (and 12yo that act like teenagers)? And, I know it gets worse. Don't remind me.
At girls' camp, a family reunion, and a conference for bloggers and brands, I was slapped in the face with something that doesn't really enter my little carefully curated life all that much: POPULARITY.
I'm just going to come out and say it: popularity blows. It sucks. It blows AND sucks all at the same time, like only the very mystifying of concepts.
I saw popularity creep over the camp where those who were IN seemed unaware of the one person hanging around them that had the look of OUT all over her face. I heard it at the camp in the unimportant details of what car you got to drive in or what music was playing. I even had girls tell me that another leader was cooler than me and danced better than me, which was their way of trying to seem more valuable and popular. (By the way, I was never worried about my dance moves being challenged, never you worry.) I also saw popularity at the girls' camp include and uplift girls who were feeling left out or sad. There is hope for the popularity epidemic for the next generation. I'm kidding, there isn't. I just think we have some nice girls in our neighborhood. The rest of the next generation are filled with popularity-seeking goobers.
I even saw popularity at the family reunion. The popular opinion was the most credible opinion. Alan mentioned to me that sometimes when two groups of people are so similar, their minor differences are magnified and become a chasm where otherwise they'd be a crack in the sidewalk. I feel this way with my family sometimes.
And then there was Alt. Have you heard of Altitude Summit? It is a conference designed for bloggers and creatives, which totally is ME! I was able to attend for a day of Alt during a conference in SLC about 18 months ago. I wasn't prepared for the business cards, the fashion, and the networking. I was inspired, though, and really gave a push to my blog and work after that day of Alt in January 2013. When I heard that there was an Alt Conference opening up this summer in SLC, I was really geared up to attend. I felt like my blog has not been inspiring lately and was curious to figure out how to finally do something with it after 7 years.
Well, here's the thing. There were still great business cards, there was still fashion, and there was a lot of networking. But as I am mulling over my experience, I am left with a feeling of frustration. The POPULARS were glaringly obvious and I felt a visceral duality: they were so off-putting and yet I wanted to be part of them. Do you know what I am talking about, Jennifer? I was annoyed by the popular people at the conference; those that were walking around like everyone wanted to talk to them and DO for them. And then at the same time I thought, "Why am I not as important? I am equally amazing and adorable." It is really frustrating that I think EITHER of these things.
Ergo, popularity sucks AND blows.
The interesting part is that nobody wants to admit that they felt less than or frustrated by the sessions and speakers, because someday YOU might become popular and be asked to speak at Alt. Don't bite the hand that may some day feed you. Which I totally get. I don't want to be a jerk. Karma is totally real, Jennifer. But so are feelings of inadequacy and doubt. (Please note: I met some really rad people that I can't wait to meet up with again. It was a success in my book, but it was still a struggle.) One thing I learned loud and clear at Alt was that my own social media popularity defines my ability to be taken seriously, make money, or collaborate with others. So, if I am not popular, I need to change.
I have been on both sides of popularity. I have had the elation that comes from being noticed by someone of higher import than me as well as the feeling of being shunned. I have even been one that has noticed and shunned when put in that position. These are not great feelings, any of them. Which is why I wonder how we let it in our psyche at all. Why do we place ascending and descending value on people? I do it, you do it, my dog, Bowie, does it. I have no answer or suggestion here. It will always be.
I do know that my social media popularity does not make me happy. It might make me money. It might give me opportunities. It might have me feel important and respected. But I do know that what makes me happy is making sincere connections with people, my children and husband make me happy, being sarcastic makes me happy, learning and reading and finding creative outlets make me happy. I am happiest when I accept myself AS IS and do things because I want to feel healthier, smarter, kinder, more adjusted and NOT to do them just to be more accepted or loved by others.
Maybe that is my answer. Being popular in my own head and making decisions based on making my life and the life of those I love more fulfilled is the answer to all of this popularity bullcrap. And every time I feel inadequate next to those who seem more successful and liked than I am, I should tug on my ear, crinkle my nose, and try to be centered in my own awesomeness.
See, teenage Jennifer (and my own daughter who will probably have me tugging my ear and crinkling my nose thousands of times over the next six years), it doesn't get any easier. We all feel the struggles of the popularity hierarchy. You will in some way or another until you are 75. And then you just won't give a damn. Which is what we all keep trying to do anyway. Chin up, buttercup!