Rebecca | November 18th, 2011 | careers, feature, inspiration, life list | 9 Comments »
As my life has taken a new direction this past year (in different and important ways), there have been several times when I felt starved for the types of deep, meaningful interaction with talented and smart people that happen in the creative world. The majority of my formative years as a professional writer were spent in the book business. In many ways, I realize now, I was spoiled by my position in publishing, and while I wish I could have stayed there, it has made my heart hurt to watch the industry flounder. I know that my friends and former colleagues are anxious and worried about its future; there is less fun and more trepidation. When I saw Maggie’s post announcing Camp Mighty, I told Robbie that I wanted to go. That I wanted both of us to go. Why, exactly, I wasn’t sure…yet. And he said, Let’s do it. Because he is awesome like that.
One question I wrestled with all weekend was, “Why am I here?” I am not a blogger (at least, not yet), and I haven’t put my full energy into this website (yet). But during the months leading up to the event and especially during our time at Camp Mighty, I felt compelled to be there. It felt right. I came to the tentative conclusion that I was there to figure out whether this is my community.
It is easy to feel comfortable around the types of people who attended Camp Mighty. Some attendees wrote about feeling nervous or timid, but I felt at ease almost immediately. Maybe that’s because I’m largely a newcomer to online publishing, and haven’t formed the impressions (or insecurities?) others seem to have about the blogging community. Maybe it’s because the roller coaster I’ve been on these past three years has forced me to develop some emotional intelligence–at work and in my personal life. I have arrived at the comforting realization that being nice* is the foremost important interpersonal quality because it establishes a tone for everything that follows, and if others can’t begin with or return that simple gesture, it’s more a reflection of their emotional state than mine. Happily, I met many, many nice people at Camp Mighty.
What I was most interested in at Camp Mighty was the idea of identifying and working toward goals. For the Mighty enterprise, that means creating a life list. I actually started writing my life list more than a year ago, when I needed to feel more in control of my destiny and excited about the future, and it has been a tremendously positive experience. But the list itself isn’t as important to me as the realization that I can grab life by the tail. Sometimes I can direct it, and sometimes I just have to ride along. I like to quote some of my favorite old ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt said “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” She also said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.” A big part of writing the life list and going to Camp Mighty, for many of us, was becoming empowered to improve the quality our lives, to change the things we can control, and to change our minds about what we can’t.
So, about Camp Mighty! It was cool. Period. I met people whose blogs I have been reading for upwards of 10 years (Heather and Jon Armstrong, Alice Bradley, Eden Kennedy) and others through personal connections with people in Milwaukee, like Amber Marlow Blatt who knows Tracy Apps (man, are they two peas in a pod or what?), Lisa Congdon, who knows Faythe Levine, and Stevie Koerner, who made one of my favorite pieces of jewelry and is only a train ride away in Chicago. I made new friends in Leslie, our team cheerleader, Jill, Anna, Erica, Alicia, and Jen and Chris, who are so smart and sincere and adorable together that you can tell they make the best kind of friends. People really do make it better.
I was inspired by the speakers, like musical artist Kenna, who realized that he was waiting to do something important until others had determined his importance, and took action by organizing the Summit on the Summit. And Evany, a content developer at Facebook who talked about being open to new experiences, and explained that part of her determination to have the best life for herself stemmed from the realization that as she gets older, she wants to lean into the best parts of herself, not the worst. And I was especially inspired by artist Lisa Congdon, whose personal reinvention involves consistently showing up for and supporting others in her circles.
Robbie and I had a ton of fun in Palm Springs. Our space costumes were a big success. We took time to participate in activities and also to just relax. (I don’t think I have ever spent so much time in a hot tub.) On Sunday, when most people headed home, we drove our rented Ford Fiesta to Joshua Tree National Park and spent the afternoon walking among the funky trees and climbing on the rock formations. It was a much-needed break from the everyday, especially as the days are getting darker and colder here in Wisconsin, and a chance to process what we had learned.
Camp Mighty made me think about what I want to do with this reinvention stuff, and mainly about how I want to frame it. When I talk to people about featuring their stories, they are intimidated by the word “reinvention.” They say, “Well, what I’m doing isn’t really that impressive” or “Maybe when I have met my goal, but it’s not reinvention, yet.” I realized that I need to find a better way of defining (or not defining?) reinvention. It is the mindset driving reinvention that I find most impressive, probably because it is such a new way of thinking for me.
I want to dig into that mentality and figure out what makes change possible, what has to click for someone to decide that the time is right–that the time is now–to make a change, of any magnitude. At the same time, I want to help people see that they are reinventing themselves, that what they are doing is significant and worthy of being shared. I think the next step will be reconfiguring this website to separate my own writing from the stories of reinvention. That way, I can say more on the side and let the reinventors shine. If you have ideas about how to do that, or can help, please get in touch.
So, by going to Camp Mighty, I was able to check a few things off the life list, at least partially:
Attend BlogHer and/or a Mighty Summit (Camp Mighty counts, I think)
Be more expressive, more jubilant (see: spacesuit)
62. Experience weightlessness (OH WAIT THEY LIED ABOUT THAT PART)
68. Participate in a service trip to an African nation (it’s a start; together, we raised more than $25,000 for charity: water, and Robbie and I raised about $1,100 of that ourselves)
Photograph the Yucca brevifolia of Joshua Tree National Park
And what’s really exciting is that I connected with people who want to help me achieve even more. And I want to help them. And very quickly it’s all one big, warm, fuzzy puppy pile.**
*To me, being nice means shedding insecurities and fear and being real, honest, and compassionate.
**I’m looking at you, Evany.
This is your flight crew, signing off. Peace out.