I traveled to NYC recently for the annual BlogHer convention. This is one of my favorite conventions to attend, and this year’s line-up delivered even more than expected. BlogHer recently merged with SheKnows Media, which has a motto of “women inspiring women”, to form one powerhouse unit. I recommend anyone in media, marketing, writing, tech, blogging, editing, non-profit, sponsorship, freelance and promotion to attend if your budget and schedule allows. It’s worth it.
It’s difficult to describe how one feels when surrounded by thousands of women who share the same vision as you. Everyone there was on a mission to not only better themselves, but to help others. At times, it was hard to control my emotions. I felt tears muster up in the corner of my eyes on more than one occasion. The tears were in response to feelings of pride, empowerment, and in some cases, sadness. Many stories were shared, an abundance of advice was given, and partnerships and friendships were made. With each session, I left feeling inspired to do more, to always try and lead by example, and prove that women really can do what ever they set out to do.
Among the most influential speakers at BlogHer for me was Soledad O’Brien, the American broadcast journalist and philanthropist. Her few minutes on stage really touched me and inspired me to put a future goal in place. She told the story of her organization, The Starfish Media Group, which provides mentors and resources along with scholarship funds, to help young deserving people earn an education. The stories of the young ladies she’s helped really resonated with me.
I’m one of the lucky ones who did get a college education, and it was also in a time when college was expensive – but not yet out of reach. Like so many others, my parents were not financially able to cover tuition costs. I, however, was determined to get my degree. I started taking classes part-time in the Fall of 1996 and I didn’t graduate until May 2004. But, I graduated – better late than never. The only reason I was able to graduate was because I held several jobs and took out loans to cover any remaining costs. The money my parents could spare a month, was often the only way I ate or made my rent payments. It was a struggle, but my situation was cake in comparison to millions of others. As I sat there and listened to Soledad’s quest to help young women, I made my own goal to one day start a scholarship fund and award the gift of education to struggling youths who deserve a chance. Now I just need to make the money to do it. I will make it happen.
Christy Turlington also graced us with her presence. She enlightened us on the alarming statistics of the maternal mortality rate, which is on the rise in the U.S. In a country that has the ability to prevent these deaths, this pulled at my heartstrings. If you’d like to learn more or help women get prenatal care and know their options for maternal health, please visit Every Mother Counts and share this information with others. Merck for Mothers has also launched a program dedicated to ending maternal mortality. This a 10-year, $500 million initiative focused on improving the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth. Awareness is key, so spread the word.
These were just a few of the many pivotal moments I experienced during the convention, but the real magic happened in-between key-notes when I connected with hundreds of other women like me – the dreamers. We talked about life as mothers, career aspirations, how we can balance it all, but most importantly – how we could help each other. I made friendships I know will last a lifetime.
My overall takeaways and what I’d like to share with you is this:
When you surround yourself with inspirational people – you are able to drown out the noise. Noise like negativity, nay-sayers, and those who try to diminish your faith in yourself and your abilities. I know that I am someone who can make a difference – and so are you. Even if you can only help one person and that person is you, it’s a start. I am also someone who deserves success – and so are you. Lastly, I have a voice that can encourage and support other women and that’s exactly what I intend to use it for – and so should you.
In a world that perpetuates hate, we are the ones who can make a change by listening, sharing and giving. Words are powerful. Stories are powerful. Actions are powerful. When we listen – we grow. When we share – we inspire. When we give – we get. You have the power the make a difference.
“I still remember you as a little girl who overwaters plants because she doesn’t know when to stop giving.” – Trista Mateer
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