“What the hell am I doing here?”
That was the consistent question running through my head at the Dad 2.0 Summit.
And it was certainly worth asking when I found myself in the women’s restroom.
The restrooms at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort are decorated in a very neutral fashion. It was their overall blandness that probably led me to not realize the bathroom was sans-urinals. But, when my stomach started acting up in the middle of one of the sessions, I simply sought out a seat. After all, I’m accustomed to doing my best work in seclusion, where my thoughts are free to…. um, wander.
Introverts aren’t naturally attracted to conferences. Worse, I was an unknown introvert.
Dad 2.0 Summit was the guy-centric spinoff of Mom 2.0. This cross-pollination of blogging talent led to almost every attendee knowing one another. Everyone was already in the pool. I was arriving late to the party. Inappropriately dressed too.
I was surrounded by well-known bloggers, people with large followings who’ve written for big-name websites. Writers who’ve taken their families on sponsored vacations by well-known companies. People with mysterious screen names like “PetCobra” and “HomeAndUncool”. I chatted with Charlie, and actor in LA who’s carved his own niche with “How To Be A Dad” that is humming along with 89K + Twitter followers.
There wasn’t a moment I WASN’T terrified.
What the hell WAS I doing there?
With no aspirations on being a pro blogger, I went to Dad 2.0 Summit to learn about attracting attention to dad/parent projects (solution: good writing) and how dads are perceived in the media (somewhere between Homer Simpson and Cliff Huxtable). With an unknown web series as my calling card, I mingled with media folks, tested Xbox games and test drove a Honda CRV though a rainstorm of biblical proportions. Seriously. I think I saw Noah floating down to SXSW.
You learn quickly that nobody is in this for the money. While some bloggers are able to provide steady incomes, most maintain full-time “real jobs” or spread themselves over dozens of writing projects. There is no David Sedaris of dad bloggers. Like every industry, there are Rock Stars. Ours travel in vans rather than Gulfstreams.
So, if fortune and glory aren’t found in blogging, what were these dads doing here? What was this conference all about if it couldn’t offer success?
Turns out that success isn’t on everyone’s mind. Dads were driven here for a bigger purpose. To spread the word of the modern dad because they were modern dads themselves. The thread of fatherhood bound us all together. As difficult as it is to raise children (something I need major help with), this band of brothers (and sisters) use those roller coaster moments to find a career or hobby that fuels their soul. Expression, creation and personal fulfillment are our corner offices and executive washrooms.
We bonded over drinks and dedication. Driven to be exceptional fathers and fulfilled in our careers. These people, who before the conference were nothing more than names on a Twitter feed, were just like me.
Why was I there? I needed to know people like this existed.
As I balance starting my own production company and launching “Imagination Situation”, I struggle with the knowledge of that shrinking bank account. The cover letters that go ignored. The interviews that never pan out. Is this what a sane dad does? Risk so much for unproven ventures?
Dad 2.0 was founded on the unproven. A conference for dads and brands to get to know each other. It was a huge risk for founders Doug French and John Pacini to pull this off and it succeeded with flying colors. I’m indebted to those guys for giving me a ticket into the dad world. I’m thankful to the dads and moms, whom I only got to know a little while, for the camaraderie, knowledge and drinking stories.
It has taken me a few days to really realize the boost that Dad 2.0 Summit was for me. I’m doing the right thing. I’m not alone.
Thankfully, I was also alone in that women’s restroom.
Shortly after finding my seclusion, I soaked in my silent surroundings. “Hmm” I thought. “It’s kind of weird that this mens room has one of those feminine hygiene product disposal boxes. Must be in case a women accidentally wanders in here”. Or not.
Zip. Flush. Zoom.
I was out of there. No awkward meeting with the correct gender. No eye-contact with a surprised housekeeping employee. I escaped embarrassment. If only for today.
Dad 2.0 Summit introduced me to a strange new world… that of a person who knows who he is and what he’s doing. And, one that needs to keep his head up a little more often.