|Janssen paid for my travel expenses for the conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.|
I can't tell you how I heard about the HealtheVoices conference originally. On a regular basis, I have at least fourteen tabs open in my browser, so I am sure it was during my process of Googling a keyword like "HIV Advocate", "empower", or "health conference". I have been spending the majority of the year seeking for places where my voice can be heard and shared. This year I vowed to be more intentional in my actions for advocacy, my strides to better health and and finding balance in it all.
So, when I came across the link and realized I hadn't missed the open call cut off date, I got chills. I've had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Janssen on health before and knew that if they were behind this conference, it was legit in making online health advocates voices a priority. Then when I got accepted, I was overjoyed!
So, what did I experience while attending this conference? Well, I had a mind-blowing revelation (several actually), made additions to my HIV advocacy tribe, had an instant bond with approximately 100 people, developed a new found love for Twitter, and ways to resurrect my blog life as well as my social media presence...all in one weekend! But wait...there's more! I will highlight a memory from the conference as well as share information on my fellow conference attendees throughout the remainder of the year. Look for those posts to have the heading and hashtag #DeeplyRooted.
That was the theme of this year's conference. I was asked several times what it meant to me, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn't make the words come out right. Now, I think I can.
Deeply Rooted. In the sense of online health advocates and the role we play in the bettering of our communities as well as our own lives, it means to be connected in unmovable ways, so intertwined through our experiences that no storm can knock us over. I came to this meaning in a dream I had on night 2, literally of a palm tree in a storm. Palms are one of the strongest trees in creation and also my favorite for the very reason that when they are pushed through the winds of a storm, their roots become stronger, anchoring them to their foundation. They may bend, but they rarely break. I live in Florida and have seen several hurricanes, so I know. But that is the essence of Deeply Rooted and exactly what this conference meant for me. I saw groups of people solidified in what had to have been a lifelong bond through their health conditions. I saw individuals stand and challenge experts on the validity of a health advocates online presence without blinking an eye. I saw chronic pain sufferers smile through gripping flares of discomfort because they were getting recharged by the energy around them. I was strengthened by our collective voices and it was empowering.
A lot of us are advocating for a third year and I truly hope I get to go. I don't care where it is (maybe somewhere with palm trees?), I just want to be in the room with these amazing people one more time. There are not enough words to describe the unity in differences that I felt there. And the accommodations weren't too shabby either! Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel has the most considerate staff and amazing rooms with outstanding views!
This country girl was beside herself with the lights! And then to have dinner at the friendliest seafood place I have ever visited, Catch 35, was a great experience. I cannot wait to go back and see more of Chicago, thankful I have family there so I can make multiple trips!
So thank you again Janssen, Everyday Health and Tonic for this amazing experience! You all, rock!
Disclaimer: Janssen paid for my travel expenses for the conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.