My recent trip to Food Blogger Camp had me thinking about group outings. No two people view an experience the same way. For one, the trip might be remembered as a rich, in-depth photography workshop. For another, a surprising healing from the loss of a dear friend. For a third, it offered broader life lessons.

One reason I went to camp was for the chance to be a student. This is rare as a middle-aged person. In my professional life as a museum consultant, I am the presenter, the one in the front of the room with the PowerPoints. It’s a role I enjoy, and I love training. The down side is that I am not in the learning role as much as I’d like.

Elise Bauer at Food Blogger Camp

Photo by Sally Vargas. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

So it was exciting for me to go to camp, knowing that I was just beginning and could figuratively sit at the feet of some of the best food writers in the world. On the last day, I literally sat at the feet of Elise Bauer, but mainly because we were sharing a chaise lounge by the pool.

What is interesting about being a student later in life is how it challenges your ego. You are there to learn, there to say, “I don’t know.” As professionals, people interviewing for jobs… we never want to say we don’t know. We’ve been putting on a great façade for years, showing how polished and knowledgeable we are. So it’s humbling to sit down with experts who are there to tell you all the ways you could improve your blog, all the mistakes you’re making. They might not like your tag line or the darkness of the drop shadow on your header, things you have invested in.

It’s important to remember that those things, even decisions we have made that represent us, are not us.

It would have been difficult to have this experience as a twenty-five-year old. I was so easily crushed, so desirous of people’s approval. I suspect I might have curled up in a ball after thirty minutes of critique and cried Uncle.

But that’s why I had paid to be there. So I listened, took copious notes, appreciated their honest and varied perspectives, and watched my ego squirm a bit.

The great thing about meditating is that it makes you aware of your ego. And that helps keep Ms. Ego in check, so that you can have a breakthrough experience like I did at camp. Read part two here.