My first real visit back to Oakland

17 Aug

Last weekend was a milestone for me. Not only was it my first visit back to the Bay entirely spent in Oakland, but it was my one-year anniversary of being away and I was there to attend this huge conference that my old workplace puts on. A few things came up:

1. In a ballroom of 700 people, I easily knew 100 of them. People I like, have worked with, laughed with. Lots of hugging, lots of talking. No small feat for a hardcore introvert like me. I knew more people in that one room than I know in all of Southern California. Granted, it’s a national conference so people there were from all over the country, including Los Angeles (I actually may have been the only person from Orange County). But it was still an overwhelmingly wonderful feeling that made me miss Oakland and my work terribly.

2. I initially found myself comparing this conference with the previous one I helped lead. “I hate hotels.” “Sponsors weren’t thanked enough.” “Raffles are a waste of time” – then, “They should’ve kept the iPad” (the grand prize). Then I noticed what a fabulous job they were doing and how happy everyone was, and I stopped complaining. To be honest, they did a much better job than I would have. (Amazing work, everyone!)

3. People noticed how relaxed I looked. I came a bit late, wearing jeans and sandals, chatting with people, under no pressure to do or remember anything. Someone I’ve known for years said, “This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with you,” because I’m usually running around taking care of something. Regardless of how I feel about OC, I have to give it credit for allowing me to slow down.

4. It re-affirmed for me that I’m okay with letting it all go. I don’t mean the people – I hope to stay in touch for years to come. I don’t even mean the work – I hope to always be involved with social justice fundraising in some way. I mean the job, the role, the responsibilities, the recognition, the way I think things should be done. The organization is moving into a new and exciting phase that I couldn’t have managed. I knew 100 people, but there were 600 I didn’t. New faces, energy, and enthusiasm to bring ideas that would’ve never occurred to me. And I can bring what I know to my new job, where it is still needed.

At the very end of the conference, 20 of us gathered in a small room. It was a meeting for people who train and consult with the organization. Most of us had led workshops at the conference and many were heavily involved in making the conference happen. Amid much celebrating a job well done and the joy of camaraderie (and alcohol), we shared our hopes and ideas for our little network. Then it was over and we went our separate ways into the night.

Some of them I texted later that night. Others, I may not hear from for years. I may be called on to do something with the network, or I may not. The change is that I left that night feeling okay about it. About all of it.

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