19 days to 50.
WDS was incredible this year. Last year there were 1,000 attendees, this year that tripled to 3,000 attendees. This made it more difficult to make deeper connections with people. I still connected with a lot of people I wouldn’t ordinarily have met, but last year I kept running into the same people to strengthen that connection, with 3,000 people this year that was pretty much impossible.
Gretchen Rubin was the keynote speaker in the morning. I’ve read her books and was really looking forward to her speech. She spoke a lot about truth. The most important thing is to discover the truth of who you are. Not what you hope to be or what you wish to be, but who you really are. Be yourself. Admit what you love. She is working on a new book and talked a lot about points from that book but I loved her focus on truth. Admitting your truth is really the first step in any transformation.
Two other speakers really made an impression on me today. The first was Tess Vigeland, a well known journalist from NPR who quit her fantastic dream job in the middle of her life without a back-up plan. I was captivated by her honesty about fear and her confusion and how it feels to go from being a powerful popular celebrity to a woman of a certain age struggling to figure out her next step. I heard from her the same thing I hear from a lot of people- that when it gets more painful NOT to change than it does to change- that is when people are forced to take action, even if that action leads to discomfort. My favorite quote from her-
Give yourself time to grieve when you leave.
Our performer this year was Steve Schalchlin. He is a musician who was literally dying of AIDS in the eighties when he miraculously won a drug lottery to get access to an experimental drug. It literally saved him from death. He has written a musical that has been playing in London. The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus joined him on stage to run through some of his songs. The whole theater was in tears. It was inspiring and achingly beautiful.
For some reason I left the conference in a bit of a funk. Last year I had a hotel room downtown to retreat to every once in awhile to take a break and recharge, this year I was non-stop engaged with other people and I think it was too much for me. Gary and I took a break for a couple glasses of wine before the big dance party and that helped center me. We made the tail end of the Bollywood dance party (so much fun) and stayed for a little of the Eighties dance party. After spending 3 days together in non-stop workshops and seminars it is amazing to see everyone let their hair down and have fun. I bet the last time most of those people really let loose and had that much fun (myself included) was too too long ago.
I booked my ticket for next year on the train ride back across the bridge . Can’t wait.