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  • erinschrode

Policy Conference and Expo West

I don’t want my life to be about wishing or wanting or waiting, rather about doing… and so I am DOING Policy Conference (!!) and Expo West (!!). Since my accident, the stress of what to do or when, where to go or how to choose, who to see and why has heretofore prevented me from ‘doing’ much of anything. Over these past six months, my rightful primary ‘doing’ has been healing, which is a herculean feat of the utmost importance in and of itself, I fully recognize. Nothing could or will be possible without concentrated time, effort and focus upon my physical, neurological and psychological recovery. Yet now that I am feeling some sustained progress on various health fronts and even sensing indicators of positive momentum, I feel trepidatiously ready to attempt to slowly add more into my life — and see how my body and brain respond without expectation or pressure.

There are two events in the next week which are treasured, meaningful pillars of my every year: Policy Conference in Washington DC and Expo West in Anaheim, California. And I have made the decision to at least make the effort to go, to be there, to show up at both. I am not speaking, presenting or holding formal involvement in either, nor do I have any set commitments on the ground whatsoever. This is not ‘work,’ rather a deliberate and conscious choice to rejoin spaces where I have been passionate, engaged and involved for years — for and with the people, the mission, the movements. I need it. I want it. And for many reasons that I have written about extensively and processed at length for myself, this feels right — not solely in the context of my own ongoing healing, recovery and reemergence, though I surely view its significance, but truly for the cause past/present/future, for the next generation rising to see what is possible, for my peers leading with deep dedication and bold innovation, for the older generations guiding the way fearlessly and tirelessly, for these tumultuous times for our society, politics, communities and earth, for continuity and strength of shared-purpose, diverse coalitions, common values and collective action.

I will only engage as feels doable and right, but the simple fact that I am making stress-free, entirely-flexible, openly-cancellable plans is monumental. I have reneged or backpedaled on countless plans and commitments since my accident, to the point of not even wanting or feeling ready to do so without fear of failure or inevitable apology. Yet here I am — sending and receiving texts (with dear friends I have known for well over a decade and those I see but once a year at these gatherings, though adore all the same), emailing one-time colleagues (who will hopefully be that in the not too distant future, when I am able to resume work down the line), even picking up the phone (when friends ring me who have heard the news or are curious if I am considering or simply to follow up on that phone-date which has long been discussed, though never fully-committed to on my part).

These events have always proven to be both anchors that reconnect with the rich ever-growing core of the people, businesses, organizations and agencies who drive campaigns and paradigm-shifting change AND sources of all-important sparks to reignite the fire within that propel and sustain me throughout the year personally and professionally. The atmosphere is infectious and has consistently resulted in wholly positive experiences for me, ones for which I have never wished for more than right now, in the context of my own journey, our country and this world. But honestly, I am somewhat terrified to put myself out there like this. I cannot possibly know how my body and mind will handle being in halls with tens of thousands of people or seeing hundreds of people who I know and who know me (dear friends and strangers alike), when I haven’t even seen best friends and inner circles post-accident. I also don’t want anyone to feel the need to make special accommodations for me, but I actually think that because people will be so busy with the agendas and sessions, workloads and catchups, meetings and booths, I will refreshingly not be top of mind at all — and thus, able to just blend and be present.

I want to absorb information, soak up the undeniably powerful energy in the room, connect to and commune with phenomenal individuals, and give and receive gentle hugs. I don’t believe there is any overlap between the conference in DC and the convention in California, i.e. not one other person I know who will be at both (as my fellow geek of a best friend says: I represent that tiny sliver in the Venn diagram), which means I get to see two different sets of people I adore, gain inspiration on two separate topics dear to my heart, get updates on current happenings in two distinct spheres, and begin to again feel a part of two thriving movements I hold dear — intrinsic to my identity, soul and purpose, as well as outward endeavors, professional happenings, and lifelong pursuits as an environmentalist and a Jew. I’ve been missing and longing for much throughout seemingly endless, complex, tumultuous recovery, and being surrounded by these trusted, supportive communities is high on that list. I didn’t expect to be together again in person this soon and haven’t the slightest clue what either event will look like this year, how I will react to finding myself back amid worlds I once knew, or what the experiences will represent, but am truly proud to say that I will be there — with and for you and us.


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