Monday I wrote from my heart in a way that I haven’t really done before. Now I want to share where it came from.
Last weekend, I attended Podcasters Across Borders (PAB), a conference that has a slightly misleading name. It’s actually all about content.
No, that’s not entirely accurate.
I think PAB is more accurately described as a conference that is about content that connects. Content that builds relationships. Content that touches a need. These themes were carried through the entire conference this weekend. I came away inspired, uplifted, and even emotionally exhausted. I was not at all prepared for this experience and I think that was a good thing. Had I prepared, I think I would have guarded myself more and not felt what was happening quite so deeply and that would have been a shame.
I went prepared to work. Ipad and phone in hand, ready to take notes and tweet like crazy with my profound and highly insightful thoughts or quotes from speakers. I did a little of that, but it didn’t take long before the conference pulled me in so completely that I put my phone down, didn’t even bother taking my ipad out of my bag and just soaked it all in.
The result is that I honestly don’t remember exactly who said what that stuck with me but there was one session that affected me deeply and profoundly. But let me set the stage for you:
Friday night was the conference keynote where Scott Florence from Company of Fools shared the advice that we should try to fail. That sounds odd, and I may be putting words into his mouth, but I interpreted it as encouragement to jump in to something without planning it to the nth degree. It reminded me of a band director I had who always told us if we were going to make a mistake to make it a big one because they’re easier to hear and fix. People who make quiet mistakes and fly under the radar don’t get noticed and they rarely do great things. Scott’s keynote inspired me to get out and DO the things I’ve been talking about doing - to my family, my partner, and to myself.
While I walked away from Friday night feeling energized and inspired, Saturday morning I was pretty tired after staying up too late working, but I brightened up when I saw these as I was leaving my house:
The short walk from where Matt dropped me off to the NAC was gorgeous and I decided to take some pictures for Brandon, who got very upset as soon as I got out of the car.
All this picture taking was putting me into a lovely mindset for the day. It struck me as I was walking down the sidewalk running beside the NAC just how utterly gorgeous Ottawa was right then in that moment. (Yes, always, but right then it was spectacular.)
This gives you an idea of my hopefulness for the day - eagerness to learn and gain wisdom from others.
In truth, I had no clue what I was walking into would be more profound and emotional than I ever expected to experience in such a venue. Our kickoff speaker Saturday was a last-minute replacement because the scheduled speaker was unable to make it.
Jason Goldsmith drove two hours that morning from Montreal to join us in Ottawa and I forgot all about my disappointment at not hearing the original speaker as I realized that this was the speaker I needed to hear. Jason is father to Ellis. Ellis is autistic, which has presented challenges to their family. I suspect the communication challenges were the biggest of all. I would love to reiterate Jason’s story, but he does a much better job and what I got out of it was much more important than what was said.
You see, during this session, I was receiving a string of texts from Matt keeping me posted on Brandon. They went immediately back home and Brandon proceeded to meltdown for over an hour. Until this:
I’m sitting there listening to this amazing story, thinking about our own situation with Brandon and knowing that Matt is dealing with an inconsolable child. It was all too much. I was overwhelmed, emotional, at my limit. Just thinking about that hour and a half brings the tears back again. I think that Jason’s talk was host to the moment that I realized that this was real and not going away easily. At the same time, I felt hope that it would be okay, even if it was hard work to get the help Brandon needs.
If that was the start of the day, what would the rest bring?
Next up was a jolt from Robin Browne, who was eloquent and thought-provoking. He challenged us to think differently and look for the grey in life. To think, not strictly in black and white, but to realize there is more going on than we even realize. He tied in some racial commentary, noting that the first tablet built in Africa wasn’t deemed newsworthy. Yet, that really should be, shouldn’t it? The media thinks in black and white too.
By this time my head was swirling. I don’t even remember who came next. At some point, I talked to Jason, but after the first couple of speakers and because I consciously decided to focus on the speakers and not take notes, I have actually lost some of that day.
But after lunch…oh, that amazing lunch and creme brulee!…I was better. More focused. But not actually prepared to be so completely blown away by one of my lunch table mates. Brandon Wint…just, wow. The PAB video isn’t ready yet, but he spoke at TEDxOttawa and you can see the video here:
I could listen to Brandon Wint talk all day. The pictures he paints with words, spontaneously and unrehearsed, are beautiful, touching and profound. His love of poetry, love of life, love of his country…love of love…come through loud and clear through his art and his person.
You can see now why I say that PAB was about content that connects. In some way, shape or form, I connected with every single speaker and all the people I got to speak to that I shared this experience with. I wish I could share every little morsel with you, because it filled me up so completely.
At the end of the day, when all the speakers were done speaking, it’s an annual tradition to take a PAB family photo. So, we all filed outside to the steps of the NAC where, of course, we saw a young man portaging a pink canoe.
And, of course, he needed to be in our picture too. Because when you see a pink canoe walking down Elgin Street and you have a camera, you take a picture. Lots of them.
Meet Andy, new friend to PAB2012 attendees, simply because he had a pink canoe. Andy’s on a mission to raise awareness and funds for cancer. Clearly, he is not afraid of hard work. His journey started in Kingston, Ontario and he came up to Ottawa and now he’s heading back to Kingston and beyond - all the way to Windsor.
Carrying a very heavy canoe all the way.
Andy moved on, taking up his canoe and continuing on his journey.
That’s what the final PAB felt like - the start of a journey for me personally. The inspiration, the community, the thoughts swirling in my brain still after nearly a week. It was my first and my last trip to PAB, but I’ll never forget it.