I’m sitting in a quaint kitchen in Orinda, a small town in the East Bay.  For the first time of the year, I feel the crisp chill of fall.  Around me, beautiful wooden cabinets, wooden table, wooden floors, a garden outside with native plants; blue jays and quails flit about.  My hosts offer me fresh figs from their backyard tree!  With appalling unluckiness, I have developed a case of laryngitis before the biggest conference of the year.  I sip licorice root tea and rest my voice.

Phil walks into the room in slippers and a plaid robe, holding the morning paper.  We chuckle that the Dreamforce conference made it to the front page, kicking out other headlines like women telling the truth.  I re-consider my chuckles, because none of this is funny.  Around me, the blessing of being hosted, the awareness of seasons changing, the sensuousness of fig and licorice.  I think of women in my life who have told the truth, and paid a bitter price for it.  Like changing the radio station during a commercial break, I direct my attention back to my exam study guide.  3 more hours of studying, then, breakfast with a friend.  We keep going.

Three years ago, I’m in the backseat, I can’t remember if Ryan or Lee are driving but I know it’s early winter.  I think we’re taking one of our countless trips to Trader Joe’s to stock up on almonds, goat cheese, tortilla chips, artichokes.  My job had just implemented this platform called Salesforce, but none of us really knew how to use it.  My supervisor suggested that I attend a weeklong training.  Never one to turn down training, I happily agreed.  My eyes widened when I learned of the sticker price for the training.  Me??? 

I confided in them during that drive, probably heading North on 22nd street in Lee’s old minivan.  I was nervous that I would hate it, that I wouldn’t learn enough, that I would let down my team, that expectations of me were about to change.  I remember feeling sheepish afterwards, because Ryan was under-employed and I was handed this opportunity that I didn’t know how to hold.  Ever a compassionate listener, Ryan encouraged me to attend the training and learn as much a I could.  I took their advice.  That December, I packed my knitting needles and shlepped out to King of Prussia.  Two years later, I earned a certification based on that course.

During my first Dreamforce (2016), Ryan was there to catch me.  It was utter chance that the dates fell at a time when they happened to be home, visiting their parents in the East Bay.  Together, we escaped the conference buzz, admiring storage solutions in the Container Store and visiting the Embarcadero.

I felt so anonymous at a conference where I had NO idea where I should be, no colleagues to catch up with from other organization, no strategy for what to attend, yet 200,000 attendees were supposed to be having the time of their lives.  I waited in line for an hour only to attend a session that wasn’t helpful.  I felt torn between workshops in two different hotels, and too tired to even get to either one.  I felt FOMO for the wild parties that I knew I didn’t even want to go to.  I felt confused, and a little lonely.  Lucky for me, friends and family were never far, and I visited Ryan, Ryan’s parents, Josie, William, Raf and Kathryn.

It’s been three years since I first logged into Salesforce, got into Ryan’s car, attended Admin training, and returned confused than ever.  And now, I’m sitting in Ryan’s childhood kitchen, passing emails back and forth about a grant deadline coming up this week, but this time, they’re in Philadelphia and I’m in Orinda.  Phil, Ryan’s dad, is preparing for a trip to do more field work on Mohave desert ground squirrels.  I’m taking a break from studying to write a quick blog post that was supposed to be about my Dreamforce goals but is actually about much more.

This Dreamforce, I feel so much more clarity about my purpose.  When I count my blessings, this one consistently tops the list.  I’m going to tackle Dreamforce with much more strategy and patience this time around.  I’m sure I will be surprised, I hope I will make new friends, I expect to learn quite a lot and solve very little.  My plan is to focus on one, solid event per day, orient my plan around getting there on time, and let myself wander or even get lost other times.  If the Admin meadow is anything like it was 2 years ago, I’ll try to complete all of the challenges.  I’ll probably visit the SFDO Lodge pretty much every day for fun and friends and I have some promising meetings set up with colleagues and consultants who I tremendously respect.  The Amplify breakfast is an absolute MUST.  I’m trying to fill out my collection of Salesforce plushies, so I’ll be easily incentivized to go anywhere or complete activities for a promised Astro, Cody, Blaze, or Einstein doll.  Hopefully, I’ll return home with another certification under my belt, too.

I’ll bookend this trip, that started with Ryan’s parents, with a visit to Sophie’s parents for Shabbat dinner.  I’M JUST SO LUCKY that another Philly friend happens to be “home” while I’m out in the Bay area!!  So here’s goal, above and beyond the Dreamforce hype, the swag, the wild abundance:  to stay grounded and connected to my people, who have consistently held me as I’ve taken first hesitant and then solid “trailblazing” steps into my career.


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