I went to this year’s Texas Conference for Women as a total novice. I had no real understanding of the scale or scope of the event. I just thought that less than $200 to hear Amal Clooney, Diane Von Furstenberg and Abby Wambach seemed like the deal of a lifetime. I wasn’t wrong.
The Texas Conference for Women is now in its 17th year. It is a one day event, packed with speakers, breakout sessions, one to one coaching opportunities, book signings, women-owned businesses and round table events. This year, over 7200 women and a few men descended on Austin’s Convention Center for this year’s event. The conference’s focus is on providing inspiration, motivation, education and skills for women, enabling them to grow their contribution to their community. This year’s theme was ‘The Power of Us: Amplify Your Voice.’
Looking around the convention center, one of the things that lifted my spirits was the sheer diversity of women in the building – there’s no ‘type’ of woman who attends this conference other than the type that’s curious, eager to learn and open to networking and supporting other women. The atmosphere is friendly and optimistic and despite the often serious nature of the presentations, light hearted and fun.
It’s taken me the better part of this week to even begin to process everything I learned about, was challenged by and inspired to explore further. Between the keynote speakers and the amazing breakout sessions and round table, my head was spinning in the best possible way by the end of the day and it hasn’t quite stopped yet.
However, here are my big takeaways from a truly memorable day…..
The power of one
One of the things about the expat spouse life is that you can often feel powerless. Himself and I don’t have a whole lot of say in when we will leave Texas or even where we will go next. Like everyone else in the US, we will have to live with the ramifications of the election results but we don’t have the right to vote.
It was two of perhaps the less well known speakers who reminded me that I too have the power to change the world. Both Annie E. Clark of End Rape on Campus and Linda Cliatt-Wayman reminded me that sometimes activism lies in the simplest things – as Clark says, sometimes activism is eating cereal with a friend who really needs you, sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘I believe you’. Cliatt-Wayman reminded me that telling someone you love them and you’re there for them is one of the most powerful things you can ever do.
No one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow but for expats, our uncertainty is a little more in your face. We could be asked to move tomorrow or in three years. There’s always a state of today’s life being a temporary one. Again, Cliatt-Wayman exhorted us to move ahead, even when the exact direction is uncertain or unclear – just move, don’t stand still, keep moving. A powerful reminder that doing something is always better than doing nothing – you never know what opportunities those moves will open up for you.
Life with intent
I hadn’t planned on going to Mallika Chopra’s session but reading the program on the day, I made a last minute decision to switch. I’m so glad that I did. Funny, engaging, honest and self-deprecating, Mallika’s presentation is still echoing around my head. She asked the really big questions – who am I? What do I want? And of equal importance, how do I serve? Mallika’s session went right to the heart of finding purpose in life, something that I think all of us struggle with from time to time and something that becoming an expat has exacerbated for me, with its inherent identity issues, constant change and career interruptions. She reinforced the need to listen to take responsibility for the kind of life you’re living and make changes based on focusing on intent. I still don’t have all the answers but I came away with a better sense of what questions to ask myself and permission for my life to be messy – a wonderful blessing!
To learn more about the Texas Conference for Women, visit www.txconferenceforwomen.org. I’m hoping I’m still in Texas for next year’s event!