Well I’m back now from Ottawa. It was an incredible experience for me that I doubt I’ll forget anytime soon, mostly because it was one of those moments in your life where you feel a tremendous sense of belonging, but also a kind of loss at the same time.
The story goes I went back to withinsight this weekend. For those of you don’t know, withinsight was a conference I was deeply involved in when I was at Queen’s. I was on the executive in 2001 and 2002; the conference underwent a series of changes around that time that basically saw it grow into an annual, ultra-successful event. At the time, the conference’s transformation in 2002 was done largely to promote greater awareness of the event among students, sponsors and the like. Today, it’s been four consecutive years of an annual conference. It’s now a huge event, has tonnes of students attending from coast-to-coast and a huge executive team.
I spoke at the conference’s grand finale at the Canadian War Museum Saturday night. In front of at least 200 people, I gave a speech on Dean Silverman, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science who’s completing his term as Dean at the end of this academic year. He’s been instrumental in supporting the conference (and myself) over the years, so I gave it my all in telling students why he’s so important to withinsight.
It was a very special moment.
I sat with current executive team members at dinner Saturday night. It was like looking into a rearview mirror of my mind’s eye; I can vividly remember what it was like to organize an event of that scale only four years ago. These students are amazing.
After the speeches were done, Lesley Krieger, Eileen’s mother, came up to speak to give the Eileen Krieger Award to the delegate who best exemplifies the spirit of withinsight. It was a powerful moment. All the memories of October 3rd, 2003, came rushing back very quickly. It was that day the tree dedication happened at Queen’s and I gave the speech that still sticks out in my mind as one of those turning point moments in my life so far.
The 2006 executive were great. Truly great. For the final picture, they insisted I join them in the group photo. At that moment, I had a profound realization.
I know withinsight isn’t my conference anymore. I recognized that years ago, but there’s a broader withinsight alumni group at play now, an extended withinsight family as it were. This conference is special, not because it’s a bunch of students sitting around talking about policy. It’s about learning from each other, trying to become better people and leaders.
After the photo was over, I felt a tremendous connection to my fellow executive members and the current team. I felt at peace, a great sense of belonging.
On the other hand, there’s a great sense of loss. I’m happy these days, working in journalism and loving my job. I’m good at what I do and I have to thank organizations like withinsight for helping me see a side of myself I never knew I had. But it’s like anything you have a strong attachment to: letting go is hard, and when you do let go, it hurts. On the train today coming home, I thought about the conference and the memories, realizing that for those moments I had with withinsight, I have such special memories because it was such a great event. But that’s all they are now, memories. It’s not my conference anymore, and being an alumnus, coming back to speak, means you’ve changed again without even knowing it.
Withinsight is truly special. Thank you guys. I’ll miss you.