In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gail taught us that "there is no place like home."
However, it was only by first running away that she could truly value "home." Recently, a very routine email from a special and wise friend, whom I'll call Lisa, led to my first (but not my last) episode of running away from home. "I am attending an awesome women's conference, Generation W in Jacksonville this week -- sorry that you can't be there to experience it," Lisa wrote to me. I immediately thought, "Sorry I can't be there? I can be there and I will! " Outside of the expense, there was absolutely no reason not to go. Less than 72 hours later, I found myself on a plane with Lisa, on my way to an event that I knew next to nothing about. I went on faith -- my friend Lisa is a very senior accomplished executive for a global financial services firm. If she was going and able to take time for herself, so could I. After all it was my birthday week, and for the first time, in a many years, I chose to give myself a birthday gift. Gloomy New York City spring straight to sunny Jacksonville, Florida. As I sat on the plane while waiting to take off, I listened to the familiar drone of the flight attendant, and it was as if I had never heard those words before. The reason began to crystalize. "Put on your oxygen mask first so that you can assist others," admonished the flight attendant. The first "ah ha" moment occurred before the plane even left the ground. I closed my computer, and I closed my eyes. I could finally breathe. I needed a refreshing respite from the daily routine of parenting while running a small business, as both jobs are 24/7. I needed to run away from responsibility and take care of myself for a change. Commonly, women become caretakers of others yet neglect themselves.
Imagine my surprise when one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, gave a talk centered around women's health (both physical and mental) and to my surprise (and Lisa's) she emphasized "running away" as one of her key takeaways. She recounted a story when her mother had asked her father "for permission" to attend an artist's conference, then forbade her. Ignoring that, Nancy Snyderman's mother "ran away" from her four kids and husband. When they went to the airport to pick her up, they barely recognized their renewed, refreshed mother. Nancy learned the value of a respite. Naturally, Nancy had her own story about how she ran away as well with friends to hike and drink champagne. Unbelievably, I had to come to Jacksonville, Florida, of all places,to attend Generation W. I winked at my friend Lisa while we listened to this inspirational talk. Instinctively, Lisa and I had "run away." We sat among 900 other runaway women.
As I looked around the room at female athletes, entertainers, students, housewives, executives, military, I wondered where did the inspiration for Generation W come from? What sort of woman could create such an event that had great impact and was important enough to draw 900 women to Jacksonville, Florida? Enter Donna Orender --the Wizard of Oz. Donna Orender is the woman behind the curtain-imagining this event and then making it possible.
Donna Orender is no ordinary woman. From a young age, she had always been a standout. She was an outstanding college athlete and lettered in five sports in high school. She went on to play in the Women's Pro Basketball League for three seasons (an All-star, no less) and eventually became president of the WNBA. In fact, Donna also had her own story of "running away." With the support of her amazing husband, MG Orender -- former PGA president -- Donna commuted from Jacksonville to New York City where she was commissioner of the WNBA, a job that would be impossible to do from Jacksonville. In a complete turnabout from the days of Nancy Snyderman's mother, Donna's husband MG Orender encouraged her to run away back to New York City and fulfill her dream. He minded the children and more while she commuted back and forth. After many accomplishments and advancing the cause of women and sports, she returned full-time to Florida and pivoted toward Generation-W. Why was this event and this movement so powerful? I am just guessing that Donna learned how to be a team player vis-a-vis basketball. Skills which are truly important to building a team that could execute on an event that would impact so many women in so many ways. One of the other important lessons that I learned from Generation W and Donna was how women must be team players and team captains at different times of their lives. Sometimes they must lead and follow. Of note: both Lisa and Donna are amazing women who can both lead and follow. Whether they are leaning in, giving back, or juggling between parenting, careers, and passions, they are Generation W. And it was through their actions that I learned the importance of women taking care of themselves by giving themselves the gift of "time-out."
After my positive experience, I would encourage everyone to consider running away even if it's close to home , just as long as it's away from your old routine. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity in Jacksonville sunshine listening to inspirational talks from women of all walks of life. Here is a link to some of the Generation W sessions which you can view right now without going to Jacksonville: Gen W Video Wall
Hey Lisa and Donna, go check your inboxes...
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