I headed down to DC on Sunday, for the OHS leadership institute. Of course, I love DC so much that I’d attend a drying-paint-watching institute, if it meant I also had a few days in the city. As always, it was a lovely (but at moments, trying) few days, both personally and professionally. Some highlights:
1)This institute had over 3000 people in attendance. 3000 people in the same space at the same time is awful, I don’t care how well people try to plan and map out logistics. It got underway at 9am Monday, and by 10am, whilst stuck in a stationary bottleneck of people, I started to rethink my decision to come. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being stuck in line. Oh, and peas. That’s two things. But I digress. And fetching lunch within a one mile radius of the hotel each day? Enough to want to put your head through a glass plate. Nonetheless, we got some great information and networking opportunities.
2)My colleague A and I visited the National Zoo, and it was a beautiful afternoon. We strolled, laughed, stared blankly into most of the exhibits wondering where the hell the animals were, and enjoyed the sunshine. Then we came upon the komodo dragon exhibit. Mind you, I’ve never seen one of these monsters before, but they are pretty much all of my worst nightmares come to life. I peered into his space, and saw a white object lying in the corner, in plain view of onlookers (most of whom were children under ten). We asked the volunteer, who was clearly doing this out of some sort of obligation (probation, community service, whathaveyou), what that was. “It’s a rabbit,” he replied. “Dead, of course.” Of course. I looked at A, knowing we were both thinking the same thing. “Oh God, I can’t watch this,” I said. “You have to, Jenn-it’s the circle of life,” she replied, her eyes fixed on the white mound. That’s when I saw the dragon moving towards its lunch. A little girl looked up at a woman standing nearby, and said, “What is that?” “A dead white rabbit,” the woman said, deadpan. The little girl looked at me with wide eyes. I shrugged. By now, Murphy (as I came to find out was the dragon’s name) was standing over the rabbit, and with one quick snatch and flick, it went down his throat, as the horrified kids watched. This all became too much for me, and now I was laughing, with tears down my face.
The dragon opened its mouth one last time, to fully swallow the animal, exposing two rabbit feet still visible in the back of its throat. My stomach churned, and felt like it was hurtling towards my throat. “Yahtzee,” I said, turning on my heel. “I’m done.” Forget the circle of life-science is fucking terrifying.
3)I had the opportunity to listen to Mark Shriver speak on Tuesday morning, while accepting an award in honor of his late father, Sargeant Shriver. Anyone who finds themselves in public service knows full well what huge contributions the Shriver family has made to the world. Anyway, listening to him speak, being in the same space (albeit a massive one) with him, I fully grasped what people mean by “Kennedy charm.” He commanded the attention of everyone in the room, and between the wit and hair and teeth and warm stories about his parents, I thought to myself, “That family was made for politics.” It was unreal. We also had the honor of listening to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton speak who at 93, has dedicated his life to the service of children and families (and still is!). I’ve rarely seen such joy and passion in someone when they speak of their work, and it’s clear that he’s had a fulfilling career and life. He also reminded us that he’s single. Ha!
All in all, a good few days. Met a lot of great people who are doing great work, and it definitely rejuvenated me. And of course, so did the red velvet cupcakes.