I confidently stride into the ballroom of the San Francisco Hilton, ready and anxious to learn more about my new role as a publicly elected board member. As I take my seat among a thousand plus participants for the breakfast key-note, I place my venti awake soy tea misto on the table, pull my iPhone out of my purse and scope out my fellow trustees. On the the screen above the stage scrolls a list of trustees who have…died (yes, I emphasize and question the word “died” in my head) since the conference last year. Since LAST year?! I ask myself.
It is 200 names long.
I start to feel a little shifty in my folding chair when the cantankerous man of 85 sitting next to me elbows me in the side. “You see that up there Miss?” I nod my head…”take a look around, you gonna be here in 30 years cuz I sure as hell know the rest of us ain’t.”
So it begins…the light bulb moment that was so obvious, yet somehow not. Simple while complex. A new filter through which to examine my role as a professional in the non-profit and public sector, new lenses to view my values and a litany of questions for which there are no clear answers.
I am a blonde…quite literally surrounded by a sea of grey hairs. Those boomers and traditionalists who have built the industry to which I have chosen to dedicate my professional life are all around me and even they understand that a transition is inevitable. In fact, it is already here.
So I ask myself, why am I one of only five people under the age of fifty in a conference ballroom of over a thousand attendees? What the hell have I gotten myself into?