When I come to APA’s convention, I am a very organized psychologist. I have a set agenda. I know where I am going to be and what time I am going to get there. I have my laptop and cell phone fully charged and I am completely prepared to learn, network, discuss and do everything else you are suppose to do at a professional conference.
By the end of the day, I feel like a tornado has swept me up and spit me out back into my hotel room. I am sitting in the Fairmont Hotel and my hair is a mess, my feet hurt from walking, my agenda of symposiums/meetings to attend has grown significantly, and my laptop is currently hanging on at 18 percent battery life.
So what happened?
One of my favorite parts of convention is the pace. For me, convention feels like a mad scramble to get as much out of the day as I can with limited time as well as physical and emotional energy. Between going to events, running into colleagues and mentors, managing my own presentations, and just trying to figure out where I am going in the convention center/city, its easy to feel a blend of stimulus overload and exhaustion. Whenever I run in to someone, they ask me, “Are you going to this meeting or that symposium or their presentation?” Today alone, I have been invited to five to six additional events that somehow slipped passed me when I originally perused the agenda book. The pressure to support colleagues and friends takes a toll, especially when balancing it against taking time to breathe.
Yet, somehow even though it is strenuous … I still love it. Seeing old friends and learning about new psychological breakthroughs is reinvigorating. I endure, because there are certain moments that really make convention worthwhile. This blog is about some of these moments.
Today, I heard an APA board member discuss her feelings about the Hoffman report with a small group. She described the macro reaction she has observed from the larger membership as well as her own personal feelings. This resulted in a powerful blend of institutional knowledge and interpersonal connectedness. This allowed me to deinstutionalize my view of the APA and realize these are real people who are doing their best to manage this difficult time. It was very humanizing and humbling to observe.
I also got to take a walk with my former adviser, whom I have not seen since my dissertation defense. We reflected on our time working together and our new goals while furiously walking between meetings. Only at convention does a meaningful relationship get discussed while frantically trying to figure out which building your next presentation is in.
Finally, I was able to attend the Div. 17 governance meeting, where something truly special happened. I was able to watch one of the doctoral interns from my home site of Ohio State University – Counseling and Consultation Service win an award. Basak Kacar-Khamush won the Donald E. Super Fellowship Award for Outstanding Research in Vocational Psychology. Basak’s office has been two doors down for mine for the entire year. Seeing her receive this award filled me with a sense of pride as I reflected on her growth during internship.
When I look at convention as a whole, it is a mixed bag of exhaustion and happiness. Most important, despite my messed up hair and sore feet, it’s worth the time, money and energy to attend. The celebratory moments are memories I will cherish.