Image credit: Matt Sylvestre

Sometime in May 2019, I walked off my SponsorshipX Toronto stage on top of the world.

My baby, the sponsorship marketing conference I had launched in 2005, was heading to Montpellier the following week for our first European event. We had just concluded an incredible event in Toronto partnered with Sick Kids with the inspiring theme Every Brand Has a Heart and entertaining sessions such as an interview with Andy King of Fyre Festival fame. France wasn’t the only destination on our minds as we concluded our TO event by announcing our 2020 lineup of events, including Vegas at the NFL Draft, Montreal in partnership with Athletics Canada, and Tokyo alongside the COC for the 2020 Olympics.

Forgive me if you feel my top-of-the-world comment was over the top. That is where I thought we were. 

I was hoping you could pause for a moment and consider this question. What was the worst of all the professional or work things you missed or lost during the pandemic? What was the program, promotion, or passion point you didn’t get to fulfill? You need to think carefully about this question through your 2019 lens. To consider it in hindsight will cloud it with situations during the pandemic that became situational lessons.

There is no question that the past few years have made me realize how challenging life is. Issues around mental health, work-life balance, diversity, and belonging that I somehow ignored have become persistent and meaningful. But unfortunately, it took the trauma of the situation to bring them to life. 

I feel like 2019 was so long ago. I was shocked at how emotional I was at the close of SponsorshipX Whistler a week ago. Writing these words brings back those feelings. It has been three years since my favourite time of year. Three years since, I have been able to host, serve, and commiserate with my industry pals. 

Three years. 

The mountains of Whistler called me, and it was an inspiring few days for me to be back among my peers. Nothing can compare to being together to share and support one another. If you were one of the strong seventy in Whistler, I would thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

I am a preparation freak, but I don’t think I did an outstanding job preparing myself for the moment of truth. I rehearsed my opening keynote and studied my Q&A notes, and researched mine—interview subjects. Even took time to deliberate over the flow of the event. But in all that prep, I did not once consider the emotional impact of stepping back on stage. 

I can’t lie. I am not at the top of the world. I am incredibly grateful to all who came to Whistler; I am excited to host more events. But a part of me is angry, and a part of me is confused.

The anger comes from missing out on those three years. The confused part of me questions why I am being so petty.

The pragmatic part of me says to hell with the past three years and the following three. If the pandemic has taught me anything, I should no longer look years down the road for personal fulfillment. But, no, we have zero clue what is around the corner. 

Perhaps the next thirty minutes of my life are a more helpful timeline to consider. The next half-hour may not be more controllable than the next three years, but we must enjoy today as tomorrow has never been more uncertain.

As the years have gone by, I am still learning.