by Cachet Wells
Restless nights, busy days and some very anxious afternoons, this was the previsualized summary of my many feelings as the time drew near for my summer’s “Sleepless in Omaha” adventures.
One could say it was like that last day of summer dance merging with the excitement of the first day of school blues. It was almost like the developing of an amusement park super roller coaster ride with lots of highs and lows. Cruising past those curves of anticipation to expectation, from nervousness up and over through zealousness, downward spinning thoughts of “what should I pack?” and those upward bound lifts screamed, “Oh my! Now I’ve really over-packed!” At one point, I even said throw the whole suitcase away after weighing it for the third time. Can you imagine my dilemma?! It was just too much to fathom.
Between keeping up with registration deadlines, scheduled activities, check-ins and logins, I was definitely zooming around while getting geared up for all the convention festivities. Not quite positive which came first, sugarplum visions or those “Nightmare on Elm Street”-like clips that plagued my mind. I was determined to keep it all organized and in order. Yet suddenly thinking, “Is this the right time to go? The cost is increasingly mounting.” And lastly, the two people I love more than this world, my parents, had now tested positive and I was scheduled to leave in three weeks. Could this be a sign?
I was excited, yet not so excited because this was going to be my first flight, first time in Omaha and the very first in-person national convention for me. This convention trip was going to bring my virtual reality into a new space in such a huge way. For as much as I have traveled, I had never flown before, and I was unconsciously helping the universe come up with many reasons as to why this wasn’t the time to try it now.
However, some things you just know when you know, and I’d decided “if not now, when?” So off I went like the making of a great movie, traveling like Thelma and Louise, zipping fast and furious over highways through airports and across the friendly skies from Florida to Nebraska.
If you could just imagine, like data uploading to our devices, you can guess that my mind was racing. Thoughts scrambling of what to expect, will there be time to fit it all in, and of course the excitement of meeting all my new friends in person. Finally, the day arrives, and it’s wheels up from here. I’m on my way.
Touch down, I’m here safely. That wasn’t so bad, I thought to myself. And I was off and running from that moment on, from baggage claim to check-in. This was going to be a great convention. I sat in my room for a few short minutes to just soak it all in. I’ve traveled many places over this life, but I couldn’t believe it. I had actually gotten on a plane. Now this may be a norm for some or maybe even many, but for me it was my first. I’m always challenging myself, but this was something I knew I’d never put on my radar or bucket list. And I did it. Self-advocacy is always great when you exceed even the boundaries you set for yourself. Now it’s time to get going. Outlining the plan for attending the sessions, putting in my time to get some work done and carving out some good ol’ quality time to meet up with friends, and again I thought, “Will I be able to squeeze it all in?” Each day brought its own excitement and ambition of what I was to accomplish. Unpacking all the valuable information provided by sponsors, committees and special-interest affiliates made for some very noteworthy meetings. Every passageway, hallway and of course those elevator intermissions made for great breaks to engage with others and make new acquaintances along the way.
With so much going on from sites to sessions, tours to table talks, from mixers and mingling with more friends in the community made for a few sleepless nights in Omaha. Trying my best to make as many events as I could and get in a little me time in the hot tub was a surefire juggling act worth balancing. I would be remiss if I forgot to admit that as a foodie, Omaha did not let us down. Whether at the hotel cafe, bar, a neighboring restaurant after a stroll, the steakhouse a few blocks away or that delicious BBQ at Smoking Jay’s, we didn’t leave Omaha disappointed.
What a convention to remember and one for the books of ACB history! A wealth of experience and knowledge gained to be carried away and shared. Participating in the convention not only opened up an outlet for so many of us to connect and give back, but it has afforded me an up-close perspective about more of the foundation of this organization. I am reminded why I get involved, engaged and continue to advocate for blindness beyond the walls of my community. The many memories that have been acquired from my attendance and the ability to see democracy prevail through the ever-evolving inclusive actions and representation that allowed for the convention to be made available in a hybrid manner for those who were not able to be there. I do hereby declare and be it resolved that the mission set out to attend and be an active voice at the ACB national convention has been completed. Upon leaving sleepless in Omaha, I do decree that I shall rest until it’s time to do it again. Until the wheels lift to Schaumburg, Ill., when we can Zoom or sit together next year to see the credits roll in, well done, ACB leadership, membership and staff!