I have the best sister in the world. And here's why:
Caitlin paid for my entrance to the National Women's Bike Summit, hosted by Long Beach and the League of American Bicyclists.
Most people know how much I love bikes (short of getting it tattooed on me). I know that I want to integrate cycling into my life as much as possible and make a career of it. For the most part, nothing about bicycling and bicycles is lucrative; it's a good thing I have no desire to filthy-stinking-rich. I'd rather be rich in friends, family, and changing the community for the better. Which is why this Bike Summit was so important to me (and many of you had to hear about it for weeks leading up to it).
I've spent the better part of two years, trying to figure how I want cycling to play a role in my future. It's obvious that I want to always be able to ride my bike. But a career? I've come up with several possibilities: bicycle sales, bicycle mechanic, bicycle advocate, transportation planner, transportation consultant... the list goes on and on. If it has the word "bicycle" in it (not "bicycle thief"), I want to be a part of it.
This conference gave me the opportunity to listen to women in the bicycle community talk about their experiences and their hopes for the future of bikes in America. I heard from Leah Missbach Day, the co-founder of World Bicycle Relief, Ovarian Psycos, and several women who have made their way into the political arena, fighting for representation for both women and bikes. There were women from advocacy groups and cycling programs for low-income & women of color. There were racers and directors of local bike coalitions. There was even a mom of six who lives car-free with a seven passenger bicycle. Women are doing amazing things with bikes in the communities where they live and they were nothing short of inspiring.
It was hard to choose what seminars to sit in on. There were two break-out sessions, each with three panels to choose from. They all sounded so amazing, but I finally decided on Beyond Spandex, Toward Social Justice: Women Redefining the Movement (in which we talked about putting the emphasis on women and closing the gender gap) and Making Our Communities Work For Us; Women and the Political Process (in which we discussed the lack of female representation in the political arenas and what we can do to change that). Both sessions were beneficial to me in terms of personal development and career-searching. In the second session, one of the panelists is doing EXACTLY what I'm wanting to do. We talked after the session was over, exchanged information, and will continue our conversation on her research and the possibility of me picking up where she left off. Needless to say, I am giddy about all the networking I did and all the wonderful, amazing women I met today.
The conference was only one day, so tomorrow is going to be spent doing homework, seeing the area with Drew, my brother-in-law, and checking out an L.A. Galaxy game at night. Hopefully, I can get significant work done in the morning so I can enjoy the rest of the day and not stress about my return trip to Oakland on Saturday.
It's been 18 months since I was last in Los Angeles and for the most part, I'm not terribly fond of being here, but putting up with the region was BEYOND worth it.
This was the best birthday present. Ever.