The 12th Annual Women’s Journey Conference is a gathering for women of all ages to energize our power, purpose and path.
This was my second year attending this conference. It’s always an uplifting and encouraging experience. I went with my sister, Joan, and we quickly got lost on the UCI campus where the event was being held. One of us was sooo sure she knew where she was going from her year-old memory of driving to the conference. Boy was she wrong, but fortunately we were still on time.
As we entered the UCI Student Center, we exchanged our tickets for wristbands that gave us entry into the conference and lunch. We then strolled through a gauntlet of vendors selling various products and services that promised to help the attendees “live your goddess life.” That basically meant hawking services geared toward women such as Esoteric Acupuncture (is there any other kind?) yoga therapy, personal protection products and consulting services.
When we realized that we had some time before the conference started—and we weren’t going to blow our hard earned coins on tie-dyed dresses or getting our chakras cleansed—we decided to blow them at Starbucks. A much more practical choice, don’t you think? After all, a good day always starts with a shot of caffeine. A good $6.50 later, we settled into our seats next to my mother-in-law who saved us prime spots.
Elizabeth Espinoza was our vivacious emcee for the event—a job she could no doubt accomplish in her sleep after years of reporting for CNN and KTLA News. She kept us interested and entertained in between each speaker. It felt great to be in the presence of so many accomplished, powerful and strong women who have faced adversity and pushed through to higher ground.
I became a fan of actress Meredith Baxter many moons ago when she was on the TV show “Family” in 1976. That was her first TV drama long before the show “Family Ties” came along, which she is most known for today. She was part of a mother/daughter panel where she shared her story about being in abusive relationships and how deeply that affected her daughter. She’s clearly a strong woman who learned how to live life on her own terms. I would like to have heard her speak about how her family now handles her marriage to a woman. That’s a very modern family that makes my bi-racial one seem like old news.
While the WJC was going on, there was a simultaneous conference happening in another room for girls between the ages of 8 through 18. Many of the speakers at the WJC gave a separate talk geared toward adolescent girls to encourage their development into confident and capable women. Knowing how much of a struggle the teen years are for most girls, I think any girl in OC could benefit from attending this conference. I plan on bringing my daughter next year.
There were two women in particular that stood out as speakers during the event. Carnie Wilson, the famous singer of the “Wilson Phillips” pop trio, spoke quite frankly about her rocky life path, filled with addiction, recovery, weight issues, relationship challenges and triumphs. I have so much respect for anyone who can look you in the eyes and candidly share their story. I found her to be refreshingly honest. Midway through the conference, a photographer stood on stage and took a picture of the audience. We were all holding up sheets of bright yellow copy paper with the phrase “Bring Back Our Girls!” written in red marker. It was an incredible statement of support for the young girls abducted in Nigeria. I don’t know if all of these statements floating through social media will make a difference, but it certainly feels like the right thing to do.
The keynote speaker was actress, writer and author, Nia Vardalos, who penned the autobiographical screenplay, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” She spoke about the difficulties she and other talented women have in breaking into the entertainment industry, when you don’t look like a typical ingénue or character actor. She had the room full of women (and a hand full of men) close to tears as she talked about her journey into motherhood through adoption.
As a blogger, I hope my ruminations about my journey as a woman in this challenging world resonate for my readers the way these WJC speakers inspired me. This conference reminded me of the truth that is worth remembering. We all have life stories to tell that can inspire other young women in our communities to strive to be their best selves.
For more information on the Women’s Journey Conference, please visit www.womensjourneyconference.com.
By Karen Fuller Beck