Written by Tabitha Whissemore
I have a confession to make: I wasn’t super excited about attending the national meeting. It wasn’t the meeting itself—or the city of San Francisco—that bothered me. I was bogged down with work, I don’t enjoy air travel, and, honestly, I’m always a little intimidated attending the WNBA National Board Meeting. To be surrounded by such energetic, intelligent, and ambitious people leaves me feeling like a small fish in a very big pond.
I arrived in San Francisco tired and hungry—already a bad start. But everything changed when I entered the lovely little Grant Hotel and saw the San Francisco welcome committee. Surrounded by friendly faces, and weighed down with a bag of goodies, I was transformed from a weary traveler to an excited member of an elite group. (Okay—I was still weary, but I didn’t care as much.) Best of all, our first stop as a group was at a bookstore: City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.
When I told people I was going to San Francisco, they talked about all the usual tourist destinations: Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown. And those are great places, but I’ve always sought out independent bookstores while traveling. Being at City Lights calmed my anxiety and served as a reminder that I was in the company of my own kind—book lovers.
From there, we went to the Beat Museum. I never would have thought to go there on my own, but this gem of a landmark turned me on to the prolific Beat movement and the men and women who inspired future generations. I’d only been in San Francisco a few hours, but my horizons were already expanding.
And after a lovely Italian dinner at Mona Lisa’s, during which I had time to connect with old friends and make new friends, I was feeling confident that the weekend would truly be worthwhile.
It was, of course. The meetings, held in beautiful buildings in the Mission District, were filled with positive discussion on advancing WNBA’s mission, celebrating the centennial, and honoring the achievements of each chapter. I was left feeling reinvigorated and with great ideas to bring back to the Washington, DC, chapter.
It was the “networking” time, though, that really made the difference for me. The truth is, the DC chapter is struggling. Membership is down and engagement is low. Being able to speak one-on-one with people from other chapters and share our concerns and get new ideas is ultimately the most satisfying thing about the national board meeting. And it doesn’t hurt that we were usually enjoying great food and drink in a fun location while we talked, such as Utopia Café in Chinatown or Swiss Louis at Fisherman’s Wharf.
There was also time to just let loose. Where better to do that than the Tonga Room? On Saturday night, armed with fruity drinks, several of us pushed past the crowds and took to the dance floor. This was followed by more dancing—and a fantastic city view—at Top of the Mark.
One of the great things about San Francisco is how much there is to explore, and how easy it is to get around the city. During my down time, I walked up to Fisherman’s Wharf, exploring North Beach along the way. I sat in Union Square with coffee, mentally preparing for my day. And I spent an entire afternoon wandering around Golden Gate Park, walking from the Japanese Tea Garden to Ocean Beach.
While before I wasn’t overly excited to travel to San Francisco, now I certainly was not overly excited to leave. And I was certainly sad to say good-bye to the wonderful women of the WNBA. Thank you to the members of the San Francisco Chapter for welcoming me and making me feel like a part of something amazing.
Tabitha Whissemore is the president of the Washington, DC Chapter of WNBA. She is an editor and writer at the American Association of Community Colleges.