On January 30, 2020, I boarded Southwest flight 1713 from Las Vegas to Austin. I woke up with an empty feeling. I always got this feeling as an Affiliate Summit ended, and I knew it would be a while before I saw all of these people that I’ve come to know and love. I missed them already.
The night before, there was a beautiful sendoff at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill with so many friends who became family in the time since Missy Ward and I started Affiliate Summit in 2003. My heart was full from that night, but there was a feeling of sadness as I thought about how some of these people wouldn’t be in NYC for Affiliate Summit East 2020.
It hit me that I may well never see some of these people again. But I found solace in knowing I would still see a bunch of others.
Well, that plan got COVID-19’d, didn’t it?
That expected closure after this 17-year journey wasn’t meant to be, and I still have a lot of unspent hugs to give out at some future time and location.
In the meantime, I smile about all of the shared struggles and successes and experiences across 50 Affiliate Summit events on three continents. The late nights and early mornings. I never did come down with “conference crud” like so many of you, unless it was just a really bad hangover all of this time.
Building Affiliate Summit with Missy and all of you was the best thing I’ve ever done. All of you! We certainly didn’t get here alone. We never could have. From the very start, there were great people helping us stuff bags, carry boxes, and spread the word.
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So many people spoke and wrote words, shared ideas, stood with us, and supported us through all of these times. When competitors came after us; the Great Recession hit; people were needed to speak out against legislation that would harm the industry… you were there. You always were. A great big, dysfunctional, beautiful family.
I wish I were going to see that family this July in New York City. There are so many little things that add up to a rich experience there each time.
I’ll miss stocking up on my Diet Dr. Peppers at Duane Reade, serendipitously meeting people in the Marriott Marquis smoking area, having drinks in the Broadway Lounge and the Playwright Celtic Pub around the corner, hanging out with people for the first time in a while, the hotel decked out with Affiliate Summit signs and banners and check-in booths, walking through the Meet Market before it opens and getting butterflies, confusing which side to go to for an up or down escalator, heading to the Copacabana for Affiliate Ball, late-night street meat, looking out the window from my room to Times Square, seeing all of the people excitedly doing business together, catching a Yankees game, and then the goodbyes.
So, I guess this is my goodbye. Actually, no. Let’s make this my “until I see you again.”
This anonymous quote really resonates with me right now… “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time, and nobody knew it.”
I miss y’all.