It seems that Pantheacon gives me writer’s block. My first year it took me three weeks to write about the convention. My second year I eventually gave up and wrote about something else instead. After this, my third Pantheacon, I spent two weeks waiting, typing and deleting, and then waiting again.


One reason is that I was mostly unaware of the racism that has been exposed and discussed on various blogs (like here, here, and here). And then, once I became aware, I felt at a loss as to if and how to respond. Yesterday John Halstead wrote a heartbreakingly raw and honest piece which captures every bit of my own process in words that I failed to find. I found myself reading it a second and third time as well as listening to the panel on Bringing Race to the Table.


The second reason is that I found myself in a different struggle, one that became very personal for me. Since this year's Brigid ritual, I have been reflecting on how I have been running from a calling I received two years ago. The word that I reluctantly pledged at my first Brigid ritual was 'leadership'. The very next day I was asked to lead a chocolate ceremony. I accepted, but over the following year, I often shrunk back. I found excuses, like the need to focus on my business - until the relationship with my business partner fell apart and we had to sell the business. I hid behind 'experts' who came into my community, only to wreak havoc before disappearing again. And then finally, a week before Pantheacon, I was presented with an incredible opportunity and a mountain of responsibility and I knew I had arrived at a crossroads.


And so my theme at this year’s Pantheacon was leadership. I started the convention with what I thought would be a lighthearted panel, The Good, The Bad, the Blogging, led by Angus McMahan, who never fails to make me laugh. My greatest takeaway was hearing both Niki Whiting of A Witch’s Ashram and John Halstead, The Allergic Pagan, talk about their faux pas. Last year I was called out for cultural appropriation and went through the humiliating process of canceling a ritual, apologizing to the group gathered, and visiting the POC suite to fess up. It made me want to hide under a mountain, never to lead anything again. But Leadership means making mistakes. As Cat Chapin-Bishop pointed out so eloquently concerning the recent blunder at calling out racism, Real Anti-racism Will Involve Mistakes. The panel took a heavy turn for me, and I was grateful for Jason Mankey’s comic relief and honesty, a welcome reminder to be kind toward myself and laugh more often (and maybe even allow myself to read the comments - every once in a while).


Another highlight was Turning the Wheel, a panel of young(ish) leaders in Paganism. The question that stuck with me was how we define and understand Pagan community outside of events. What would it look like for us to create stronger bonds and networks that we can rely on, even in times between festivals, conventions, and public rituals?


Shauna Aura Knight’s workshop on leadership reminded me again just how many mistakes I have made and will continue to make, way to keep me humble. But she also helped me see the skills I have and am invited to contribute. Her teaching was the perfect balance of power and compassion, honor and humility. I came away feeling encouraged and empowered and grateful for so much wisdom in our community.


And then I took my enthusiasm for supporting young leaders and went with it and ran head first into a wall. I had been looking forward to an event listing which I thought would be an interactive collaboration for the 2015 Parliament of World Religions. Interfaith work is near and dear to my heart, and I am excited that there will be many young Pagans at the Parliament this year. At the event, however, I was the youngest person in the room, by a couple of decades. The presentation - for it was a presentation, not a dialogue - focused on the history of the Parliament. It seemed like almost everyone in the room had been to past Parliaments and there were frequent interjections of “oh, remember so-and-so was there!” and “wasn’t that the one where this-and-that happened?”. I felt alienated and began to wonder if everyone else already knew each other. I hadn’t expected to walk into a Parliament veteran reunion party.


When the presenter finally arrived at the 2015 parliament we were already 15 minutes overtime and I had to leave soon. I raised my hand and asked about networking for newcomers and especially young people. I was told that there was a Facebook group. When I said that I was looking for a way for young people to help out and be involved, I was told that there was no need to worry, the Parliament had programming for youth. It took me a moment to understand the answer, and when I spoke up again I was cut off and the presentation continued until I needed to leave.


My initial response was the one to which I was conditioned by years of dis-empowerment. I walked away feeling dejected and depressed. Pointless, I thought, until I remembered what Alley Valkyrie had said on the young leader’s panel. What do you do when you run into a brick wall? You keep banging your head against it. You don’t give up! We can’t afford ageism and alienation any longer.


So this was the decisive moment for me. I chose to walk away from dejection and depression and into my power. I chose to take a stand and do my part in creating Pagan Visions for the Future. I chose to commit to this community through service. And I chose to fully embrace Brigid's call and wear the mantle of leadership.


I respect our elders and seek to learn from them. I am grateful for all the battles they fought, the roads they paved for us, and the foundations they laid. And I now understand that it is time for me and for us, the younger generations, to step up, to walk upon these paved roads, and to build upon these foundations.