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“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”

Here we went! And what a return it was. And though it was not quite as dramatic as the quote drawn from the Siege of Harfleur scene in William Shakespeare’s Henry V, our return to the Pension Real Estate Association’s 31st Annual Institutional Investor Conference in Chicago last week was indeed triumphant.

As I alluded to in last week’s blog about the excitement and potential pitfalls in a full-scale engagement with seven hundred-ish other people indoors, the event is now on the books and brought more joy than one could’ve have expected.

While also overcoming yet another “people hangover”, there was a sense of being overloaded on many sensory levels having not been around this many people in nearly two years. Overall, it was a terrific reentry, and these are a couple of my takeaways from the experience.

First, we were truly untethered from our immediate surroundings. Although many of us have been venturing out for in person meetings and gatherings, this was BIG! And having the ability and the pleasure of being around so many people was wonderful. Of course, I heard so many people say, “Wow, I’m out of practice,” or “I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for so many years I never realized the toll it takes on me,” along with many other statements in a similar vein.

Second, we were mostly unmasked. And for those who chose to wear masks, this is very well understood and respected because we all have reasons that are personal. However, it was kind of amazing to see so many faces at once that I actually had some trouble recognizing and processing so many people that I know so well. Having only seen these individuals on screens, I'd forgotten the contours and features of faces in 3-D. Though, it was fun to reengage and reconnect that it did get easier over the two and half days.

Finally, we seemed unafraid to get back into the rhythm and flow of being together again. And that’s was the most rewarding part of the entire conference in that all of the barriers brought upon us over the past 20 months vanished.

There is no need go into any predictions about what future events will look like because we’re still going through the process of figuring it out. However, it was wonderful to be part of this very big group hug.

And to find our way back to Henry V please indulge me when I quote the play once more time with, “'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers (and sisters)'. And luckily, we had this moment in Chicago to band together again.


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