Appreciating the Diversity of Our Nation
I have been doing some traveling recently after a long stretch of local work. I used to travel all the time, but in the last few years it has been sporadically at best.
I have been to Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Raleigh in the last 3 weeks. Not a lot of travel compared to many, but enough for me to realize the distinctions of cultural differences. I grew up mostly in CT and spent many years in the North East. I went to school in Lynchburg, VA, but when you are 18, I am not sure you are really paying attention to the culture or friendliness of people. http://www.lynchburg.edu/
After college I went back to CT for about 5 years before leaving there permanently in 1991. Over 20 years ago, I left my state that I did most of my education from, the people I knew and my family and ventured out to upstate NY to a small little town called Norwich situated between the metropolises of Binghamton and Syracuse. I remember being struck by how friendly people were. We became “regulars” at the four or five eating establishments and merchants and business owners were grateful for your patronage. I was the Sales Training Manager for the business and covered the US and Canada. I got to travel and be immersed in all the major US regions, and really got a passion for local foods, dialects, norms and uniquenesses.
A few years after that in 1994, I moved to Cincinnati. Wow, the big city by comparison. I was so excited about the opportunity! I just turned 30 and my career was soaring at Procter & Gamble and my workaholic underpinnings had been formed. I was climbing the corporate ladder, and loved everything about it! Seven years there and what struck me was the charm and humility of the Midwest culture. People were genuinely polite, interested in what you were doing, asked about your day and really wanted an answer more than “fine.” I really thought I could live there forever. I loved my friends who became like family, I traveled around the world, and I had stability and satisfaction in my career. I loved learning about different cultures around the world and not just in the US! My obsession with understanding the backgrounds and style differences of people AND the ability to help bridge the gaps that keep people from working optimally together was born!
In 2001, in order to be with my beautiful step-daughter who lived in Maryland with her mom and step-dad, my husband and I left all the stability of P&G and moved to the DC metro area to be a closer part of her life. Best decision EVER from a personal perspective. But my glorious travel days were put on pause for a couple of years. When you are acclimating to a new region of the country, you miss the things that made you feel comfortable. While I love where I live, the surrounding areas were not as ‘homey’ as what I had become used to. The people, while polite, were not overly friendly. The pace was faster, the edge of working in our Nations' Capital was completely different, and I sort of put my head low, worked like mad, and went into survivor mode. My husband had a stroke at age 38 and left the workforce due to disability. http://www.stroke.org
I worked at several organizations as a change agent and HR executive, and realized the average lifespan of an HR Exec in DC is about 18 months. So my perspective and world view became very DC-centric. I started my own firm in 2008, and was blessed with local gigs, so I was home A LOT! And I have grown to absolutely love where I live. The business opportunity is amazing and I have dear friends and colleagues I would not want to lose for all the tea in China (as my husband likes to say.)
I changed my business strategy in 2012 and now I find myself on the road again. And I love it! While I miss my husband and 5 year old, I know this is where I am supposed to be.
So back to my epiphany…I really love the people of the mid-west. Genuine kindness, a life pace that includes others, and a trustworthiness that I can relate to. And the south has a charm and a history of chivalry. I cannot tell you how many doors were opened for me, luggage carried, elevators held open, all the basics I had learned to forget being a woman executive that wants to play in the boys club.
So much gratitude. So much to think about….