Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Musings from one year in Dayton

Today is my one-year anniversary of work. In a year at the Dayton Business Journal, I like to think I’ve been a good influence on this town. I mean, since I showed up we’ve gotten two downtown brewpubs, one in Yellow Springs and a crap ton more to come, downtown Dayton has added hundreds of jobs, Mumford and Sons decided to come to Troy, and locals even admit to liking their hometown more because of me.

That’s probably just my big head talking, because I think in reality it’s just the opposite: Dayton has had a good influence on me.

In a year in Dayton, I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what I want to be. I’ve learned that it’s almost impossible to nail down both of those things at the same time, because I’m constantly changing as I have new awesome experiences and meet new amazing people.

In a year at a full-time professional job, I’ve learned that co-workers should feel like family, puns should be used sparingly, shoes are mandatory, it takes exactly three minutes to blow-dry my hair, that amazing sources can come from the most unlikely places, and without deadlines, I would get nothing done.

I’ve been reading Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull, and I ran across a line that I loved last night:
“And Summer, when you tell yourself stories, make them true. And make them surprising. That’s how you will know they might be true.”

I realize that I started out this year telling myself the same old boring, untrue stories. You’re not good enough. This is too hard. Life would be easier and more fun back home. You’re never going to make friends. You have to live your life according to other people’s expectations. Most of your time has to be tied up in meaningless obligations. Your honest opinion isn’t valuable. And so on…all lies the devil tries to brand on your heart. 

But the surprising thing is, in every case the opposite is true. I am good enough. Yes, I can always be better, but there is value in the effort I bring. And nothing is ever too hard; I just often take the wrong approach to things. And the grass is never greener back home or anywhere that I’m not, because it’s all about what I make of where I’m at. And I’ve learned to make Dayton pretty awesome.

Since coming here, my story has taken some surprising turns – I mean who would have predicted Ultimate, not to mention boxing? And rock climbing? Spontaneous trips to Chicago, New York City and home. Sledding adventures, adventures in getting to know my neighbors, adventures in learning to appreciate solitude…the list goes on, and will continue to go on as long as I’m breathing.

The funny thing is, I never would have predicted where I am today because I was stuck inside myself. But looking at it now, it’s no surprise I’ve found these things in Dayton, because my nature is to not give up until I’m completely satisfied with the results of my efforts.

My first three months here were a real challenge because I couldn’t find obvious ways to meet people who also wanted to meet new people. The real world is full of people in every stage of life, instead of the homogeneous collection of bright-eyed students seeking friends that you find in college. Some are like closed border countries – they’re not accepting applications for friends right now. Some are older than you, and you’re tempted to write them off as not friend material. Some take a long time to warm up, and even though you will eventually become great friends, you can’t see that in the beginning. And some you hit it off with instantly, but that’s so rare in the beginning that the combination of all of this can shatter your self-confidence in your own desirability as a friend. At least it did mine. I remembered some of my past experiences with traveling to new places where there seemed to be no end of amazing people. I mused on how many thousands of people there are in all the world that I would probably be obsessed with because they’re so cool and fun, based on the infinitesimally small sampling of people I had met in the world. So I wondered, where are they all in Dayton? They have to be here, but why can’t I find them?

Well as I’ve found, it just takes a little ballsy initiative to try new things by yourself, the ability to drop your judgmental evaluations of what ‘good friend material’ is, the perseverance with friendships that start out sandy or seem to run aground prematurely, and a healthy amount of shared pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (this exact figure is currently in debates by the CDC and the WHO).

Today, along with quietly celebrating my one-year, I had to say “see ya later” to one friend with whom my relationship grew through all of those exercises. As two strangers in a new city, we pushed each other to experience everything Dayton had to offer to the fullest, and I’m really thankful for our friendship. I’m sad you’re moving to Florida, but I can’t wait to visit you on the beach, Courtney!

Here’s to another awesome year full of truth and surprises.

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