Happy to say I’m a long way from where I wrote my last missive. Today I’m cozily settled in my writing nook at home in Saratoga enjoying the gift of a dark and cold Thursday morning when I woke up early…without trying, and motivated to get up and make some tea and capture some thoughts before the day begins.
My hope is that I’ll find a few minutes to write a bit on our upcoming holiday travels, but just in case that doesn’t happen – I’ll take this brief moment to recognize the upcoming 1 year birthday of my “baby blog” (and no, despite a few startled replies from friends… this blog is NOT about a baby. Hee hee!). Yep, I vividly recall the morning that the Maven and I were driving up 95 north to spend Christmas with his family last year, the same morning we learned that we “almost” had a contract on this house, and I decided to dive in to GoDaddy and setup a blog – and here we are. If I don’t write over the holiday, I’ll at least take some time on one of our various planes/airports to read back to how different the world looked through my eyes one year ago. Yep, it’s been a big one!
Today, the theme I’ve been wanting to capture is the recent and powerful epiphany I have had about what I now realize is the foundation for this new “wonderful life”. It’s the small town magic! Like any good epiphany, this seems super obvious when I say it out loud… it’s not like we didn’t know this was a small town, but two specific moments happened over the last few weeks which really crystalized the magnitude of change we’ve made from life in Old Town Alexandria (which was a sort of small town too..) to Saratoga.
First, the W&M Alumni Networking Call –
The (largely unnecessary) Backstory: One of my favorite things to do in life is to connect people. It apparently runs in the family, as my Auntie Susan has the same gene. I especially people like to connect people I really like (looking at you Fran & Maura, one of my first really good connections here in my new world). It always makes me think the world is a better, stronger & more powerful place when the good people meet the other good people… and I really love it when they link up and start doing awesome things together. A book that I often reference, and should probably read again for all the times I’ve recommended it and referred to it, is The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. As I recall, it presents the concept that we are all one of three types of people: Mavens, Connectors or Communicators. I LOVE this! As you may have gathered, we have a Maven in our family – and he is not me. 🙂 Meanwhile, I really love to be a connector, and then my true calling is to be the communicator – the relayor of the information through the network.
So, anyway, I’m definite a blend of connector and communicator – and over the years of my life in our old world of DC, I took pride in making connections as effectively and impactfully as I could – always looking for that “dual benefit”, but also really trying to give the “new kids in town” as much information to make a plan of attack for cracking the code of the business community around the network. Having done this for a living for a short time, through my work under the flag of my little consulting company, I had run headlong into the brick wall of how hard it is to “get a meeting” with someone in DC. Not for the lack of interesting people there to meet, but just for the cultural defenses of a people I now see as collectively in adrenal failure trying to keep up the pace expected and demanded by the engine of the beltway business scene. I have alot of thoughts about why people in DC are so frantic and time-crunched, and I know it’s a whole cocktail of reasons – over-achievers, cost of living and above all, the traffic. In sum, the harried people of the greater metropolitan DC area simply feel and live as if they have less than the same 24 hours allotted to all of us on this big blue marble every day – and the mad dash is a normal, and invisible to everyone who lives there as the water is for the fish in the sea.
While I’ve always believed this about DC, and tried to both live by the rules of utmost respect of people’s precious time while also helping newbies to this world figure out how to merge onto the rushing traffic by connecting them with a few strategically placed people who might offer a more welcoming, gentle hand to help them get in step with the hubbub (let them merge into their lane without honking). In fact, after all this leadup, it was simply one of these calls with a newbie – Jennifer, a recent W&M MBA graduate – that brought this all back to me in a flash, and in that same moment illuminated how incredibly different is the world I now live in. Like, entirely different – and it was clear of day like one of those old-timey camera flashbulbs went off, with a boom!
BTW – so much for posting before Xmas, here we are in the Charlotte airport heading home from our SoCal holiday
So there I was, sitting in a doctors office waiting room (waiting for a friend) on the phone with Jennifer, sharing my thoughts and advice for how to “crack the code” of the crazy busy DC scene. I was explaining my theory of why people in DC are so stingy with their time – the traffic, the frenzy, the over-programmed lives, and the chronically long hours in the office that result in everyone zealously protecting their every waking moment like they have less than 24 hours in a day. This sense of scarcity means that the simple idea of a coffee or a phone call with a stranger seems like a risky waste of time with uncertain benefit. Even perfectly nice people become impossible to reach – and the only magic wand a person can wave is the “personal intro”. People will take meetings/calls/coffees if someone they know & trust suggests the meeting with some assurance that the time will be well-spent, or at least appreciated as a favor to the mutual friend.
I completely believe this to be true in DC, and yet as the words came out of my mouth I could hear – clear as a bell – how entirely alien this whole scenario sounds compared to Saratoga. It was hard to resist blurting out “don’t do it! Run away! Go find a small town!” :-). It was amazing to absorb how different our arrival has been. Here, just by nature of being “new” we have been welcomed – with warmth and even curiosity! No banging on doors or leveraging our friends connections – the only magic wand we’ve needed is a big smile, a handshake and an expression of our joy in having landed in our “ideal scene” (thank you, Dr Ana). We could not be more grateful.
Second, the Victorian Streetwalk –
This moment was much more visual & immediate. On the Thursday after Thanksgiving our adorable town kicks of the Christmas Season with the Victorian Streetwalk. Our Main Street, Broadway, is closed to traffic at 4pm and by 5:30 everyone gathers to welcome Santa in his horse-drawn carriage, and the mayor lights the tree. From then on, the whole town enjoys an evening of holiday cheer, music, shopping and neighborly greetings. And when I took the photo above, the bolt of lightening hit me as I noted the time was 6:15pm …and every person in town was gathered for a joyful evening. (And the Maven and I had even had time for a post work cocktail before joining in the fun.). At risk of just totally annoying all of our friends & family – it just crystallized how wonderful it is to live here in this charming small hometown!
Signing off – as I have a new idea to share as we close out the year. More soon!
Warmest wishes for the holidays!