December 3rd, 2019

Starry Eyed Mama

Believe In All The Possibilities


This time last year I had just finished up my first week at a new contract after 18 months at 3M.  I was excited to have it, as I was returning to my roots in supply chain accounting, and to the kind of billable I’m accustomed to.  The kind that would more effectively support us.

I’d taken a step back in position — along with a corresponding paycut — to work at Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, because I’d had this crazy idea it might be a good career move for me.  If I’d known at the time 3M would let me work there like a trained monkey for a year and a half without a degree, but they were never going to hire me, I would have thought better of taking that opportunity.  It had been a tough term of tightening the belt, but it was finally over and behind me.

I was just settling into the next gig, ready to breathe easier and get caught back up to our normal household standards of paying bills on a functional schedule without having to squeeze hard enough to turn coal into diamonds.  The timing had been fortunate; end of year is a rough patch to be looking for a new project.  We feasted gratefully that Thanksgiving — my first day on the job was the next after the holiday.

This new post was supporting a merchandise distributor providing consumer goods for a member co-op of retail farm operations.  A small but growing company, there was a comfortable, easy-going, laid-back kind of homey sort of companionship with the folks I worked closest to, and I made some genuine friends there.  The office was done up like something right out of Fixer Upper, and as a southern country gal at heart, raised in a country-chic farmhouse on a 10-acre plot 17 miles out from the nearest town, who got married at a 125-year-old country-chic farmhouse, it felt like coming home.

I’d have been happy to make it a permanent placement, as with an 18-month old baby in the nest, I was ready to put contracting behind me and settle down for good.  Unfortunately, I took the engagement knowing the company just needed some fill-in help to get them into a good position to successfully transition their headquarters.  To Ft. Worth.  TEXAS.

Well, *$#!&*.  :-/

Initial days in a new place are often comprised of an endless string of introductions.  The first executive “bigwig” I met there told me with a grin,

             “If there’s a right way to do any of this stuff, don’t assume we’re doing it, or even that we have the foggiest clue what it is.  Feel free to forge your own path.”  It’s nice to be given empowerment up front, and to know folks have faith in your abilities.  After I’d been on the job about a month, the CEO stopped by on his way out with a cheerful,

               “How ya doin, Mick?”  I was surprised he even knew my name, and couldn’t help but gleam back with perhaps some touch of overexcitement,

               “Fantastic!”  Then he added, grinning,

               “I’m hearing great things about you!”  To which I naturally blushed,

               “That’s wonderful, thank you so much!”  As he continued toward the door, with a wink back over his shoulder at me, he returned warmly,

               “No, Thank YOU!”

It’s also great to be appreciated.

If ever there was a mid-sized entity that could have convinced me to uproot my life and family in a job-related relocate to the polar opposite side of the country, it would have been that one.  Heathen knows they tried.  And tried.  And tried.  I had it coming at me from multiple angles, including the CEO himself, though I’m pretty sure by the time he got around to it, he already knew through the grapevine I was a no-go.

After a while, to put some semblance of finality on it, so I wouldn’t have to spend weeks  answering the question, or have well-meaning folks keep trying to change my mind, I came up with a response no one could argue
with.  We are never leaving a blue state. I joked with the CEO when he finally asked me personally, if only he would move HQ to New York or California instead, then he might have my interest.

But that’s only partially true.  The statement was mostly to make the quandary unsolvable, since everyone knew that wasn’t going to happen, so everyone also knew just as obviously, neither was my family going along for the ride.  New York and California are expensive states for business.  But cost of living is also insane on either coast, too, so not super practical for us, either.

The truth is, as much as I have complained about Minnesota’s passive aggressive Minnesota Nice anti-culture, this place is likely always going to be home for us.  I know, you can never take the South out of the girl, and there will always be a special place in my heart for the natural habitat of my upbringing, but I’ve grown too much as a person to ever be willing to be surrounded by that much conservatism on a long-term basis.  More power to the saintly types of special folks who’ve taken it on as a crusade to try and change that particular machine from the inside, but Minion and I have got a family to raise.  We don’t need to be adding that much toxicity to the challenge ahead of us.

Florida to Minnesota is not your typical transfer, I’ll warrant you that.  I landed here over 30 years ago when my Dad, after being a key presenter at a child welfare conference had his choice of multiple job offers, and could have moved wherever he wanted to.  He selected Minnesota, because the idea of being in the place that birthed the nation’s social services system was appealing to him.  In time, it appealed to most of the rest of us too, as every one of us has tried our hand in social services, in some form or another.  None of us retired in it, though, like my Dad, who then, ironically, moved to Florida. 

In fact, everyone else in the family has since moved away, and then came back.  Except me.  I never left.  I don’t know if I can say I picked Minnesota; maybe it’s more accurate to say Minnesota never let go of me.  I might be tempted to consider that complacency, except, I’ve come to appreciate what there is to offer here.

Most people in Minnesota are pretty well educated (2nd highest population of citizens with a degree in the nation), and as liberal as you would expect a highly educated populace to be.  The culture is powerfully progressive.  Folks respect each other here, and there’s something incredibly valuable to that.  Minnesota is a harbor, a haven, a platform, and a launching pad for people who take social justice seriously.  And we make a comfortable home and quality of life for about as many different ways of being divergent from normal culturally accepted standards as anyone can imagine.

There’s a surprising diversity here, too, that belies the harsh climate.  An eclectic mix of all kinds of folks, and many of them transplants — from other states, other countries, other ways of life, and they all bring their unique characteristics together into a harmonious assorted blend of spices.  It’s a great place to be a foodie... even the Smithsonian did a write-up about the impressive culinary experience of Minnesota dining.  It’s a great place to start a business.  It’s a great place for arts and culture, without the density problems of the nation’s bookend states.  There’s always something going on.  I’m not kidding, seriously, there is a festival for about anything and everything you could think of. 

There’s plenty of beautiful countryside, a lot of it still relatively untouched.  But even within cities and urban sprawl, there’s a lot of green.  Winters can be brutal, but you learn to survive them.  The payoff in having four complete seasons is a fair trade, though, especially if you happen to be a sucker for the rich plumage of autumn hues.  (Minion and I said our vows at the end of October, in front of a fiery orange oak tree.)

Most importantly, though, this is where I became the me I am today.  This is where I searched for my place in life, and found myself.  I don’t know if I could have done it the same way or as definitively somewhere else.  Perhaps I might have had an easier time elsewhere, I don’t know, but this place grew on me, and became my home.  It’s where my friend became my housemate, my lover, my partner, my fiancé, my husband, and the father of my child.  It’s where, to some extent, I reached the fullness of my essence yet when I became Mama. 

It might take me a while still to figure out where I’m going to land for the long haul on a professional level, so all the more reason, I should stick close to where there’s the most opportunity.  My family is here, his family is here, and these are some of the best schools in the nation.  We just bought a minivan, which we could take anywhere with us, if we needed to, but we’re only a few months away from buying a house now, which won’t be going anywhere.  And neither will we.  We are growing roots. 

Some people would say I’m crazy to have gone from the Southernmost state to the Northernmost.  But Minnesota is just the right kind of weird for us, and we fit here.  I don’t know if it’s my true north, but for now, it’s as north as we’re going to get.  And hey, it’s comforting to know if all hell breaks loose after the next twitter tantrum, from here Canada is only a short car ride away, eh?  You know... just in case!  ;-)

LJ Idol | Season 11 • Week 8 - Topic: TRUE NORTH
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