Project Wonderful

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I've Been Everywhere, Man

About once every six months, for about fifteen seconds, I forget which state I'm in. Usually, I'm either at a political event or a chain store. For the record, I advocate buying local, but sometimes even I can't resist lure of the Starbucks Gold Card or the quick convenience of Target. And I have to admit there is something comforting about these stores to someone who moves around so much. Target is the same everywhere. And (sorry GOP candidates) so is a Fourth of July parade, a house party fundraiser, or a rally. There is no "real America."

Every campaign I've worked on local leaders have told me "That might have worked in New York/Colorado/South Carolina/etc, but we do things differently here in Colorado/South Carolina/New York/etc." I've worked on a lot of campaigns and this has never actually been the case.
As a general rule, the things that work work everywhere. That's one of the things I love about campaigns, the skills and experience are as translatable as the staffers are transient.

Sitting at a 10,000 person rally with Barack Obama in Connecticut last November, I could have sworn I was at the 2008 Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner. My boss, my organizer and I were all crying. My boss was crying because of tremendous amount of work that went into the event and its eventual success. My organizer was crying because she was hearing the President speak live for the first time. I was crying because of the ironic and yet delicious symmetry of campaigns. It wasn't long ago that in a very similar theater in another state, a very similar speech had brought me to tears of rage and frustration...and now I was working for the guy.

I recently got scolded by a friend who is moving from Cambridge to Ohio. How could I complain about moving to New York? It's a big city, I know people there, it's close to home. It should be the easiest move I've ever made. And, of course, in some ways it is.

But when you work on campaigns for a living, states and cities are more than mere locations. They're comprised of people, emotions, and memories.
They're even temporal. "I've known him since Connecticut." or "I didn't really start drinking beer until Minnesota." If you asked me, I'd tell you I hate Iowa, but the truth is Iowa City is a really fun town. I "hate" Iowa because of the experience I had on a losing, underfunded and poorly managed campaign. Had things gone differently, I might be carving a butter cow as we speak.

Right now, I'm stressed about moving to New York because of what it represents- change, commitment, and adulthood. It's a departure from campaigns and my carefree hiatuses in Boston. It doesn't matter where so much as what and why. If my friend loves her job, makes friends and is happy in Ohio (very likely) and I am lonely and frustrated in New York (unlikely, but still a source of anxiety) why does it matter how the late bars are open or the accessibility of public transportation? Home, as they say, is where the heart is.

The truth is both my friend and I will be happy in our new locations because that's the kind of people we are. Eleven states in four years has taught me that a place is what you make of it. Besides, if I ever wish I was elsewhere, I can always click my heels together and find a Panera.

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