When I tell people I am from Grande Prairie, Alberta their response is usually surprise followed by some sort of joke or comment related to being redneck. Well the truth is, redneckery, small town living, and blue skies for miles are a deeply rooted part of who I am. I am at my core a country girl and my, oh my, has it served me well.
I can put on a twang like no other, I can shoot-the-shit, talk trucking, small-town business and debate conservative politics while being a loud and proud liberal living in the city all at the same time. Being from Grande Prairie has moulded me into a bit of a chameleon.
Last week, I was home visiting family before heading out to Geneva for the Annual Curators' Meeting for the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community (try saying that five times fast, phew!). Every few months, a strong dose of home and family is exactly what I need to remind me what I am truly capable of and what it's going to take to make my dreams happen. This trip did just that.
What I love about where I am from is that you can never tell the worth of a woman or a man at first glance. This applies to net financial worth alongside a person's worth of character. This single fact is a big reason why I've learned to treat everyone I meet with a warm smile and a genuine curiosity about their story.
On my flight back to Ottawa through Calgary, this habit of mine led me to a remarkable four-hour long conversation with a man who would become a new champion in my corner. A few hours into our exchange he said, "I will leave this conversation changed." I felt something come alive in me at that moment.
This man had travelled the world, had sold his multi-million dollar company months before our meeting, and was 41-years my senior, and yet, our conversation had shifted something within him.
We talked politics, work, business, culture, racism and small-town living (he was also from a small Northern Alberta community and ended up making it big in the city).
During our conversation, not once did I think I was trying to prove something or that I needed to gain validation from this kind stranger. Yet close to the end of our conversation he told me, "When you're ready, I would be proud to be the first to invest in your future political career." I was floored.
It's something when my boyfriend Mitch, or my mom reassure me that my work is meaningful, that I work hard, that I am a good person, and that I can achieve the greatest of successes. It's entirely something else when a stranger affirms these same qualities in me.
All I was doing was being myself.
And that's all it takes. What I've realized is that where you live, the clothes you wear, and where you were born are all pieces of the glorious puzzle that is you. Yet, the true determinants of our individual success are our personal drive, our community of support, and our resiliency.
Bringing it home
As I sit here on my hotel room bed in Geneva after meeting and being surrounded by 350 of the world's foremost 20-something academic, non-profit, government and business leaders (not to mention, overall awesome humans), I can't help but be filled with incredible gratitude.
This small town girl has a big heart and even bigger dreams, and my family and community (I'm looking at you Grande Prairie) have helped me launch into this next phase of my career and my life at full-speed with a strong sense of self and an equally strong work ethic.
While it scares me half to death sometimes, I know it's going to continue to be a hell of a ride.
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