During our most recent VISTA bi-weekly meeting our guest was Paul Robinson, the Director of the Shannon Institute at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and he led us in a number of activities around our personal values. We scheduled this particular session in December because people tend to get very reflective towards the end of the year and we thought it could be an opportunity for reflection and rejuvenation. With these types of sessions there is obviously the hope that our VISTA’s will have some great takeaways but I am continually surprised by how much I learn about myself during these meetings.
I am a transplant to Minnesota, this is my third winter in the Twin Cities and I love it here. I think that last part usually catches people off guard. I should back up, people are first thrown off by the fact that I am a Californian who moved here from Texas and that my choice to move to Minneapolis wasn’t based on a job, school or a relationship. Once we get that out of the way, then they are surprised at how well I have adapted to the hot sweaty summers, the freezing winters, the Minnesota Nice, the scarcity of vegetarian only restaurants (I’m a vegan) and the fact that no one I know wants to visit Minnesota or the Midwest in general. While I am usually able to easily count off the reasons why I chose to move to Minneapolis: theater, parks, civic engagement, (the building out of) light rail, I have struggled to give a reason for what it is about this place (prior to taking my job as the VISTA Program Manager) that has really kept me around for going on three years. That was until our session with Paul Robinson.
My top two core values were pretty easy to identify: Authenticity and Personal Freedom. This is not news to me, I am sure I would have identified those two things without a numbered list of potential values in front of me. What I haven’t done in a very long time if ever is seriously think about how I live those values. That exercise enabled me to finally make the connection and finally have an answer to why I have loved Minneapolis. It is because without the connections of family, friends, acquaintances or even co-workers, I could truly be my authentic self and the isolation while lonely at times of being so far away from all of my loved ones allowed me the most possible personal freedom.
I have a feeling that when I was a VISTA ten years ago I would have had those same values, probably not for my top two, but absolutely in my top five and I would have felt that I was living out those values in a completely different way than I feel that I am living them out now. I guess it is a testament to how we change, but we don’t change. Having finally come up with an answer to the why have you stayed here question I wonder if I would have become so easily attached to another community that isolated me in the same way that Minneapolis essentially did to enable me to truly live out my core values. Truth is, it doesn’t matter. I’ve developed some great relationships (with other transplants…seriously Minnesotans), I have an awesome job and my Texan dog loves snow. I guess I should bump up Security in my list of core values, because I’m looking out at a secure and stable future and I don’t see myself going anywhere.Salena Acox PSEI VISTA Program Manager Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota