“Tallahassee? Where is Tallahassee?” I asked myself after getting my city assignment for my high school exchange year in the USA in the mid 70’s. Running to a world map and not finding it, I quickly called the central office begging for a change of city only to be told that it was too late because the school year was about to start, I was registered in the school and the host family was waiting for me. Armed with the best possible attitude, I finished my senior year exchange experience quite successfully and because of lasting friendships, I decided to accept my host family’s invitation to return to their home and go to college in Tallahassee. In spite of my siblings kindly telling me I was going to a village, I enrolled in Tallahassee Community College never intending to stay in Tallahassee. Little did I know that much later TCC would change my life’s path!
After getting my college degrees, getting a job at TCC, the institution that embraced me and gave me so much help, became a goal of mine, but still my intention was to stay in Tallahassee for maybe ten years and definitely not through a career life! What happened? Yes, I loved my job as the director of international student services; I loved my students but still didn’t think I loved Tallahassee. I was involved with several civic and service organizations until a friend suggested getting involved with Leadership Tallahassee. After being part of LT class 30- yes, the hottest class ever- I learned so much about the city I was living for so many years by then and had never known. From hesitantly repelling from buildings, learning about prescribed fires hands-on to, goodness gracious, frantically “killing” someone in self defense during a simulation exercise, I learned about the jobs that folks in all the different service areas perform in our community to keep us safe, to keep us healthy, and to keep us informed and engaged. Talking about the arts was a bonus, I love art and music; learning that Cascades Park was in the making was so very encouraging; pairing with YLT was a thrill, I love the youth. In all cases, I learned to be a much more conscious citizen after every class. BUT, even though I had learned so very much about Tallahassee, I still had not thought to address how I felt about the “village.”
Because of Florida’s DROP, retirement came much faster than expected; soon after, the opportunity presented to work in Washington, D.C., the hub of international education, something that had been constantly on my mind, even if only temporary. I made the move, I worked at a university, stopped working later in order to enjoy the beautiful sites and great museums; and, little by little, I started to realize that I missed Tallahassee, missed my Rotary meetings, my Tallahassee Symphony meetings, my home, my friends, even the traffic! LOL. Somewhat surprised, I reflected and wondered if what I was experiencing was a type of love for the city where I originally came by default. I realized then the very significant role that my involvement with LT had played in my life and contributed to this feeling. It seems that I had to leave the “village” to realize how much I missed it! I am now back in Tallahassee after a year convinced that I prefer to live in our state capital than our nation’s capitol. Might not sound real to many but it was to me!