I briefly mentioned the other day that the #140conf small town lit a fire in my new friend Kasse Duffy (@MissDuffys) and she started a blog called Rural Women Rock. This is my guest post for “open mic.” It will be published Monday, October 24. Please take time to visit the site and read through some of the posts by the incredible women we are getting to know! And consider subscribing to both blogs – that way you don’t miss anything!
Janice Person aka @JPlovesCOTTON
When I saw that Kasse was going to have guest posts for open mic I volunteered quickly and without thinking! The excitement building truly is contagious! Then as my day to post neared, I had to wonder about my posting on the Rural Women Rock blog. Not out of a problem of self-esteem but wondering about the definition of a “rural woman.” So I did what most of us do – said I’ll work on it after I have time to think it through. Monday night after work became crunch time knowing it would need to publish Tuesday! Thankfully some ideas came together FINALLY. I hope it makes sense.
How Did I Find Myself Here?
I know how I met Kasse (love #140 small town folks) and I had known her mom for a while. I was there when Kasse caught a glimpse of the potential social media offers in building community. The enthusiasm for twitter & blogging was so obvious. But I think that if I told some of my family and lifelong friends I was writing for RuralWomenRock, they may ask what I think I’m doing and those who I don’t get to see or talk to much these days may even ask “How did you ever come to be tied so closely to farming & small towns?”
See, I wasn’t born in a small town. In fact, I take great pride in the fact I come from a long line of city folks. Memphis was the city of birth for generations of my family. But my life has taken several turns that included more than a decade in the Mississippi Delta and got my first rural feelings as I started college. And although I currently find myself with a big city address (I moved to St. Louis around Labor Day – Go Cardinals!), I have to say that my rural connections run so deep, that I can’t imagine disconnecting just because I’ve moved physically.
I really think that I’ve found a perfect combination of rural and urban for me. And they are such a part of me that I can’t shake them. Don’t want to either.
When I moved to Enid, Oklahoma for college, it was the smallest town I’d really spent time in (and yes, it’s the big city near dear friends Becky McCray, Kasse Duffy & Andy Hutchison) See…. We define things so differently. It is based on our backgrounds some times, experiences at other times. That’s what makes me think I can still be a rural woman while living in one of the country’s largest cities (St. Louis metro is number 19 it seems) and having lived in New York metro since I left that Oklahoma campus.
With all those big cities in my bio, I feel like you probably understand why I was waffling on whether it was okay for me to be posting here or not.
My Rural Connections
When I was in college, I studied mass communications. All I wanted to do was write and take photos. I wasn’t sure what it would be of but I couldn’t wait to get started. That’s when a friend of my family gave me a summer job to make my resume look good. I started doing all the things nobody wanted to do for a company that published farm magazines. I spent untold hours pouring through circulation lists. The small town names stuck. So did the conversations I had with people when I needed to start calling them to verify whether or not they wanted to continue receiving the magazine.
Graduate school meant living in Memphis and a chance to work more hours. It was then that I really cemented my bound to rural communities as I met farmers, talk to them about their farms. Suddenly the job that I’d taken to help build my resume seemed to be providing me direction for my career. And as I met more people in agriculture, I found it truly sparked a passion that I didn’t know I had!Its my passion for agriculture and communications that took me to New York, the Mississippi Delta, Memphis and ultimately, my career that brings me to St. Louis. And it lead me to create my personal blog a couple of years ago where I talk about cotton, travel, & whatever else I get into! And if I wasn’t lucky enough to have a career that includes my passions around farming and writing, somehow I got lucky enough to get a job that includes social media! I may not “have it all” but I am a long way from being anyplace where I could possibly complain about where I am cause I am blessed.
Lovin’ Life – Urban & Rural!
Rural roadtrips are a big part of my life –whether I am living rural or urban! Grabbing a camera and hopping in the car is a great way to spend a weekend. And I’ve learned that I have the chance to meet all sorts of folks and thanks to the idea of six degrees of separation, decades of working in agriculture and social media, I don’t fret too much about the what ifs that plagued me when I was just a city girl. Cause I tend to know I can find a local farm supply or call a friend who will know someone from a farm organization nearby. My roadtrips have grown with my paycheck and I may find myself wandering through vegetable fields in The Philippines or pondering date palms in Israel’s West Bank. And I’m amazed at how open people share stories of their experience. And how understanding they can be when I feel the need to shoot hundreds of photos before the day’s light disappears.
It was living in a small town that let me reconnect with a favorite pastime I had done with my grandmom – making pottery! A great lady welcomed me & two friends into her home for pottery lessons. We probably didn’t pay her enough to keep the lights on, but she was energized by having others around to share her hobby. And we loved the artistic process that had been missing from our lives. As I moved to St. Louis, I scouted out where in my new house I’d make room for keeping up the hobby too. It needs a bit of space that isn’t bothered in the day-to-day but can be easily accessed for a few minutes. The latest pieces are being fired now & my niece & I will be giving them as presents (if we can actually part with any of them!) And I’ve already started talking to people about where they can be fired.
The hospitality I receive (and hopefully that I offer others) is the kind of thing that lets you keep people in your head and heart for long periods of time between visits. And the miles don’t matter. That’s sort of what the Rural Women Rock effort provides – another way to cross the miles and meet people who share some amazing connections, hear their stories and build a community that crosses geography. Guess that’s lucky for this city girl with deep rural ties.
Janice, Thank you so much for posting! What an amazing lady you are- you inspire, and are rural without a question. Thank you for all the help along the way- people like you make the world a better place:)