As I prepare an application for what could potentially be a life-changing experience, I have tasked myself with completing a series of writing assignments reflecting upon whom I am and how I arrived at this point in my life. I must’ve told this story hundreds of times. It’s one version of how I grew into my potential and discovered love in a city I formerly hated.
When I first moved to Houston I hated it. Truly hated it. For the first year, I flew back to Chicago every month to see my friends and spend time in a city that I understood, loved and felt was a fully formed idea. Houston was sprawling, had terrible public transportation and I couldn’t find any similarities to the types of events that were happening in Chicago, every day of the week. I hated Houston so much I would tell people about it. Anyone that asked. Truthfully, even if they didn’t ask. Many of my sentences began with “You know, back in Chicago we would…” Time passed…the tone stayed the same. I hated Houston.
I met a group of people outside my graduate school circle, a group of creatives, artists, people who were true Houstonians, people who knew the city, had their own treasure map they had constructed. As they showed me things that would have taken years to find on my own, I saw promise, and arts, music and film activities that I enjoyed but had never been able to find on my own. These people were staging these events, making their own life in Houston, achieving artistic and personal success through programming these events, on their own, without the help of the city and without institutional support, simply executing good ideas. I was awed and inspired. The tone changed. I stopped saying I hated Houston.
One day I made a decision, a realization. If I was going to have to live in Houston, I would need to bend it to my will. My preposterous idea was that I would start putting on my own events, things that I would see happening regularly in Chicago. I decided to bring Chicago to Houston. I put on a couple concerts, I staged some film events, I started getting active in the community and contributing to others’ events to add value. I started doing websites for local businesses and venues. Shockingly, each event and idea was welcomed with open arms, was well attended, and seemed to be enjoyed by the attendees. People saw promise in good ideas and were quick to support them. Houston showed me that it was receptive to new ideas, in fact people were asking for them, actively seeking them. I was engaged and content. The tone changed. I liked Houston.
I realized I could make a life here, make a difference, have fun, curate my own existence. With each new event and group of people who were changed I realized I liked Houston, was beginning to fall in love with it. I started doing a radio show with a friend that actively promoted others’ good ideas, events, and bands. We started working with individuals and bands to help them in their careers. There was success there too. We grew more and more passionate about the opportunities available in Houston; saw that we were making a positive impact in a city full of promise. The tone changed. I loved Houston.
The events grew larger and so did the people we worked with to help them achieve their potential. There were hard times and like any relationship it took work but my emotions for the city grew. I became an outspoken evangelist for the promise, the opportunity, the warm reception and support for new and inventive ideas. The events got more expansive, more inclusive, they collided art, music and film. I was proud of our city and what we’d accomplished. The tone changed again. I would bleed for this city.
I met a best friend; we shared our intellect, ideas, and smashed architecture and bioengineering together to make new creations. We met a tech community, people who were actively committed to their personal lifelong education. We found an idea, a unifying theme for Houston, one that would combine all we had worked on in the past, individually and together, a way to serve the entire Houston community and foster more collaboration, not just stage events or happenings. We could achieve greater success, together. The individual Communities of Interest became one large Community of Practice. The community swelled and rallied, the project launched. We were now able to reach more people, whole communities, work collaboratively together to shape our city. We grew in pride for the city and our collective ability to improve it. People were inspired and engaged. The pronoun changed. We loved Houston.
I met a partner; we shared our lives, our passions, and our desire to help individuals and communities achieve their potential. Together, the three of us grew our community hub. Dog made four. Together the community grew and the impact spread. It had long ago stopped being about imprinting Chicago or New York City on Houston; it evolved into staging events that improved our collective quality of life. The successes weren’t measured in tangible things anymore: attendance at events didn’t matter, press mentions were less important; the impact was now measured in behavioral and attitudinal changes, in mind shifts. We staged events to help whole communities, inside of Houston, outside of Houston. It was no longer about saying “I love Houston,” it was more about actions and showing that love, inspiring that individual passion and empowerment in others. It was about showing individuals and communities that they owned the power to improve that which they saw around them. It was about everyone doing it for everyone, doing it to share passion and enthusiasm to learn, grow, and improve. The idea changed, the pronoun became all inclusive, the tense shifted. We are all in it together, we are all one community.