A different take on roots

January 16, 2010

When I worked in consulting in Florida, from time to time I’d hear the term “#th generation Floridian” used in a sales pitch.

Third generation. Fourth. Fifth. Worn like a badge of honor.

It always puzzled me.

Maybe because I’m the granddaughter of Sicilian immigrants and lived in three states, I’ve never had an allegiance to any particular state. And truthfully, I don’t really understand it.

Does being a deeply-rooted native of any state–Florida, California, Iowa–bestow on you some kind of special ju-ju? What does it really mean?

In my opinion, it means nothing. It’s an accident of fate. Or a decision to not step out of the familiar.

People who mention their long tenture in a state act like it’s a club. But you can look at it another way. If your family dug in to an area for generations, you might be a little…narrow. Insular. Inbred, even.

As opposed to going off and seeking adventures and a life in other parts of the world.

If you’ve lived outside for any length of time, it’s hard not to see long-time Florida families as pretty myopic. To be honest.

My family has rooted in upstate New York. Their perspective is informed by that choice. I chose a different, more diverse path. I bring those experiences, that energy, with me everywhere I go. I have a girlfriend who chose a life in Europe. Her path is even MORE diverse. She carries those experiences with her as well.

Our perspectives both reflect and are informed by our choices.

I like my way better. My husband and I agree that we wouldn’t be able to tolerate life in our small hometown for very long.

Back in my high tech days, recruiters were always looking for candidates who had experience in the particular industry of the job. That seemed appropriate for jobs that required deep technical expertise, such as engineering.

But in my role, corporate communications, the skill set crossed industries. It was the same, no matter where you applied it. Having identical industry experience would shorten the learning curve, but usually not significantly.

It also cut off access to new ideas, a differing perspective, any breath of fresh air that could come from outside experience. It was a small view. A narrow view that made it hard for new thoughts about communications and marketing to break through.

I’m all about taking different paths. Looking at new scenery. Having diverse experiences.

After that, sure, settle somewhere. But I just don’t see the value in calling yourself a #th generation anything.

Just sayin’.

3 comments on “A different take on roots
  1. Lorena Knapp says:

    Well, as a 4th generation Alaskan, I have to respectfully disagree. When I meet others who tell me they have been born and raised in Alaska or are a nth generation Alaskan, it tells me a lot about them. It tells me something about their family and their values. It tells me they know certain skills that are necessary for not just surviving but thriving in Alaska. It also doesn’t mean we haven’t left for periods of time or haven’t lived in other places. A smart Alaskan knows how important it is to get out of Alaska and get some sunshine and vitamin D in the winter.

  2. I think you make some good points. Especially true in a wilderness state. By the way, I fell in love with your state and if I weren’t as old as I am I would love to live there.

    I’m just not sure that “native” thing worked as a sales message in the Fla. consulting practice I was once part of.

    And, I lived for 13 yrs in Tampa (just leaving). I found native Floridians to be more narrow in their views than those who had more exposure to different cultures.

    thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my blog. I hope you’ll visit again.

  3. Diana Strinati Baur says:

    Lorena and Diva… From my experience, it depends where we are talking about. I get the feeling in Alaska, things are pretty real, and having a history steeped in generations there means a specific thing. I lived in LA for awhile and things were pretty unreal, and the idea of families having deep roots there seemed to mean absolutely nothing. In Germany, we lived in Hamburg, and no one was even considered a Hamburger (for lack of a better word) without having had her grandparents born there. Now, living in Italy, it is more extreme. Having generational roots in Italy means everything to the people here. The fact that I have Italian roots, especially northern Italian roots, is of utter fascination to people here.

    Of course the “being a native” thing gets reduced to a sales pitch often in the States, as does so many things. The meaning gets diluted and tossed aside.

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