Personal Writing

Renaissance Weekend reflection, part II

I decided to do a video instead of writing the follow up to my last post about Renaissance Weekend. When I rewatched it, I realized I still have a lot of emotions caught up in that experience all these years later. That’s ok. You’ll see the back and forth, the bravado and the break—that’s true for all of us, I think, from time to time.

One thing I want to address, because I didn’t do it in the previous post or in the video…my friend Andrew.

I’ve known Andrew since my junior year of high school. He’s a grade ahead of me, but we were in three choirs together and performed in the spring musical, South Pacific (speaking of the inappropriateness of an entirely white cast playing Polynesian people…).

I adore Andrew. He’s had a great big career in law and as a behind-the-scenes political this and that. In my world, Andrew is a B.F.D., to quote “Uncle” Joe*

But what’s so interesting about Andrew is that in his world, I seem to be kind of a B.F.D., too.

Want to know how I know that, how I can have the audacity to say that? Because Andrew invited me to Renaissance Weekend. And he did it in all seriousness and with no mean-spirited intent. Andrew saw something in me, despite my lowly geographic location (which, let’s not forget, is a piece of his history, too), and thought I actually belonged in this cohort of incredibly privileged, inflated, important people. Sure my pedigree wasn’t their pedigree (or his, for that matter), but he believed I would find value and perhaps even some new paths from this event.

The fact that I didn’t wasn’t his fault.

And Renaissance Weekend isn’t the only thing Andrew has introduced me to. About once a year, he calls me to throw out some fantastical ideas for things that I might embark upon, connections I might make, jobs I might apply for in the Bay area. They are all far-fetched and likely impossible, because the hard truth of what I discovered at Renaissance Weekend is that I will always pay a price for being from a rural, somewhat (and for certain by either of the coast’s definitions) backward place in the world. And my view, from their vantage point, is small, provincial and insignificant.

But Andrew doesn’t treat me like this. In fact, the morning after my first post, I woke up to this text:

Thank you for the powerful blog post. I hope I’ve never made you feel less than. I am the treasurer of the Dayna Del Val Fan Club because I think, no, I know, you are awesome and I believe that any right-thinking person will be the same.

Andrew has already lived a great big life, has had unbelievable experiences and hasn’t forgotten that some of the most important people in his life all sprang from this humble little hole in the wall place. And I so appreciate that he continues to be my champion—even when I find myself swimming with sharks in an ocean by his invitation.

Renaissance Weekend changed me—made me question everything I thought I knew about who I was and how I was perceived. But it also opened my eyes and forced me to confront some of my own prejudices and stereotypes. I guess my ultimate take away is that one person’s remarkable might be another’s so, so ordinary, so we all better get comfortable defining ourselves for ourselves and keep trying to shake off what other people seem to think.

To quote the inimitable and tragically judged and mistreated Eleanor Roosevelt, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

Amen, Eleanor. I’m proud to be in your company.


Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • debbielamedman

    Dayna! This post made me feel so many things and triggered so many memories. Just for that fact, I thank you for writing/vlogging!

    First of all, when I spent 6 weeks in Fargo in the summer of 2005, the only thing I thought negatively about the place was there were too many mosquitoes! I told everyone upon my return to LA, that all people should be as kind as the people I met in Fargo. I still believe that!

    What you have described here, is universal. When I first met my now mother-in-law, I knew instinctively she didn’t like me. For whatever reason…who knows? But I didn’t have to see her that often, so I really didn’t stress about it. A year later, I was in her hometown as a playwright who was present for a production of one of my plays. Before the play, she saw me being interviewed by the local paper, after the play, I was called up on stage to be involved in the talkback, and after that people were asking me to sign their programs!

    Suddenly, she became very chummy. Suddenly, I was someone worth knowing. Worth liking. At the time, I told my now-husband that I thought his mother was very shallow and he agreed!

    So I knew exactly what you were talking about in your experience with Renaissance Weekend. I don’t think it’s because you come from Fargo. I think certain people automatically want to make others feel less than because it makes them feel more powerful.

    I’m sorry this comment is so long, but I loved everything you had to say in your video, and I think you are (like the title of the blog) extraordinary! Dynamic! Vital! Infinitely interesting! Okay, I think I’m done.

    Oh, one more thing. When I lived in NYC, I had to live in Manhattan, because I didn’t think people would respect me if I lived in Brooklyn. (That was years go; now Brooklyn is the place to be!) When I lived in LA, I didn’t want to live in the San Fernando Valley because it wasn’t as hip as living “over the hill” in Hollywood, Santa Monica, etc. It’s not just Fargo! It’s any place some folks may deem as “undesirable.”

    Thank you again for this post. And thanks for putting up with my long-winded comment, but you just gave me so many thoughts, I had to share them! 🙂

    • Dayna Del Val

      I love this response so much, Debbie! Thanks for sharing–I adore long, rambling thought replies–shows that what I think resonates and gives insight into the readers, too. Share on, my friend!

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