Personal Writing

A simple shift of your lens might make all the difference

As with so many things, often what we have/don’t have, want/don’t want; where we are/aren’t; who we’re with/not with, are/are not is not the problem despite those all typically being what we fixate on. Actually, the challenge is to shift your lens, to see all of this from a different angle or perspective.

I can pretty easily fall into the mired trap of thinking that being from North Dakota and living in Fargo is one of the root causes of all that is holding me back. This week, my coach asked me to write about what I like/love about being from North Dakota and living in Fargo.

Turns out, it’s quite a bit.

What do I love about Fargo/ND, about living here, about being from here?

  • I have an incredibly interesting set of friends
  • The arts far exceed anyone’s expectations
  • The best and hardest things in my life have all happened within a 2-mile square radius of where I am right this minute (and most incredibly, when I wrote this piece for Inspired Home magazine in 2016, Dr Marry hadn’t even spent 4 1/2 weeks in rehab at Prairie St John’s, where Quinn was born, getting sober. Is it amazing that Quinn was born and Mazz was reborn in the same place or what???)
  • I love the oceans of wheat fields in August just outside of town
  • I love that I can see the sun rise and set often and that it’s exquisite nearly every time
  • I love that I can walk/bike to work when the weather’s nice
  • I love living near the river
  • I love our little neighborhood
  • I love the Natural Grocery Store
  • I love that I had so much arts education growing up
  • I love that Quinn got to play in a Youth Symphony
  • I love Luna, BernBaum’s, Nichole’s Fine Pastry, Rustica, Ishtar and other local restaurants
  • There’s great generosity here
  • I could never have gotten my current job in a bigger market
  • I’ve been able to “practice” becoming who I am and want to be
  • I’ve become a big fish because it’s a small pond
  • I’ve witnessed many people’s absolute surprise and joy at discovering Fargo
  • I’ve learned that I am an incredible connector, which is a huge asset to my work and personal life
  • My child and I both got excellent educations
  • I met the love of my life here
  • I got to shoot some really fun commercials because the competition is not so great as in bigger markets
  • We have an airport–a big deal in a rural state!
  • Fargo operates as a decidedly, and blessedly, purple city in a blood red state
  • I have easy access to our mayors and governor and other elected officials
  • Springtime is such a celebration because we’ve earned it after our long, hard winters
  • Summer is glorious
  • I love our backyard
  • I love our little house
  • I love our sunporch
  • I love the Badlands (photo credit belongs to here)
  • I am proud that my grandad was a state legislator
  • I appreciate that we pretty much only have a rush minute 🙂
  • I love getting on my bike and riding to the library, downtown to the farmer’s market, to a local restaurant
  • I love our pollinator garden
  • I love leaving here and coming home
  • I love how easy it is to live here: no traffic, quick access to what I need
  • I love how quiet Saturday mornings in the summer are
  • I love being so close to “the lakes”
  • I so appreciate that our 10 years in income-based housing provided us with financial stability but were not “the projects”
  • I love that we have 3, 4-year Universities and 2, 2-year Colleges
  • Because of that, we have access to a lot of incredible global art
  • I love that our diversity is growing and I am a part of ensuring that the arts are central to easing the transition for new Americans and others
  • I love being 3 hours from Canada–not really for any reason, I just like that. Feels international…because I guess it is!
  • No super creepy bugs or animals!
  • I have tremendous pride in surprising people from outside when I say I am from Fargo and ND–nobody ever expects that!

Lots of these things could be in place anywhere else–gardens, houses, bike rides, independent restaurants, Universities, the arts, weather. So what are some of my defining qualities because of where I live?

  • I am a pragmatist because of my Northern, Scandinavian upbringing and influence. “Gotta get the crops in before winter or else!” You don’t have to live on a farm to have that urgent practicality infuse your day to day here.
  • I am a dreamer because my childhood was incredibly safe, uneventful…even boring. Not much to do so my mind wandered a lot
  • Due to our small population, I was afforded many opportunities I might not have been in a larger pool. This continues.
  • I pay attention to odd but beautiful details because of the smallness of my life–not meant judgmentally–just a fact
  • I like that I have the midwest work ethic: My word means something. If I say I’ll be there, I’ll be there. I’ll get “it” done. I’ll work hard. I’ll be back tomorrow.
  • I appreciate that I am an open person in part because my life was easy and safe here
  • The highs and the lows, the haves and the have nots are not so extreme as what I perceive them to be “on the coasts” so there’s a more egalitarian nature to living here. I could literally live in income-based housing and have highly successful, wealthy people over for dinner parties because our kids went to school together. It never dawned on me to see myself as “less than.” That’s partly why Renaissance Weekend was such a shock.
  • Because there’s such homogeny (particularly when I was growing up) in the area, all my “oddities” helped me see myself as completely different, and I mostly loved that. I (am almost certain I) was the only left handed student in my entire grade from 1st-4th grade, my red hair, I’m half Italian, my dad is from NY, I’m not Norwegian or German, I don’t remember the first time I got on an airplane because even though we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, we traveled a lot, and I was 2 the first time we flew to NY. All that made me feel unique and instilled in me a sense of marching to the beat of my own drum.
  • While I no longer go to church, I truly appreciate (and occasionally resent) the foundation I have from those years where everybody was Methodist or Lutheran, and eventually I met some Catholics. I was 15 before I met a Jewish person and much older before I met a Muslim or any other global faith. That sameness gave me a real sense of deep belief and it was affirmed just about everywhere I went. I certainly wouldn’t want to live like that now, but it was part of my very easy, communal childhood. Practically everyone I saw at school, I saw at church, etc. I don’t practice or even believe a lot of what I was taught, but the lessons and the community-aspects of church don’t leave you just because you leave the church.
  • Because of the smallness of our lives, I also learned to depend on myself. I was almost 15 when my parents got divorced, and everybody had an opinion on it and often shared it with me (somewhat scandalous divorce of a relatively public family since my dad was a coach). I had to start building my armor as I was moving through the world, and fast. I began to learn that the sameness was at times a mask for other, more insidious secrets. In a larger community, my parents’ divorce would not have rated, or at least not as much, and I might not have learned to be wary of those who had an agenda hidden underneath a Christian or do-gooder mask.
  • There’s a joke, “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see if from here.” That’s exactly where I grew up. The flat landscape goes on and on and on. That gave me the opportunity to imagine what was beyond that far away horizon–to see myself living some magical life somewhere out there, wherever “out there” was.

Turns out, all of that matters to me, and I love and value those qualities, lessons and even knocks. But I have never thought about my geography with such a positive spin.

So my question to you is, where do you need to shift your lens? What are you using as a crutch that, in actuality, is also an absolute launch pad? Are there things I struggle with living where I do? You bet. But I think the answer to this might be, “Get in line.” There are ups and downs to everywhere, to every experience, to every opportunity and encounter. It’s on us to find the good, the benefit, the value and then focus on that.

I wouldn’t be who I am if I had grown up anywhere else. Maybe the slow, easy pace of North Dakota is in my life to remind me to step back, look up, marvel at the seemingly insignificant moments and things that could so easily pass me by in my haste to “get going.” Maybe the political landscape is here to encourage me to dig deeper into my own beliefs so that I can better defend them when given the opportunity. Maybe the “smallness” of our locale is to be able to swim to the perceived edge and realize that there is no edge–it’s just more and more, and it’s all for the taking.

Here’s to shifting your focus on what you currently see as a deficit to finding the positives. I’d love to hear how it works for you.

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.

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