April 10, 2015 marked the day of my last “Every Point on the Map” feature compiled by our original two-person team. Reaching this small milestone felt good. To celebrate, I sent a text message to Rachel and April with several exclamation marks.
We have changed since our pilot run, as much by the lives we have encountered as by the information gathering and relationship building process.
Reflecting on my own personal change, I’ve noticed something different about myself compared to last year: I’m not afraid to ask people for conversations any longer. I used to feel sheepish. I even wrote once, “I don’t want to step on their daisies.”
Now I feel comfortable and confident. I “own” our project, and feel genuinely happy to invite someone to take part in a conversation with us; my backbone is a little stronger, my posture a little straighter. I no longer see our state as, “I wonder who might be willing to speak with us?” Rather, I see our state as, “Who wouldn’t want to participate? This is a cool opportunity!”
I think I’ve also grown to respect our state in a geospatial way. I’m sometimes genuinely surprised at the length of time it takes to reach certain destinations in our relatively low-populated state. In discussions with my policy-making colleagues, one of my go-to phrases used to be, “We have the same number of people in all of Oklahoma as the U.S. Census Bureau reports living in Orange County California.”
I no longer consider the number of citizens within our borders as a comparison to other areas within the U.S. Most of the time, I simply think of our state as who is here, as the faces we’ve met. As the souls with whom we have connected. “Numbers” no longer resonate with me like “people,” and I rather like that change.
Rachel believes she’s changed in different ways. Her discussions with others in her life now include many more stories outside her own spectrum. Those we have met are now integrated into her narrative.
She also recalls initially being “worried whether or not anyone would take us seriously.” Now, she has hope that when “people see what we’re doing, they will take us more seriously.” So, in degrees, its as if the value of our work and how others reflect on it enters her mind.
When asked if she’s experienced personal change in the short time with us, April wrote me this:
I love sharing stories. My dream is to travel internationally, catching small glimpses of people’s perspective on this world and documenting [their perspectives] to share with others. EPOTM caught me by surprise and is allowing me to do that in my backyard. I’m so excited to be a part of this project.
The biggest thing I’ve gained thus far…is realizing the value of a small town. I’ve learned how people actually prefer it — that they’ve moved to those small towns and love it — that they never want to leave and the more stories I hear the more I realize they are really onto something.
I remember April distinctly saying on her first run with us, “I want to know why people choose to live out here.” I think it was somewhere in Strang, when listening to a young mother’s story of how she ends her day by sitting on a nearby bridge, dangling her legs off the side, and watching the sunset in the peaceful quietness that April got her answer.
I love how this project has surprised us, given us answers we weren’t sure would come, and how I know without a doubt that our next run, and the next, and the one after that will be filled with life-changing moments.
This weekend, we’ll start rolling out “series” pieces. Our first will be entitled “The Dam Run” and include pieces from Pryor Creek, Adair, Strang, Langley, Disney and Spavinaw.
Following that series, we’ll have a stand alone piece from Stillwater.
Then, we’ll move into a “Highway 9” series covering Tecumseh, Bethel Acres, Pink, Little Axe, Lexington and a hodge-podge of three historical towns that somewhat make up a quasi-point on the map.
Can’t wait to share them. Thanks for coming along with us for Part One. Please invite your friends for Part Two.
Kelly, Rachel & April – Every Point on the Map trio