Sunday, August 19, 2007

Valley-itis: A Disease with symptoms like 'lack of ambition'

I love the Wyoming Valley. Many people I know have escaped the Valley for the bright lights and big city. There are truly exciting things out there. It is so cool that someone will take a risk and leave everything they know behind. I admire that and in my going back to college as an adult, I lived vicariously through the blossoming young writers who headed to NYC, London, LA, San Franciso, Philly and more. That is cool.

However, many people say you HAVE to leave the area to have a good career. In certain cases if you are going into a very specific field—for instance if you are going to school to study transportation you may have to move to a city that has more of a transportation system. But if you have a more ‘general’ degree such as business, marketing, communications, education, etc. you don’t necessarily have to leave the area to make your mark. So, the people who say there is NOTHING here… they are lying. You just have to look.

Many people remain in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas and have great careers and great lives. There may be lesser options and you may have to work smarter and harder, but it can happen here. Staying here does not make anyone not ambitious. However, there is something in this area that is spreading like wildfire. It is a true sickness and I didn’t realize how bad it was until recently.

Before I get into that sickness, I must also add that there is culture here—there is arts and entertainment galore—you just have to find it. This area truly has many things big cities have…

But many people who are tied to this area have no ambition. None. I am the first person to say that I can respect someone with a menial job or limited education as long as they are aspiring to be the best they can be at it. However, since I live in a rural area, the past few months I have been growing more and more disgusted with certain types of people around here. If I call them rednecks, will anyone be offended? And, there is also the general redneck mentality that is infiltrated to the city.

Case in point. I know someone from the West Side who hated her job. We had many, many talks about this. I inspired her to find a new job. I inspired her to take a risk and change her life and just be happy. I even helped said friend get job. And I did something I will NEVER do again: I put my name on her. She was hired. She was supposed to start there in two weeks. Then you know what she did? She rescinded her job offer and opted to stay at the place she was so miserable at. I cannot for the life of me figure people like that out. (P.S. I know how miserable it was because I too worked there and I left for the same reasons, if not more, as she wanted to… )

I was mad for a few days—not so much about my putting my name on the line—but angry at her and the people like her who are so afraid of change and so afraid of doing something with their lives. Now I write this blog as therapy.

There is a term called “Valley-itis” here in the Wyoming Valley. It’s used to describe people who will settle. People who are happy with menial jobs, no or low education, etc. These people have a limited worldview and are in general so very ignorant of the world around them. They laugh when someone has a different accent. They scoff that a Korean food restaurant opened in Sweet Valley, as one example. People are afraid of things not like them. Why? They also laugh when I say I am getting my master’s and ask me why I’d want to go to school past high school. (Because I don’t want to be like, you, you jackass!)

I run into people all the time at these country bars. I can carry a conversation with them about what Paris Hilton has done recently, but if I try to talk about what I do for a living, they start to get all awkward and goofy because they don’t understand. Anyone have a similar situation? When someone doesn’t understand the subject matter, they start to mock it. I cannot tolerate this ignorance and I do not want to go to these places.

I seriously had an epiphany the other day. I am the type of person who loves everybody and I never wanted to look down on someone. I have always been accepting no matter what. But you know what? Now I know why people go to upscale bars and cultural events—because you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals that you can actually converse with. (Or to be frank- it weeds out the trash.) I don’t think I could afford to go to these places all the time, but the reality of it is, I may have to start. Either that, or just make sure I am with a group of people that I want to hang out with. I am a social person and like to talk to everyone, but if I keep going to these country bars- whose poor grammar-ridden menus and handwritten signs say things like “Jello Shot’s 50-cents”—I think my own level of intelligence may dwindle. I met one girl and her sister- they live in a two-bedroom house with a family of seven. That’s right. No one ever moved out. None of them went to school. All of them work in fast food or at gas stations. What a way to live your life. Cooped up with my four siblings and parents. No drive. Except to drink at the redneck bar.

I am not saying these things to be mean by any means. I am just starting to realize the difference between people who have ambition and those that don’t. I think education plays a vital role, but not always. In certain trades and fields a higher education isn’t necessary. There are many self-taught geniuses and self-made millionaires. So book education doesn’t mean everything—but being open-minded and knowing about the world around can replace any deficiency in education.

There IS a Cure For Valleyitis. No prescription necessary. (I am sure that every area has a similar sickness.)

1) There are many fine institutions of higher education in Northeast Pennsylvania. Pick one. Finish there.

2) There are many print publications in our area that contain classified ads. Grab a marker and start circling. But the trick is, after you circle it, send in your resume or stop by for an application, depending on what kind of job it is.

A job will most likely ask you to come in for an application, while a career would have you send a cover letter and resume, just so you know the difference. A career is better, but it may take you some time (see #1), so a job is also acceptable. There are A LOT of jobs around here and at least you will be off your ass.

3) There are wonderful bars in this area. However, keeping a set schedule and always showing up to the bar at the same time each day does not mean you have a job. Do not spend all day at said corner bar. Use the corner bar as a place to unwind after a day at your job or career. Do not use it as a place to exist.

4) If you have a job or career, look above you. (Not literally.) Where can you go from here? Just because you are gainfully employed does not mean you have to stop where you are. That is called “settling.” Perhaps parents or other naysayers said you could settle. Don’t. Please.

5) Newspapers. Read them. Books. Read them. NPR. Listen to it. Then, watch your vocabulary grow.

6) Other cultures. Why are we so hung up on ourselves as Americans? Hello! The Earth is a tiny speck in the universe, just like America is a tiny speck on the Earth. Learn about other cultures. Realize that there are people different than you.


joe k said...

Ah yes, the dreaded Valley-itis. Highly contagious.

The first symptom to look for is jealousy. This happens when someone cuts you down for what you do, simply because they don't have the ambition to try to do it themselves.

We must rid the Valley of this illness, but it's about as easy to cure as the common cold.

Kim said...

Where is this Korean place in Sweet Valley? I need details.

SophiesMark said...

I agree with so much of what you said here Donna. I think so many people confuse ambition and drive with other things too, I talked about this some in my last blog post over on myspace. My family has always encouraged me to go for everything I ever wanted, and that has led to my ambition and optimism being confused with naivete.

There is nothing wrong with wanting something and making a plan to go for it, but so many people are afraid of doing that. It's easier to mock others that take the risk than it is to ask yourself why you can't do the same. The satisfaction in the end is so worth it.

Sophiesmark said...

lol, Not sure if you watch Oprah, but I was scanning this morning and Dr. Oz said something that reminded me of this post.
"People, when they understand something change their lives."

Knowing and understanding are different things. This disease is caused in part by a lack of understanding.

Donna T. said...

Sophie- GREAT correlation to that quote to this blog!! Joe- agreed. Jealousy play so much into this-- why not be inspired instead of jealous? Beats me! Kim- right on Rte. 118 where the go-kart track is. They serve American food and breakfast now as well...

Anonymous said...

I was not a native, but it's kinda why I left.


PS - that and the hot chick I was dating who I ended up marrying