Odd Duck restaurant logo

Odd Duck Restaurant logo (Austin, TX)

I recently moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where I was born. I spend significant time still in Washington and Baltimore, where I’ve spent 30 years in a satisfying career. These days, I don’t have to be “up north” every week or even every other week.

It’s fascinating how different the economy and culture is in Williamsburg compared to a large city. Not the amount of money made, although it is lower, but the ways in which it’s made.

First, Williamsburg is a tourist town. Not what it was 15+ years ago, but still viable.

Second, people here work at different trades. Not only do I meet four or five bankers and financial analysts per day, I marvel at that fact that people here often have two or more jobs. They work at a restaurant and they also sell handbags. They work at the local bars and sell very nice jewelry on the side. Lots of people are involved in MLM (multi-level marketing) businesses. I’ve watched many entrepreneurs set up shop (I assume without enough research or financial reserves) and be closed within the year.

The difference in occupations was an eye opener.

I was and am an odd duck.

In Washington and Baltimore, you have a career, pretty much doing one thing, moving to the next (hopefully upward) position. Sure, there are artists and entrepreneurs in Baltimore and DC. But I tended to go (as all of us did) to trade meetings. We belonged to film and video organizations.

I have been a news and copywriter since I was 20. By 24, I was the nation’s youngest scriptwriter (and perhaps associate producer) of a PBS daily news show. As the 2000’s emerged, many media professionals made sure they were adept in web technology as well. I made my first web site in 1995.

So, even though I loved my life “up north,” I came here a few years ago, hoping to find less traffic, an easier life, and more hours in the day. I was successful at that. Everything in Williamsburg is 5 minutes away. And if you want to go to Norfolk or Richmond, it’s more like an hour — still, easier traffic than I encountered working from near Annapolis, where everything was an hour to two hours away.

When I was packing to leave Pasadena, MD and driving to local stores for boxes, my sister Lyn remarked, “I can’t believe it takes you 15 minutes to get to a grocery store.” That’s right. Plus another 15 minutes headed west to hit the main artery (95) headed north (to Baltimore) or south (to DC). It could be exhausting to do day jobs such as producing and writing on location.

Living on the water had its price in more than one way.

Here? I generally fill my gas tank every two weeks, not every two days.

Well, let me tell you, people here might be impressed that you have some awards. For a moment.

But I found people in Williamsburg haven’t had the need to BE impressed by awards, statuettes, or worldwide travel.

After they were impressed, they kind of wanted to know what you would do for them. Or if you know how to fish. Or remember where the old A&P was. Things like that.

And all of the talk of video, and usable website navigation and usability, and especially the idea of actually CHARGING someone to write copy or scripts fell into the “oh, nice” category.

By “oh, nice” I mean that so many people had no idea how to use these skills, or that they were skills, much less refer me to others. I was an odd duck, completely out of my element.

In a small town, there’s always someone you need to prove yourself to, always someone inferring that you’re only as good as your last job, and always that ever-increasing competition thanks to the low overhead of whatever business you’re in. So, you really need to keep up those coffees, those meetings, those after-hours schmoozes.

So, back to my point. When do I stop paying my dues?

So, here in a new town, I’m working harder than ever to become known.

I’m currently on two Chamber of Commerce committees. I serve on the City’s Arts Commission. I belong to two networking groups. I serve on the board of a fast-growing nonprofit. Plus, I generally run two charity drives each year, one for school supplies and another for food for our often-unrecognized homeless. And I still try to get 50 to 60 hours of work in each week.

Someone called yesterday and told me that everything I touch turns to gold. She says she sees my picture in every newspaper and newsletter and hears people talk about me. I guess that’s a good thing.

Maybe that news fortified me a bit.

However, I think I’ll be paying dues for some time to come.

I think we all will, if we’re not the ones to win the lotto.

For what are dues, but an obligation of debt, whether authorized or volunteered?

And if dues are volunteered, as I believe mine are, how can I keep complaining about them?

Not sure how to end this post, but I will anyway. I’m going to buy a lottery ticket.

When do I stop paying my dues?

by susan time to read: 4 min

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