I was recently on the receiving end of a flattering and wholly unexpected accolade recognizing many decades of volunteer work promoting and preserving the history of South Dakota. This is what I do for fun, and despite the fact that my tour business grew out of my love of history, it is rare when the two cross paths.
One is a vocation and one is an avocation. I get it. And I’ve always known that I am regarded as something of an oddity by each of these groups. As a sophomore in college I once stumbled into a required course for history majors. I’d already taken a course from this professor, and knew that he wasn’t a very good teacher. He knew it too; I strongly suspect that he had never had a student in a class who didn’t have to be there. At the end of that first class, he pulled me aside and demanded to know what the hell I was doing there! I hadn’t really thought about it before, but managed to blurt out that I just liked history. He was dumbfounded.
I did eventually become a history major, but my interests continued to be eclectic, taking me into the worlds of theatre, documentary script writing and production, and before too long, tourism – which happily combines my two passions.
Travel and tourism, for its part, skeptically views me as something less than a serious businesswoman, with so many non-profit activities on the side. And it’s true that I’m as likely to be in Custer State Park distributing fliers for an upcoming history conference, or conferring with park officials about the maintenance of the former Poet Laureate’s cabin home, as I am to be escorting a tour group on the wildlife loop.
I write two different newsletters (one for tours, one for a history conference), maintain two websites (ditto), maintain two Facebook pages (etc.), attend annual history conferences (and serve as board president for one), and I attend group travel conventions and marketplaces. I present research papers at history conferences, and I speak and participate in panel discussions at travel conventions. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
I was doing just fine straddling these interests – I thought. But with this award, my two worlds suddenly collided. Social media friends from both worlds responded enthusiastically, although most of my tourism friends admitted that they were “sure” it was well-deserved, even though it’s probable that they had no idea what I did to be so recognized. The capper was when a widely-distributed and respected online travel-trade publication re-printed the South Dakota Historical Society announcement under its “industry updates” on job promotions, transfers, and other news about upwardly mobile tourism executives. I was gob-smacked!
For my part, I made my peace with this Jekyll and Hyde existence long ago, freely acknowledging both of my loves on resumes and company profiles, along with a few other quirky tidbits including my service in the USO and my commission as an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy (which I think is just SO cool!)
Having lived this long without any untoward incidents, I fully expect the current kerfuffle to pass. After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity, or so the saying goes. Actually, I can point to many instances throughout history where…..
….oops. Sorry. Forgot myself for a moment there.