Life Lessons From A Small Town

July 23, 2013  |  Local Interest, Personal

On June 28th, the Albany Recreation and Community Services Department hosted its first Pechakucha Night, and I was honored to be invited to be one of the presenters. Pechakucha is a concept that started in Japan and has been embraced the world over: twenty slides, each projected for twenty seconds. Those are the only rules. The subject matter is wide open, and you can narrate any way you like.

That’s a little too wide open for my little brain. I needed some kind of structure or theme before I could even begin. Thankfully, this opportunity coincided with another big event. Our younger daughter graduated from college in June, so I had commencement addresses on my mind. Looking through the collection of images I have made in Albany over the years, I began to wonder what it might be like if Albany gave a commencement address. It was a challenge, a fun one, to find images and words that would combine to convey what I wanted to say. The result is kind of a love letter, to my girls and this town. It snuck up on me a little bit. But now that it’s done, I realize how much it means to me.

This isn’t something I would ever have thought of doing without the kind invitation from Chelle Putzer and the folks at the Albany Community Center. They are a wonderful group.

I’m proud of this. I hope you enjoy it. (If you don’t want to watch the video, the images and words appear below.)

If you prefer, following is the self-guided version with captions following each image.

1_Home Town

I didn’t grow up in Albany, but I have lived here for 24 years, which is longer than I have lived anywhere else. It is my children’s hometown. If a town could give a commencement address, these are some things I think Albany might say.

2_Home Town

Keep learning how to do new things. It won’t be easy at first. It isn’t supposed to be. You might fall down. Choose the pursuits that matter to you and keep trying.

3_Home Town

Be thankful for the folks who were there to cheer you on, when all you had to do was show up and do your best. Those people and those experiences provided such an important foundation.

4_Home Town

Because eventually they do keep score. Whether you win or lose will start to matter. But so does how you play the game. Maybe that matters even more. Always play fair.

5_Home Town

School and work and life may be hard sometimes. Keep something in your life that brings you joy. And then let yourself enjoy it.

6_Home Town

Whenever your Glory Days are, know that the next group is coming up behind you, ready to take their turn. Don’t begrudge them their moment in the spotlight. Come back and cheer them on. Sing along.

7_Home Town

Make a place in your days for creativity, however you define it. More than likely, it won’t be how you make your living. But it will enrich your life.

8_Home Town

Gather with people occasionally. Whether you knit, or sing, or discuss books, doing it in community — live — offers something you can’t get in the virtual world.

9_Home Town

Take it Old School from time to time. The old movie theaters and ice cream parlors and small shops may not be around forever. You’ll miss them.

10_Home Town

Go outside! It could be as simple as spending time in a garden with a cup of coffee and a good book. Find your own favorite al fresco experience and make time to indulge in it.

11_Home Town

Make time to celebrate. You don’t need a reason.

12_Home Town

Be there when your friends and neighbors need you. And be grateful for the people in your life who go above and beyond what is required. Say thank you.

13_Home Town

Remember how great it feels when your efforts are recognized. A gold star might just be a sticker, but it matters. If you ever have the chance to lift a child up with a word of praise, do it.

14_Home Town

Remember that nothing gets done by magic. If it happened, somebody did it. Appreciate the people who do the work.

15_Home Town

Resist the urge to be cynical. It isn’t as cool as it might seem. It’s okay to have fun putting up holiday lights in the rain.

16_Home Town

A big part of your hometown is your home. Whatever your rituals, or traditions, or shared moments are, may you look back on them with fondness.

17_Home Town

It’s easy to take the familiar for granted. Remember that you live in an area that is a dream destination for many. Every once in a while, look around with vacation eyes. Appreciate and experience the wonders that are close at hand.

18_Home Town

Stay curious. Fascinating things are happening right in your own backyard. Most people insist they are not very interesting. That’s not true. Everyone has a story to tell. Listen to the stories.

19_Home Town

Take what you’ve learned here and go out into the wide world. Explore. Experience. Live your life.

20_Home Town

And know that there are folks back home who are rooting for you. All things considered, this is a pretty nice place to be from.


  1. Beautifully done! I am so proud to call you my friend.

  2. I want to share this with *everyone*!

    • I am so touched that you made time to be there on Pechakucha night, Karen. It really helped to have friendly faces in the audience. And your reaction confirmed that I got my message across. Thank you for sharing this further on Facebook.

  3. Dorothy, this is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your incredible creation. You have renewed my gratitude for our town; “an area that is a dream destination for many.” And I’d like a bumper sticker with your quote “Make a place in your days for creativity, however you define it. More than likely, it won’t be how you make your living. But it will enrich your life.” You are an inspiration!

    • And you, Moriah, are one of my favorite creatives in this town. I just can’t decide which is more beautiful, your jewelry or your baked goods. Luckily, I have received both. :-)

  4. Lovely!! You illustrate all the concepts beautifully.

  5. Dorothy, It’s a compelling commendation of the small things that matter in a small town on the cusp of the Bay.

  6. Really lovely Dorothy!

  7. really lovely Dorothy! your images are more beautiful every time you present something. Congratulations to you and your family being here 23 years!

  8. Dorothy, that is so beautiful and so true! Thank you for sharing it with us all.

  9. SIMPLY beautiful! I grew up in Albany and now live in Nevada and you brought tears to my eyes. You captured the real beauty of life in a small town surrounded by the masses!


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