”My partner got a job here, and all I got was this hemp T-shirt,” and “I'm Here Humboldt, Now What?” were both considered titles for a new program involving gatherings to help newcomers and longtime residents alike find their niche on the North Coast.
Friends and program co-founders Jessica Pettitt and Susan Seaman instead settled on “Trailing Spouses.”
”Living here is a little bit different than living other places,” Seaman said. “People don't necessarily adjust easily.”
Seaman, program director of Arcata Economic Development Corporation, which organized “Trailing Spouses,” said it was inspired in part by a Prosperity 2012 report released by the Humboldt County Economic Development team that showed many employers recruit individuals from other areas to work in Humboldt County, while their spouses and families trail along.
Pettitt is a trailing spouse herself, and lived in the area for six years before she and Seaman thought up the program.
”I've learned when some people just move here, they don't find out they are struggling to adjust right away,” Pettitt said. “It's not just the brand new people who necessarily need the program; people have been here for a while and still haven't found their place.”
The program has had three gatherings so far. The first in September at the Humboldt County Library, the second in October at the Link, which included a tour of the Creamery District, and the third in December at the Manila Community Center. Each meeting has attracted about 12 attendees, with only a few consistent attendees throughout all three, Seaman said.
Pettitt, a group facilitator and master of ceremonies, and Seaman agree the program hasn't turned out how they initially expected, but it has been successful, nonetheless.
Pettitt said she had a curriculum planned for the first three gatherings, including a discussion about feelings related to culture shock.
”That first meeting, I interrupted people talking, to facilitate, and they were like 'Ugh, we were just enjoying ourselves,' Pettitt said. “Susan and I realized people are just lonely and want to informally talk. So there's been far less facilitation than originally anticipated and instead, it's people just enjoying getting to know each other.”
Pettitt said she was already hesitant about payment for her facilitating skills within the program when Seaman first offered. After the program's first gathering, Pettitt said she truly benefited from her interactions with other attendees and insisted to Seaman, “you are not allowed to pay me.”
”I actually really had fun and legit made friends,” Pettitt said.
The program isn't just open to spouses who find themselves trailing -- it's open to anyone in the area looking to meet and connect with other people, regardless of how long they've been here, Pettitt and Seaman said.
Lynette Mullen, a local project manager who's a friend of Seaman, attended the program's third meeting and said she sees a lot of value in the program's networking ability. Mullen added that she grew up in Humboldt, but before the meeting had never once visited the Manila Community Center.
”The program introduced me to a wonderful facility,” Mullen said.
Ashley Rosenberg, a recent graduate who is new to Humboldt, was able to meet the library manager during the first meeting while she was giving a tour.
Rosenberg said she knew the manager's daughter in library studies, but had never met the manager herself.
”I ended up getting a temporary part-time job at the library,” Rosenberg said. “The program's a great opportunity to go and meet people.”
To find out about future “Trailing Spouses” gatherings, contact Susan Seaman at 707-822-4616 ext. 12 or firstname.lastname@example.org