When I moved here almost 15 years ago, all of my friends asked: Why Columbia? Truth be told, it was because I had a job offer. See, I was determined to leave college with a job under my belt – working somewhere in the Southeast. And it’s true, my very first trip to Columbia, South Carolina was for my interview. I knew nothing about this place other than it was smack dab in the middle of a state where I could get to the mountains and the beach easily. But let’s be real – I didn’t care about the close proximity of the mountains – it was really about the beach.

So – my first glimpse of Columbia wasn’t what was going on in the city. I was too naive to care about that. All I knew was that the people I met were really nice. Yes, a few asked me who my Mom and Dad were (I found this peculiar – what did that matter?). Yes, people asked me if I went to Carolina and when I said yes, they said Go Cocks! (which really confused me because I’m a Tar Heel). And yes, when Ralph Gregory offered me a job I told him I had to think about it overnight (which meant call my Dad with a squeal that I was going to be gainfully employed). So the next morning I said yes to a city that I knew nothing about. A city that some of my friends questioned due to political issues, education issues and just plain old branding issues, really.

Fast forward to Monday, as I sat in TEDx Columbia, where speaker Christine Johnson from SC Equality talked about saying yes to the things that move you and it was like waking up: Columbia, South Carolina is alive, people (some might even say Famously Hot). There are so many good things to say about our city. And to all my friends who doubted my path to this town – I now say: I didn’t pick Columbia. It picked me.

Stay tuned over the next few days as I share what each presenter’s story meant to me. I’m sure all of us at the event had many takeaways, I just hope I can express the excitement I gained from every person there.