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It’s a shared identity


LOCAL Life asked Emily Johnson to share her thoughts on what it means to be local. Johnson is a financial advisor, and the founder and managing director of Polaris Capital Advisors. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments to our website. Write to [email protected].

Local Since 2006 – Emily Johnson is shown with her family and her daughter in the featured (top) photo.

To me, being local is akin to being both a character in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and a small speck on the ever-evolving world map at the same time. We say “it’s a small island” so frequently and in so many contexts that the phrase has become both a welcome and a warning.

I walked into Healthy Habit a few days ago and the owner looked at me somewhat assessingly and said, “I think your parents were just in here. And your sister. What’s your name again?” And that just about sums it up.

I moved to Hilton Head about 14 years ago, having vacationed here since I was in the single digits, so that my unborn daughter and I would be closer to family. And are we ever! We now live across the street from my parents and a few blocks from my sister’s family. The FedEx guy delivers my packages to “the other Johnson house” when I’m not home. Guests and contractors show up at the wrong house regularly. I’m referred to as “Dr. Johnson’s daughter,” “Bella’s mom,” “Kent’s niece,” and “Casey and Lindsay’s sister” more frequently than “Emily.” And we seem to travel in packs. I have a dining room table for 14 for my actual family of two. And we still need the 10 seats in the kitchen for the overflow. Having grown up more of a gypsy, I take great comfort (often laced with an essential dose of humor) in the familiarity that being local in our community allows. It’s a sense of safety, as well as a source of identity and responsibility.

But being local also creates a sense of anonymity, as I’m often reminded that Hilton Head is like a metaphorical red dot on a Delta flight map.

People from all over the globe come here, whether to visit or to stay, bringing with them their multitude of varying experiences, perspectives, beliefs, challenges, and successes. On more occasions than I can count, I have had the honor of meeting phenomenally intriguing individuals, who, while on “island time,” love to share their experience and wisdom. These are the people who, while I was living in New York and D.C., would not have had the time for a spontaneous conversation over coffee.

“Kevin Bacon’s 6 Degrees of Separation” has nothing on Hilton Head. I would wager that we could reach just about anyone in the world with fewer than 2 degrees of separation through only the residents of our beautiful, small Island. And that aspect, to me, is an often unsung benefit of being local – it’s being part of something so much bigger, simply because the beauty of Hilton Head called us here for one reason or another. It’s a shared identity.

I love watching my daughter ride her bike up to the tennis courts. She is too young to know the value of the island home she has, but I hope that some day she will take the same pride in being local that I do. LL