Who you surround yourself with has more influence on you than you might think.

When I moved from Oregon to Washington, D.C., at 23 years old for a job at the PBS NewsHour (formerly the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer), I spent a solid two years in a state of culture shock. It seemed as though everyone around me had more money than I did, was more educated and successful, and knew more people – the latter of which was an easy feat since I didn’t know anyone when I arrived in D.C.

The adjustment and realizations were a bit soul-crushing at first; I was at the bottom of a very tall career ladder. But since I moved here 12 years ago, I’ve used the experience to my advantage. Most of us have heard the saying, “You are who you surround yourself with.” Well, in D.C., you’re surrounded by lots of hyper-successful people who appear to have always been at the top of their class for seemingly everything. However, this was not the case for me. I’m from a small farming town where private schools don’t really exist and hanging out with my friends was more of a priority than getting straight As. In high school, let’s just say my aspirations were more notable than my grades. Then when I got to college, I made above-average grades because I knew they would help pave my way to success.

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Tahira Hayes


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