I’ve never lived anywhere but in the mountains of Western North Carolina—smack dab in the middle of Appalachia. When I felt the need to spread my wings as a young adult, I moved a whole two hours away from Granny and Pap and even then, I moved into extended family’s loving arms.
I felt a stigma for not wanting to leave. “Don’t you want to see the world?” “Don’t you want to experience a different life?” “Are you sure you should live that close to your parents after you’re married?” “How can you stay here? You’ll never make any money?” “If you want a real job, you’ll have to leave to find it.”
My roots are intertwined so tightly in these mountains, I knew I could never unravel them to leave. But as a young adult, every time someone questioned my staying it bugged me. It was only as a married mother of two growing girls that I realized the answers I had for people who questioned my decision to stay were not only valid, they were what most people spend their lives hoping for.
Appalachia unfolds before me anew on a daily basis in a beautiful and magical way. The area may not rank first in the list of per ca-pita income earners, but it is a wonderful place to live with an excellent quality of life and a low cost of living compared to other areas of the country. The scenery can’t be beat, and the people are overall kind, compassionate, supportive, and colorful. The weather allows for sustainable living on a large scale and there is still a strong make do attitude with people willing to share the knowledge they’ve accumulated over their lifetimes.
I love Pap and Granny with all my heart and soul—who else would I want to live by? They’ve been there to supply every need from borrowing a cup of sugar to offering medical advice about a sick girl.
Money makes it easier to live in many ways, but money doesn’t make you any richer in the ways that count most.
Random reasons I never left Appalachia and never will:
A childhood memory of a bumblebee sitting on the corner of my sweater as I stood in Big Grandma’s flower garden waiting on Mamaw to walk me back to her house. Playing in the yard on summer evenings with strains of music coming from the windows flung open to catch the coolness of the breeze. Competing for the coveted 8th Grade History Award and winning it. Teenage years of cruising town and trying to be as cool as everyone else. Pushing a stroller with two baby girls in it down a gravel road that always led me home. Walking alone in the woods listening for and hearing the voices of those who have long since gone.
This post was originally published on The Appalachian Retelling Project website.