There is a change in the air around our Tri-State area, and I can feel it. It’s a hopeful, exciting, almost nostalgic feel as we see our town shifting, growing, and blossoming in ways it previously hasn’t. For too long the malignant mentality that nothing good occurs here has ruled the hearts and minds of some. There are times I have become frustrated with the way the rest of the world seems to view our area. The negative stereotypes are plentiful. Yet, if some could traverse our beautiful area and witness the lush green pastures, rolling hill tops, and white-board fencing that surround acres of bovine and horse-run ground, they’d see sides of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia previously thought non-existent.
Despite the good listed above, I’ve witnessed it over and over: a seemingly limiting and fatalist mindset about our Appalachian heritage and region. It is true, things have been difficult in our local economy for a long time. It is also true that the population growth charts have been on the decline for several years. However, businesses are opening, art is abounding, and structures are being erected to remind us and the rest of the world that we ARE worthy of notice.
Over time, many from our area have exchanged their small-town upbringing for big-city life and have happily never returned. Some have left, not by choice, but because circumstance forced them away. Then there are those who have never left, and those who have left only for a season, but returned when the bright lights wore dim, circumstances changed, or the familiar draw of home, family, and roots began tugging at their heartstrings once more.
They say home is where the heart is and if that’s true, it stands to reason that it doesn’t matter where you’re currently located. However, if your heart feels planted in the soils of our Appalachian region, this is your home.
Over the years the draw for more concrete almost moved me away twice, but each time, the extenuating circumstances of my life kept me planted right here in Ashland. Both times this seemed like the opposite of what I wanted, but in retrospect, it was a blessing during those seasons. They say hindsight is 20/20, and I believe that’s a true conjecture. In hindsight, if the hard circumstances I endured had occurred with my family, friends, and community in a faraway area, I truly don’t know how I would have made it.
So, what am I trying to convey? I would never presume to tell someone they should or should not move from our area because a variety of reasons play into relocation decisions. However, I would like to suggest the notion that if access to bigger, brighter lights is your sole motivator, know that happiness is a mindset, not a location; and though another area may have a bit more glitz and glam, this does not guarantee your happiness or a better quality of life. Also, keep in mind that our lights are growing (and glowing) brighter, our revitalization efforts are abounding, and life is blossoming right here in the soils of our Tri-State region.
As for me and my household, I don’t know where the wind sails of tomorrow will take us or what they will bring, but I do know this: no matter where my sails are blown, I now know a deep truth that doesn’t shift, go or blow away – when I move, IF I move, it won’t be other big-city lights, growth charts, or negative stereotypes that will make my real-estate decisions for me.
Because it truly isn’t where you live. It’s how you live where you live, and who you choose to do life with that makes all the difference.