I can remember once upon a time being ashamed of telling people I was from West Virginia. It’s always been a state deeply rooted in poverty-stricken stereotypes. Any time I would mention that I had been born in Charleston, West Virginia the jokes would start – jokes about incest, ignorance, poverty, poor health, or the Hatfields & McCoys. Eventually, people started also making jokes about Wrong Turn, The Beverly Hillbillies (although they were not from West Virginia), or Deliverance (also, not in West Virginia). It got so old so fast I quit mentioning it and just started saying I’d been born “up north” but was raised in Florida.
Over the last 7 years of our marriage, Brandon and I have moved 7 times and lived in 4 states (Florida, Alabama, Florida (again), Georgia, and now Charleston, West Virginia. I was a bit apprehensive about moving back but it’s been nearly 9 months since we moved and I can honestly say, neither of us have ever felt happier.
At first, I wasn’t really sure what was drawing us back here. I second-guessed our decision a lot and kept praying we weren’t making a huge mistake. We were living in Atlanta, Georgia before moving to Charleston, West Virginia and were doing very well. Moving to Atlanta had felt like a dream come true for me when we first moved there. I felt like I needed to succeed in a major metropolitan area to prove my value and show that I could be successful in a city.
Every day I was part of the rat race – driving 1 hour to work, rising in the ranks of the company I worked for, achieving new goals, earning new raises, and generally trying to keep up with the constant city rush around me. My self-worth skyrocketed, professionally, but mentally I felt like I was heading toward a breakdown.
We miscarried two children and to keep myself distracted I threw myself into my career. I was working long hours and occasionally working from home on the weekend just to stay busy. We were going out all of the time to avoid being at home in our small city apartment dwelling on the fact that we still weren’t parents. I became overwhelmed with the constant comparison trap of feeling like I wasn’t achieving as much professionally as some of the other women in my office and I wasn’t standing out among other Atlanta bloggers. Over the three years we lived there I slowly stopped finding joy in little things and kept feeling like I’d be happy once I achieved the next goal. Only, I’d achieve the next goal and immediately focus on the next one. I was never content, I lived in self-doubt, and my happiness slowly faded away until all I could see ahead of me were obstacles and pressure to keep up.
The only time I ever felt it fade away was when we were on my parent’s hunting property here in West Virginia. Brandon and I both felt this overwhelming sense of peace when we were there and it was that feeling of tranquility that inspired us to move.
Now here we are, nearly 9 months later, and we still feel that same feeling of contentment we found on my parent’s property. I wish I could say it’s living in a small city / large town that gives us this feeling but it isn’t. We have lived in small towns, large towns, small cities, and large cities before; it’s definitely unique to Charleston, West Virginia.
People still hold the same stereotypes about the area and the opioid crisis has made some of it worse but I no longer care. The joy we’ve found living here is truly all that matters. Most of the people are incredible – smart, welcoming, and laid-back. We’ve been welcomed by everyone we’ve met and I’ve been amazed at how many other transplants there are to the area. I’ve met people from Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Pennsylvania, Montana, and more. I’ve met people from different cultures, ethnicities, and religions. Despite it being a red state, there are people from all across the political spectrum and it’s certainly not an extreme conservative majority. None of it matters either, people are nice just because they are nice. The only pressure I feel from people is to be a kind person in return.
The landscape is gorgeous and we’re spending far more time outdoors. The dogs are happier and we’ve been able to go hiking and exploring more often. This year we are planning a couple of hiking trips and want to see some of the waterfalls in the area. There are great places nearby for road trips too! We are going to Pittsburgh soon and hopefully also to Columbus, OH and Baltimore, MD. We’d also love to road trip up the east coast to Maine.
People here in Charleston, West Virginia and the rest of the state live a simpler way of life with minimal expectations and a feeling of happiness at being connected with the natural world which is something we never had in any of the other places we’ve lived. People here still know how to appreciate simple living and we’ve been learning to find our way back to that too. The more we learn to let go of, the happier we find ourselves.
What do you love about where you live? I’d love to hear your stories!