by Annita Lawson
Growing up I wanted to be anywhere except the hills of southeastern Kentucky. It seemed to me that I lived in the most backward, country, hillbilly place in the entire world and there was no pride when I thought about where I came from. I’m not sure how I managed to acquire that attitude; my parents didn’t feel that way. I believe it was probably the negative stereotypes of mountain people that I saw on television. Whatever it was, it had an effect on me.

As I got older I began to slowly see my home in a different light. I dealt with some major anxiety issues in my teen years and I began to find solace and comfort in these hills. Nothing can touch the beauty of early morning in the spring or the fragrant warmth of a summer night. Nothing could calm me like soaking up my surroundings. The excitement of other places no longer held much charm for me.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties I began to appreciate other things about living here. The sense of community and belonging that comes from living on this “creek” or up that “holler” is one that can’t be matched. The land I live on has been in my family for over a hundred years, my roots go deep in these mountains.

The media seems to take great joy in portraying our people as uneducated, backward, and dirt poor, the most recent example being the 20/20 report that aired in February. I’m not saying the things in the story are untrue. Drugs are a huge problem here and I’ve saw more than one mom fill a baby bottle up with Mountain Dew. But that’s not all there is to our story.

I wish that we could get some attention for the strength of the people who have carved out a life here or the many talented folks that create everything from quilts to paintings to music. I don’t know a single family that doesn’t have at least one artist among them, yet you rarely hear those stories.

Now I’m in my early thirties and I can honestly say that I’m proud of where I come from. I am a mama of two boys and wouldn’t choose to raise them anywhere else. I plan to teach my boys about the history of our home and hopefully instill enough pride in them that they will want to be part of the changes that do need to be made. Who knows, maybe one of them will be among the first to tell the real story of the mountain people of southeastern Kentucky.

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