At some point you will hate where you live. Frustration with prevalent poverty, an attitude of apathy, and, possibly worst of all to a restless young person, the smallness of a small town makes even the most devoted townie look towards a different horizon. As someone who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley and opted to attend university in the nest of the mountains, I do love this area. I call it home when people ask, although, depending on the company, I may leave out West Virginia. I also recognize it needs some work, and part of me feels a twinge of guilt for not being the person to do said work.
I’ve run away from home twice as an adult, this time to New Orleans. Between the hard freezes and lack of opportunity, it is not always easy to make it in the valley. I felt I needed more, so I naturally landed in a self-proclaimed City of Excess.
If you are one of the many in the valley who dream of faraway coasts or more modest destinations, there are things you may miss if or when circumstances give you the chance to leave. Although I couldn’t wait to leave this summer, I was lucky enough to live in Martinsburg and make a reasonable living as a writer and yoga teacher, and I’m here to tell you where you live really is not so bad.
As I drove from West Virginia to Louisiana, I crossed Alabama and suddenly noticed something. I could see the entire sunset. Being from the valley, I’m used to the mountains being a part of the sky-scape, but in the flatness of the South, the clouds overwhelm the sky. While the terrain is great for gas mileage, you don’t get to feel the heat build in your body as you hike up Maryland heights or the sense of freedom felt zooming down Mount Weather on your way home from your dreaded commute to Northern Virginia.
Those Special Spots
Poor House Farm, Maryland Heights, the Ruins, Bear’s Den, and Bakerton Quarry – locals know what I’m talking about. They are the not-so-secret-destinations that some of us neglect even though they’re right in our backyard. Take advantage but do not take them for granted! One of my last memories made in Martinsburg was watching a meteor shower from Poor House Farm – possibly illegally. Whatever. The clean air, crisp cider, and perfects skies made it a magical night shared with friends – without the lights and glitz of the city. There is a reason you may occasionally hear the term “citiot” (a portmanteau combining “city” and “idiot”) in regards to people who don’t realize what they’re missing, trapped in their concrete jungle and swathed in self-importance whilst snubbing all of the “rednecks” in the valley.
Being a Big Fish in a Small Pond
The impact you can make in the community is enormous. I managed to teach yoga in Martinsburg and the surrounding area, and the most rewarding opportunity was a volunteer position for the Berkley Senior Center where I taught seniors chair yoga. The stories of physical improvement from my students were innumerable, and I’m forever thankful for the experience I gained while volunteering with the Berkeley Senior Center. We all have special talents that can potentially benefit and shape the Panhandle, and while I spent just three hours per month of my time giving back to the community through volunteer service, I received so much more in return. Even from a thousand miles away I’m excited to see MiBurg and its contributors kick start the community of Martinsburg and surrounding areas. Laissez les bon temps roulez!