I'm pretty sure he didn't originate the quote titling this post, but I heard it said yesterday by the one and only Dr. E. Gordon Gee, President of the finest university in the land. He was speaking at our local community foundation's annual report to the community event, and I wanted to stand up a cheer a few times, to be honest.
For most of my life, I have been a huge cheerleader for West Virginia. Lately, though, the static frustrations inherent in being a West Virginian have become more frustrating than normal, and the "static" part of the equation makes me rage-y and furious and informs my day dreams with ideas of escape.
We are the masters of doing things because it's the way they've always been done.
Which means, of course, that we're also masters of self-ordained destruction, on a continuous lather, rinse, repeat cycle.
It gets old. It gets exhausting. It gets bone-crushingly tiresome.
When a natural born optimist is forced to admit hope is a unicorn, it's devastating.
Truth? I love this place, deep in my soul.
Bigger truth? I would sell our house and move away from here tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.
I'm not alone. Sadly, our not-so-small army of like minded fellow West Virginians and all of the creativity, drive, effort, ideas, energy, and willingness we possess is not (yet, anyway) enough to move the needle. It's not (yet, anyway) enough to effect real and necessary, temporarily painful and eternally radical change.
It's the whole #StruggleToStay phenomenon. It pisses some people off to hear that phrase. "I love this place, its people. Staying is not a struggle for meeeeeee!"
Bless their hearts.
Apathy and anger and dismay and disappointment can move at a glacial pace, but it inevitably arrives.
And if you want sustainable quality of life, where health and education are priorities, if you long to pursue your happiness in an environment that empowers you and fuels you and frees you, eventually the greener pastures just over the borders all around us will call your name.
I didn't always think that way. I used to believe our state could change, adapt, blossom. And then I came to believe we were, collectively, willfully, resistant to change, refusing to adapt, and wasting away, even our supply of good intentions depleted.
Listening to Dr. Gee yesterday, hearing solutions in his words and a fierce urgency in his heart, listening to successes he's engendered by steamrolling over the naysayers and busting free of the status quo, I felt something akin to inspiration. I felt encouraged. I felt something shift, and shadows lift, and a tiny new seed of hope was planted, in spite of myself.
The soil it's being asked to take root in is pocked with doubt and faith starved, but isn't that - ultimately - where most hope blooms?
Let's nurture it a bit and see where it takes us.
These days, in this place, that's the road less traveled.
But what do we have left to lose?