As I’ve mentioned in past columns, I’m from suburban America.
As shocking as it may sound to some of you Greene County natives out there, I grew up in a place with more concrete than trees. From my front porch, I could have a conversation with any neighbor in any direction. I’ve never been hunting. Carhartt and camo were uncommon. If I wanted to immerse myself in nature, I had to get in my car and drive somewhere. Even deep in the trails, I could still hear a hint of traffic.
So I knew, before I even accepted this job, that working in rural America would come with some culture shock. I knew I would have less cellphone reception and struggle to find dairy-free ice cream, but were are some obstacles I didn’t think to prepare for.
Like this week, we ran a story on the annual Ramp Festival at Mason-Dixon Park near Mount Morris, which everyone but me knew was different from Mason-Dixon Historical Park two miles away in Core, West Virginia.
In suburban America it would be simple to find the park’s address. I would turn to Google maps and that would be the end of my hunt. In Greene County, directions can’t always be Googled.
“Two miles past Mount Morris.”
That’s what I get when I ask Mason-Dixon Park employees for their address. That’s more than even the most extensive Internet search will get me. Mason-Dixon Park, which is small and privately-owned, is not on any map. All my fellow suburbanites are shaking.
In rural America, people don’t always need addresses. They don’t rely on Google. They just know where to go because that’s where they’ve always gone.
Sometimes it’s frustrating how processes like asking for directions work around here. It’s intimidating knowing I’m almost always the only outsider in a room. It’s embarrassing having to ask what a meat shoot is. I’ve soaked in the silence after asking a question that everyone else already knows the answer to. That can be really difficult to handle.
Sometimes I really miss home, and not having to ask for help. But I know this move was the right one for me. I know, each time I face a new obstacle, I have an opportunity to grow, to learn and to laugh.
I call my mom and we laugh about the questions I must ask and the situations I must work through.
Being in Greene County has taught me so much about my own bravery and ability.
I’ve passed destinations and had to make three-point turns on nerve wracking hills. I’ve driven side-by-side with CDLs for miles, a fear that used to paralyze me. I’ve learned about different culinary traditions: some appetizing, some with names like head cheese.
I’m expanding this perspective of mine. In doing so, I’m embracing where I came from.