I’ve managed the Greene County Messenger for a full year now.

I spent the last thirteen full moons growing more confident in myself and my storytelling abilities, the last 52 weeks building connections in this once-unfamiliar place.

Compared to last summer, I now understand how much Southwestern Pennsylvania values motocross and county fairs. I have an idea of where the best hiking spots are and know how crucial adding flea and tick shampoo to my dog mom arsenal is.

I’m a lover of scrapbooks. I get that from my mom who’s been great about documenting the family over the years. Her hobby taught me that, sometimes, in order to move forward we must first look back.

I started this year a recent college graduate. I was excited about entering the real world, but also carried self-limiting tendencies. I had developed a habit of doubting myself and what I’m capable of. I would let the fear of failure keep me from even trying in the first place. Making the physical move here led to numerous personal moves, which helped me break that habit.

Flipping through my 2018-19 mental scrapbook, I see all I faced. This past year, I navigated uprooting my life on my own. I checked my biases. I found common ground with those who share opposing views to mine. I walked into rooms where I was the only stranger. I spent time with animals I’d only previously read about in books. I transitioned from having to do everything on my own to now filling free time with friends. Both I and my way of thinking were challenged on the daily.

This year has also gifted me a newfound understanding of and empathy for rural America, to which I was ignorant before. I now know the fierce pride of rural residents and the struggles they face, from staying healthy amidst all the fracking to maintaining tradition while the world moves in fast forward.

Moving out here: a place unlike anything I knew, where I knew no one, took guts. It helped me see that I am capable of the same thing we all are: growth.

Who we are is never set in stone. What we can achieve has no limits. Our comfort zones, literal and figurative, can be transient. Rural America sits on the opposite side of the spectrum from everything I once knew and, yet, it is now a comfort zone for me.

As evidenced by my fast talk and jaywalk, I have an urban past. Concrete will always be embedded in who I am, but I now have a present in the country.

Even after a year, both city and country residents still ask me why. Why did I decide to make this move?

The general focus is on my adjustment and the blatant struggles I must face in living so differently than anything I’ve been accustomed to. This dramatic scenery shift was intimidating at first, yes, and, yes, there’s an astounding amount of differences between my past and present, but that is exactly why I’m so glad I moved here.

I recognized very quickly that living here after growing up there would make me stronger, braver and more understanding. It wouldn’t be easy, but I knew I needed a challenge.

A year ago, rolling hills became my new skyline. And I now love my life here. At the start of this year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to say that or not. That unknown is exactly why I took the leap.

I know very little about the stock market, but I must say, those traders know what they’re talking about. My high risk has clearly led to a high reward.

So thanks, Greene County, for a year of challenges that led to priceless growth.

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