Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
When I was 13, no more than a month into my eighth grade year, I found out that I would be moving. As you can probably imagine, I was less than thrilled. Although I had a few months to gear up to leave my dad and my extended family, all of whom I’d never lived more than two hours from in my entire life, as well as everyone I had grown up with since Kindergarten, nothing could have prepared me for what it would feel like to watch it all disappear in the rearview of my Mom’s ’98 Honda Civic.
I’d be lying if I said that I was moving to West Virginia with an open heart and mind. The entire six-and-a-half-hour drive there I remember staring at myself in the passenger’s mirror agonizing over the way my brow had begun to furrow in a matter of hours simply at the thought of living in Hickory Town (my smart ass twist on the very biased name for West Virginia because my parents scolded me that if I said “hick” one more time I’d be forced to live on Hickory Lane). I was 13, I didn’t know any better—or something like that.
As soon as we pulled into our driveway nestled along Woodstone Drive, I ran up to my closet and fell asleep there to escape the reality of living in a place so far from everything I’ve ever known. After I awoke to the movers prodding me with a hanging rod, thinking I was either dead or severely mentally handicapped for opting for my closet instead of my bed, my parents sat me down in an attempt to change my spirits for the potential that this move held. For once, I silenced my teenage angst and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt—I was going to give West Virginia all that I had, all that it deserved. After all, what’s the point in living half-heartedly?
All it took was a week to realize that I had been wrong about Hickory Town. The most welcoming peers and teachers, paired with the best cafeteria apple cinnamon cookies I’d ever had, paved the way for this strange new place to not only become worthy of being referred to by its real name, but also to be considered home.
I made countless wonderful memories in the six months between being the new girl and entering my freshman year of high school. I was coasting and loving life when I ran head on into what would become the beginning of my downfall. As a freshman in high school, there’s a certain level of naivety–a level that allowed me to not only think that he was just kidding when he said he was a senior, because come on, why would a senior want to date a freshman? But also to fall for it when I found out he wasn’t lying, at least not about his age. It’s that same naivety that allowed me to trust fully that they were just best friends and I had nothing to worry about. And when that was over and done with, a piece of my heart felt chipped, but I wasn’t going to let it affect my hopeless romantic spirit that I cherished so much. Two more boys, a million broken promises, entire lives fabricated by a web of stealthy lies and a Facebook apology for an incomprehensible act later, I wasn’t as resilient.
In the midst of these three relationships–all of which combined don’t equate to the length of my shortest long-term relationship since then–I let go of my inhibitions and my love of school. I succumbed to skipping regularly (though I never let my GPA fall because that obsession was never going to fade away), partaking in activities that weren’t in my character but slowly allowing them to become what I was defined by. I lost touch with some people and I longed for my sister to move home in hopes that she could save me and help my parents realize what was going on.
Perhaps you could call me irresponsible with my ability to always land in sticky situations that made me question my self worth and abandon the person I knew I was altogether. Or perhaps you could call it bad luck. Either way, there I was, sixteen, spiraling downward; absolutely drained, all because I gave three people all the trust in the world, while forgetting my purpose and what I deserved in the process. I was 5’6″ and weighed 107 pounds. I was a shell of my former self without a clue as to how to dig myself out of the rut I had allowed myself to land in. All I had was a faint idea that I didn’t deserve this, but another voice telling me that it’s all that I ever would.
“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place…”
Knowing exactly who was calling, I waited to answer until I had hopped into my friend’s car to speed off into the first day of summer.
“Hey Mom, what’s up?”
“We need to talk to you.”
“How would you feel about moving home?”
“…to Northern Virginia…soon.”
I was on my way to the wave pool as I hung up the phone. In my parents typical fashion, we were moving at the drop of a hat. The moment of realization that I’d be leaving everything I’d come to know as home in less than a month was upon me.
The only difference was that this time I didn’t mind. This was my chance.
When I think of West Virginia, it’s easy to recall the divinity that is Tudor’s Biscuit World and the queso-y delight that was Rio. Dinner dates with my mom in Charleston and walks down the road to Dairy Queen were some of my favorite. It’s a trip down memory lane to remember the endless sleepovers with my five closest friends, jumping off the roof and shimmying from second story windows of high-ceiling homes all in good fun. Hanging out in the movie theater parking lot, football games, and doing donuts in cars I had no business driving became routine Friday night’s in a place where you had to create your own fun. You see, the wonderful side of WV will forever be embedded in my memory, but it has always taken the long winding road to get there–the road filled with three pot holes that altered my alignment more than could have ever been expected; the road I wish the gps of my mind couldn’t find the address to.
A lot of people see West Virginia as the wild and wonderful state where bon fires light up the open skies while “Country Roads, Take Me Home” blares from the speakers of that supped up Chevy—but for me, along with that, it served as the resting ground for my innocence, the birth place of my inability to trust; the rock bottom from which I would have to rebuild myself.