The Making of Me: A personal introduction
I go over the highlights of my journey through life in an attempt to explain why I started the Hudson Household Editorial
Now that I have a few subscribers here on the Hudson Household Editorial it is more pertinent I give an introduction to my life in an attempt to explain how we got here today. Ultimately this piece is a personal one, but I hope you will be able to relate to my lived experiences. At the very least you’ll know more about me than you may want to! Either way, we’ll start from the beginning.
Few things are truly notable about birth- some 350,000 thousand babies enter the world on any given day. There were, however, three things that make my particular birth special; (1) it occurred on Friday the 13th, June 1997 to be specific, (2) the doctor who aided my mother during labor would later baptize me into the Mormon faith, and (3) was, in my doctors words, a full head of hair (but for my mom was the large size of my head, likely hurting more than the three previous births she labored through). I spent the first five years of life on Augusta Drive in Jefferson, West Virginia- featured in a clip of the Daily Show in the early 2000s. I have a few memories from this time. One where, while hiding in the back of the family car, saw a neighbor with a pumpkin-head-mask walking by, frightening me. Often I would walk my red wagon down the street to a woman's house who would fill it with ice cream, sweet treats, and candy. Our family of six -myself, three older siblings, and two parents- lived in a trailer and we sometimes relied on the local church donating food or Christmas presents to us.
Soon, with my parent’s taking slightly higher paying jobs and our family of six desperate for more space, we found ourselves on Green Valley Drive just outside of Saint Albans, West Virginia. We had a large, flat yard around an acre in size. Don’t get me wrong, I spent time outdoors -with a brief stint at youth baseball and plenty of days at the St Albans City Park while my older siblings played softball and baseball- but I much preferred the indoors. I watched more television than I’d like to admit, but I’d argue it wasn’t disproportionate to the amount other kids consumed in the early 2000s. Of course there were cartoons (Pokemon, Digimon, Spongebob etc) but I spent a great deal of time watching the Food Network- with a personal love for Ina Garten, Paula Deen, and Chopped. At school I took to learning and absorbing and retaining new things quite easily, even finishing my grade-specific section of the school library in the third grade allowing me to access the older kid books. By the age of 10 my family got a desktop computer, unlocking the worldwide web to all my curiosities. When I watched television, or read a book, or searched the internet it wasn’t casual- it was a hyper-fixation. In hindsight this was likely the beginning signs of what would become undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, but it manifested positively in school so no one likely noticed. By the time I was in the sixth grade I, now entering puberty, and with near unlimited access to the computer, would see the foundations of my values, identities, and beliefs begin to solidify.
Long before I had a computer in my home we had them in schools, at least starting in second grade. So, of course, I used it primarily for gaming at first. Once I entered the sixth grade I began having projects necessitating research. On one such occasion, for a project on Ancient Greece and the first Olympic games, I found an image depicting masculine figures in the nude. At that moment I felt something I never had- a feeling almost every young person has at one point or another. At that moment I experienced a sexual revolution. Since I was a child I had felt different from other kids and now I knew why. I would go on to look up what it meant to be a man attracted to men, I would read about kids who came out to their parents and were kicked out, I read about the kids who expressed their same-sex attraction to peers and were bullied, beaten, or killed for doing so. You have to remember at this point, roughly 2008-2010, the “It Gets Better” campaign was going on- a campaign that basically admitted if you are LGBTQ+ you will go through hell, but it will get better. I did this research all in secret, going as far as to rapidly “date” 8 of my feminine-presenting peers over a two year period (with one “relationship” only lasting 12 hours). As I researched LGBTQ+ issues I also found videos and articles about atheism (I was a baptized Mormon at the time), as well as other social issues. Sometime in the fall of 2009 or the spring of 2010, when I was just 12-years-old, I boldly made the decision to come out to my parents, to which they laughed saying “they knew.” I went on to publicly declare my sexuality on my Facebook, prompting extended family members to message me telling me I was going to hell. Not even a year after coming out as gay I experienced the first of many physical assaults targeting me for being gay. I was jumped by one kid while another filmed it, subsequently uploading it to YouTube. Thankfully the assailants took it down but this likely traumatized me in ways I still don’t fully understand. In many ways I was a counter-culture kiddy. Not only did I come out as gay, the only one I know of in my school to do so at the time, but I also came to school sporting a full beat of makeup -from foundation to eyeshadow- and I even began objecting to reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when I was in the eighth grade, I tradition I continue to this day.
As I mentioned, I frequently used the internet to research social issues. Around this time I also began consuming news media almost nightly. One of the first stories I recall being glued to my screen was the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting. I also took an interest in the electoral process, often watching C-SPAN and the local public access channel. On the internet, likely due in part to my history-research-inspired sexual revolution, I took an interest in learning about history and geography. When I entered high school I found these interests become hobbies. Again the undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, which manifested in me hyper fixating on my school work, helped. I took honors and advanced classes in each subject, but most importantly for our stories are the advanced American history and government, and advanced European history classes I took. Guided by the incredible, one-of-a-kind Mrs. Vicky Hensley, who guided me through my American history and government classes, I began to see my place in the broader society. The opportunity to volunteer with a startup non-profit arose in my senior year and I, with the help of three of my peers and Mrs. Hensley, registered the 2015 St Albans High School graduating class to vote. I continued my work with this group, further aiding in what I estimate to be nearly 1,000 voter registrations at four Charleston-area high schools.
When I left the safety of my home nest of St Albans and began living independently in Morgantown, West Virginia, these proclivities I’ve mentioned before continue flourishing. I continued my passion for history and concentrated on American, East African, and American Indian histories. To fill a general education requirement I took an intro to Women and Gender Studies course- the first time queer issues had been discussed in a classroom in my life. I would soon add this to my majors- and I must say this was the most complementary major to go with history. While my American history classes were interested they were also majority white and male. When I took that Intro to WGST course and began learning about intersectionality I began to be able to at least empathize with other marginalized groups which, when I returned to my normal history classes, would lead me to seek out these groups along with the required curriculum. While I ultimately had to drop out of school when the company I worked for went bankrupt, the skills I picked up and topics I became aware of continued with me.
I would spend the next few years out of college but working my high school-era job, Justice (yes, that Justice, the girl’s store. YES Justice worked at Justice. YES it’s very funny). It was here, working under people in their 30s dedicated to the company yet still struggling financially, and above workers who were lucky to get 8 hours per week, where the years of political, social, and historical research I had done would shape my own political and social beliefs. I began questioning the pay practices, pioneering in my workplace open dialogue about our pay rates. I would ask my District Manager, on the few times she actually came to a store, why the company seems to be raising prices while lowering quality. I was a good worker, don’t get me wrong, and I can sell ice to a polar bear in a blizzard -which, in retrospect, is the only reason I wasn’t immediately fired- but as I got older the rose-colored glasses began to fade. After five years of dedicated service, and after two other jobs I worked at went bankrupt, by December 2019 I saw the writing on the wall: If I did not leave this company will close, and I will be kicked to the curb. I heard about something called AmeriCorps in Wheeling, West Virginia where I would work with kids and gardens. I may have spent half a day thinking about it before I hurriedly submitted an application and was accepted.
I have spent the last three years with AmeriCorps State and National at my host site in Wheeling, working on my fourth now. Most important about this time was the ability to support myself, albeit meagerly, while putting the knowledge I had learned over the years into practice. My work brought me to kids from disadvantaged communities, not unlike my own I was born into and grew up in. I volunteered to cook and pass out meals to those who needed it, including people experiencing homelessness and addiction. Produce I grew I would donate to local soup kitchens and food pantries. I could show my appreciation for history as I toured volunteer work groups through the historic Wheeling, West Virginia, connecting themes from our past to experiences in the present. I could use my skills in interpersonal relationship building to engage the groups I worked with. Ultimately, I was, and am, able to work with, and for, my community in a meaningful way. However, I quickly found in my current job, as I came to discover at Justice and other jobs I have had, there was more value placed in connections than experiences; more value in conventional skills than unconventional skills. No matter how hard I work or how many times I prove my competency in a wide-range of skills valuable for the community work we do, it is not recognized in a way that provides respect and a dignified wage.
I wanted to see stories in the media about local issues you can’t hear on national news. I wanted to see our history honored and contextualized in a way that helps us shape our present and our future. I searched for this type of media and could hardly find it. When I did, on sites like BlackByGod and Mountain State Spotlight, the spark to contribute in some way would grow to a flame, and eventually a fire. Ultimately, this project will, ideally, help me support myself. But, with a larger perspective, this project will give me the opportunity to see the change I want in the world begin to materialize. I wanted to hear people who talk like me (a Southern West Virginian) in my media. I wanted those people to talk about my lived experiences of being queer, of being low-income, of being young and desperate to stay in the state, etc.
So, disillusioned but desperate to stay, and yearning to hear my voice and my experiences reflected in the media, I began dreaming of starting my own business. While this business is years away, and will hopefully be unique in its model and services offered, the part of this business of concern to us is this: the Hudson Household Editorial came to be. Here I am able to, in a very amateur way, report on local issues which have accounted for most of the content I’ve produced thus far. Hopefully, it will serve to highlight the history of Wheeling and West Virginia, and, as I have demonstrated in my recent interview with Rosemary Ketchum, begin to explore the important -often overlooked- stories of the Appalachians who call this place home. And, ideally, those reading this and those reading the articles I produce will begin to explore within themselves the incredibly important stories that make them who they are. Lofty goals, I know, but our beautiful state needs a bit of creativity. So, to end this long -possibly rambling- personal piece I say thank you to those friends, family, neighbors, and strangers who have supported me so far!
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