TRANSCRIPT: West Virginia Transplants
These are the timestamps and captions for the HHE podcast titled, 'West Virginia Transplants.'
0:00 INTRO MUSIC PLAYS – ‘Tokyo’ by FSM Team ft < e s c p >
0:02 JUSTICE: Hello and welcome to the Hudson Household Editorial. I’m your host, Justice Hudson.
0:09 JUSTICE: Growing up in West Virginia I remember being told “get your education and go,” meaning, go to WVU or Marshall on scholarship, study hard, and then move to a place with real opportunity. Leaving was an expectation, not a choice. And while I had every intention of doing just that, by blessing or curse–depending on how you look at it–I never left.
0:36 JUSTICE: Even though I stayed it’s not hard to see why people would leave. Hell, the people who loved me most in the world wanted me to move for a reason. There aren’t many good paying jobs, and the ones we have require you to risk limb and life for it. There’s not much to do outside of the cities, and even in the urban cores most businesses close early. West Virginia has one of the highest rates of depression for a reason.
1:03 JUSTICE: So, when I moved to Wheeling in January 2020 and met a ton of folks from out-of-state that had been living here for years I was shocked. I thought to myself, “Why in the world would anyone move here?” Yeah, it’s a beautiful state. I mean, it’s my home. I love it. But it’s broken. It’s battered. It’s a place to ditch, not dive into. What is bringing these people here?
1:32 JUSTICE: Well today we’re going to meet eleven people who, for various reasons, chose to put down roots in West Virginia. The first question I had for these folks is an obvious one. Why in the world did you come here? Put more eloquently, what brought them to West Virginia? Most, surprisingly, said they came here for a job. I say surprisingly because finding a job is one of the main reasons people leave. Being surprised by the answers given was a theme of these interviews. Whatever expectations I had going into this were quickly shattered about the time of the fifth or sixth conversation.
2:18 SHANNA: I’m Shanna and I grew up in southern Illinois. I first came to West Virginia in 2008. I had just moved back into the country. I had been living internationally and working in Europe for a while. So, I didn’t have a lot else going on and she asked if I wanted to come along for a road trip, and I said, “sure, why not.” In a couple of days while I was staying I was offered a job. I can remember that the person who offered for me to move out said, “you can be a raft guide.” And I said, “I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know what that means.” He said, “we can teach any old idiot how to guide a boat, you just need the personality for it. I traveled, maybe, 15 other countries and West Virginia is the only place I ever left and actually came back to.
3:07 MELISSA: My name is Melisaa . I was born in Buffalo, New York, and I moved to Wheeling, West Virginia, in October of 2019. I was living in Alabama and I was unhappy with my work and I just found a job on the internet on a job search site opening a kitchen at Public Market for Grow Ohio Valley so I came and interviewed one weekend and then I took the job and moved here.
3:32: Hi my name’s Lyz, I’m they/them pronouns. I grew up in Michigan before moving to Hampshire County, West Virginia, five years ago. I’ve always wanted to have a farm. I wanted to have chickens and goats and grow plants and have a different way than the hustle and bustle of city life. So we moved here because we found the perfect house.
4:00 JOSH: My name is Josh, I was born and raised in New Jersey, and I moved to West Virginia in the winter of 2021. I moved to West Virginia for a job. I moved here to serve as an AmeriCorps.
4:13 LAUREN: Hi, my name is Lauren. I grew up in Christiansburg, Virginia, and I moved to West Virginia in 2016. So, in 2016 I decided to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buchannon, West Virginia. In my heart I instantly knew that was where I had to go.
4:30 JOE: My name is Joe. I’m from New York originally. I moved to West Virginia in 2017. In college I met a girl from West Virginia and we fell in love. She wanted to be a little bit closer to family so she actually–and we were both getting kind of priced out in New York City. It’s a very expensive city to live in. So a combination of our rent going up and the company I was working for closing up shop I decided that was a good time as any for a change.
4:56 CORBIN: Hey, my name is Corbin. I grew up in Worcester, Ohio, and I moved to West Virginia in 2022. I was getting ready to graduate. I was looking for a thing to do. The person that I was dating at the time was going to work just across the border in Virginia. So at the point I just started doing the job search and going like, “that’s close to home and also close to this person that I care about.” And then I found a job that I really like.
5:25 COURTNEY: So my name is Courtney. I was born and raised in Washington state. My husband and I actually moved to West Virginia from Maryland in the summer of 2021. So I signed up for national service with AmeriCorps. For me it was a career change.
5:40 CAROLINE: Hi, I’m Caroline. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in Atlanta and Virginia. And I moved to Wheeling in March of 2022. Before I moved here I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, doing grad school out there. And through a long series of events I realized that was not for me. I didn't love academia. I didn’t love being in a city. I didn’t love really any of the culture that came with that lifestyle. I realized what I really wanted to do was something in agriculture and farming and found an opportunity in West Virginia to come be and AmeriCorps and do some farming and live in a smaller city and it just seemed like the lifestyle change that I was looking for.
6:30 AMANDA: My name is Amanda and the short answer is that I’m from south Florida. The long answer is that I was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When I was really young we moved to Georgia. As an adult I’ve lived in South Carolina, California, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia. I also had a tour in Afghanistan. So I’ve seen a lot of different places. And I moved to Romney, West Virginia, in February 2022. So come 2021 I gave birth to my son. My husband was medically retired from the military. And at that point we were like ok, we are two disabled veterans living off of a fixed income who are dreaming of, like, lots of land, and animals to frolic around with. Where can we live that we can afford a house and acreage at the height of the housing crisis? And that place was West Virginia.
7:16 AIDAN: My name is Aidan. I was born in Mt Pleasant, Michigan, and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I moved to West Virginia because I had been living in upstate New York and had reached this moment where I was looking for a new experience. Another opportunity. And my partner and I were at a moment where we were ready to–or we were discussing a move together. And the opportunity came up to work for–serve as AmeriCorps volunteers here in Wheeling. And, we jumped on it. I was excited because Wheeling is halfway between each of our families, that was definitely part of the reason. And an exciting opportunity. I was curious to explore agriculture through a nonprofit setting as opposed to a for-profit setting.
8:09 MUSIC STARTS, ‘Gentle Breeze’ by Purrple Cat, featuring Mujo
8:15 JUSTICE: West Virginia is no stranger to stereotypes and misconceptions. So, I had to ask what these West Virginia transplants thought of the state before moving here. The barefoot, toothless hillbilly I expected them to conjure wasn’t there. Most responded plainly, like telling someone you’re from “West Virginia” and hearing “Oh! I love Richmond.” Others, though, had a more predictable response identifying the issues West Virginia is known for. And, to be clear I asked people to be brutally honest in answering this question.
8:53 SHANNA: I probably couldn’t have picked it out on a map.
8:57 MELISSA: I honestly don’t think I really thought about West Virginia before I lived here.
9:02 JOE: I just really didn’t think about it very much. Didn’t enter my mind.
9:05 AMANDA: So West Virginia was just one of those states I didn’t ever hear anything about, like Ohio, Iowa, Delaware. Like the states that are just kind of there.
9:15 AIDAN: My general impressions were fairly negative. Really impoverished, under-educated, all the bad things that you can associate with a place, I guess. But really I had not even thought about West Virginia before my partner and I had talked about moving here.
9:32 JOSH: I guess before moving here my impressions of the state were pretty typical for people outside of the state. I’d say I knew it was beautiful, and the mountains. And then, on the other hand, like the obvious negatives. Coal miners out of work, the opioid crisis.
9:49 CORBIN: Well, growing up West Virginia was–I drove through Beckley every year to go to vacation. There was a certain part of that drive where we would be on a side of a mountain and just looking over, and we learned to just stop and like shut up everybody and just look because it’s like so beautiful. Being from Ohio it felt like West Virginia was like, oh that’s our poor neighbor
10:14 CAROLINE: It’s kind of like Virginia’s weird cousin, maybe.
10:20 JUSTICE: And, again to my surprise. Some people answered out of left field with positive ideas about the state.
10:27 COURTNEY: I had a fairly good impression of the state. I’ve got lots of cousins here. I thought West Virginia was pretty with lots to offer, especially since I love the outdoors.
10:35 LAUREN: I had most of my family ties here in the Buckhannon area of West Virginia. Very much a rose-colored glasses nostalgic view of the state because I viewed it just as an extension of my family.
10:48 LYZ: I had nothing but joyful memories of my childhood up through my adulthood of coming to visit West Virginia.
10:58 MUSIC PLAYS, ‘Technology,’ by 2Tech
10:58 JUSTICE: When you’re outside looking in, your view is warped. The good and the bad are exaggerated. I had to know how these folks' opinions about West Virginia changed on moving here. For some, their suspicions were confirmed. The economic, social, and political reality of the state, and Appalachia as a whole, cannot be ignored no matter who you are. In spite of those issues, though, there is profound beauty and resilience to be found.
11:32 AIDAN: My opinions about West Virginia have changed pretty drastically since moving here. There was definitely some level of culture shock when I was integrating into life here, but there are just some incredible people doing really meaningful work here.
11:48 CAROLINE: I think most of what I knew about the state was related to the opioid crisis and a confusing and troublesome politics scene. And the coal industry being here and some of the history of that. And just the general sort of poverty, and just thing after thing, hardship after hardship, that exists here. And because of that it doesn’t really sell West Virginia as a place to live and so I wasn’t sure what I was walking into when I moved here. Moving here I think all of those things exist. It’s all true. It’s all here. But, I think what’s changed is that that doesn’t make it a bad place to live.
12:29 JOE: I’ve gotten a greater sense of what West Virginia is and what it represents. The fascinating history surrounding the founding of the state and what’s gone on here. You know, the Mine Wars and all of that. It’s great. Good people. Good food.
12:43 JOSH: Seeing that most of the stereotypes that West Virginia has are either untrue or unfair. People would say, like, West Virignians are lazy and that is absolutely false. I met some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met here.
12:57 LAUREN: There is beauty in all of this, first of all. And despite the brokenness, despite the messiness that every state will have. Every state will have, every community will have. West Virginia's people are incredible. So of course I have my downs where I see the brokenness in the state and I just am like oh man, I’m just gonna go lay in bed for a day and mourn this. And be angry and be resentful and be frustrated with the decision makers in this state, and some of the potholes in the road sure are annoying. But that’s not a deal breaker for me because I do see the beauty and the light that shines through those cracks. And I’m so hopeful and so joyous.
13:43 SHANNA: The longer that I’ve lived here it started out as these are the jokes that people say about West Virginia, and these are the things and stereotypes that they have. And then you start, because I didn’t know then, you start to look around and think do I, can I recognize these things? Are these true? And then, you know, the longer I’ve been here saying this is just a misperception altogether. You know maybe folks are just poking fun about West Virginians because of a jealousy issue. You know, they wish that they could have some of this close knit community that we have.
14:16 JUSTICE: If you have a magic wand and could change anything about the state of West Virginia, what would it be? When I posed this question to the eleven transplants I interviewed, I half expected what the answer would be. Out of all the questions these responses were the least surprising, but I’ll let them tell you what they think.
14:43 SHANNA: I think I would change our confidence in our own abilities. If we as West Virginians can value ourselves and our own unique adeptness. And West Virginia, we are filled with intelligent, knowledgeable, capable individuals. Essentially, West Virginians, we are the experts on West Virginia. And we should really lean into that knowledge and give more weight to our community’s perspective and experiences.
15:11 MELISSA: I wouldn’t change anything about West Virginia that I wouldn’t change about America, I feel like. I would like to see more progressive politicians. I would like to see politicians who represent more of the country, like younger, from different places, different races, different backgrounds.
15:31 JOSH: I’d say the first thing, the pizza sucks. They gotta figure out how to make pizza the proper way. And the other thing is obviously the politics of the state. I’ll be straight up I did not move here for the politics of this state. I feel like every bit of news coming out of Charleston is negative and disappointing.
15:50 LAUREN: I would probably just change West Virginia’s politics. Not necessarily the one side or the other politics, but just–I would add in a sprinkle more of honesty and love to politics. I really wish there were some decision makers who just thought for ten seconds longer about the impact of this climate that we’re in at the moment, and the decisions they make.
16:16 CAROLINE: If I could change anything about West Virginia I think I would change the perception of it. It’s more than the stereotypes.
16:25 JOE: I wish that West Virginia would be a bit more open in certain ways. Open to change, open to new people a bit more. Just open to progressive change. It’s a wonderful state with wonderful people, but I probably shouldn’t say this as an outsider. I am afraid that a lot of West Virginia is stuck in its ways. I would like to see more progress, because I know West Virginians can fight for themselves. That’s a part of the history is fighting for what’s right and what they believe in. But right now, at least in the current landscape we find ourselves in, it feels kind of stuck
17:03 CORBIN: I really like the state as it is. I think maybe the biggest thing for me is, if there’s one thing I could change I would change the funding for infrastructure There’s just such terrible, terrible public funding for infrastructure. There’s times when it’s like, oh I wish I could go there faster, but there’s just not the infrastructure for that across the state.
17:27 COURTNEY: I’d like to see more young people involved. It would be great to see if they stayed in West Virginia and saw the opportunities that are actually here for them, and be part of the change they want to see instead of going out to a place where they see this change already.
17:40 AMANDA: I would completely remove all the selfish, bigoted legislators that we have at the state level. And then replace them with people who actually care about the people they’re supposed to serve. That’s kind of like one of the obvious ones. And then I wish I could guarantee that West Virginians, especially in a rural community like mine, have access to affordable healthcare and we don’t have to drive over an hour outside the state to give birth at a hospital. Cause that’s what the reality is here. Or even give people internet access for heaven’s sake. The fact that people are fighting for it is such a foreign concept to me.
18:13 AIDAN: A big one for me would be reproductive access and justice. I am working towards becoming a midwife and I would not even legally be able to practice in this state. Midwifery is actively illegal in this state. And access to care providers, and informed consent, choice of birthplace, etc–those, kind of, tenants of midwifery care are not an option here. In an ideal world I would want West Virginia to be this little protected hub where there’s access to abortion and affirming care.
18:50 LYZ: Unfortunately because of a gap of services, when I gave birth to my child I had to give birth out of state in Virginia. And I don’t think that there’s anything that’s anti-West Virginian about recognizing where those gaps are and using those as opportunities for growth to make the lives of every West Virginian a little bit easier, because it shouldn’t have to be this damn hard.
19:19 MUSIC PLAYS, ‘Tokyo’ by FSM ft <e s c p>
19:23 JUSTICE: To end our interview on a high note, I wanted folks to create some kind of tagline–some kind of outro. At first, I thought they could sing a line of country roads. This idea lasted approximately half a second before I busted out laughing, deciding it was too cringe to make people go through. Instead, I left it up for interpretation and the result was pretty spectacular. Let’s say goodbye to our friends, the West Virginia transplants.
19:54 CAROLINE: My name is Caroline. I’m from Virginia. I think West Virginia is the land of opportunity.
20:03 SHANNA: I’m Shanna. I am from southern Illinois. I just feel so fortunate to live in the beauty and the hugging hills of West Virginia.
20:14 MELISSA: My name is Melissa. I moved to West Virginia in October of 2019. And I’m really happy here and I plan to stay for a while.
20:25 LYZ: My name’s Lyz. I’m originally from Michigan, but I’m a proud West Virignian by choice.
20:30 JOE: My name is Joe. I’m from New York originally. I’m West by God.
20:34 AMANDA: My name is Amanda. I am originally from South Florida. And I am West Virginian by choice.
20:40 CORBIN: Hey, I’m Corbin. I’m from Ohio. And West Virginia is rad as hell.
20:47 COURTNEY: Hi, my name is Courtney. Born and raised in Washington state. We found home in these Appalachian hills.
20:52 AIDAN: My name is Aidan. I was born in Mt Pleasant, Michigan, and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Wild and wonderful West Virginia.
21:01 JOSH: My name is Josh. I was born and raised in New Jersey. So, I’m not a mountaineer by birth, but a mountaineer by choice.
21:10 JUSTICE: Thank you all so much for listening. If you like what you heard make sure to share it on your social media, or with your friends and family. If you want to support the work I do consider subscribing to my Substack, the Hudson Household Editorial. All of my content is free, but if you can afford it I encourage you to pay for a subscription and sustain the work I do. You can also follow me on Twitter at JusticeHudson97. With special thanks to my paid subscribers, Alex, Ananga, Crystal, David, Elise, Ella, Gwen, John, Lara, Logan, Melinda, Melissa, Victoria, Vincent, Will. I’m Justice Hudson, this is the Hudson Household Editorial. Thanks for listening!
22:04 OUTRO MUSIC CONTINUED, ‘Tokyo’ by FSM ft <e s c p>
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