I grew up in the greatest place on earth for exploring. There were stone quarries. Wide open fields. Farm boy boyfriends. And, more than anything, nice fucking people. (Novel, right?)
People who held doors, people who smiled back, people who waved at each other as they passed in their cars, and people who formed a community that, whether they realized it or not, were really like one big old family. Kind of like the mafia, but with less guns. (Unless it was the first day of hunting season, of course, in which case, everybody had a gun.)
It was the kind of place where you leave your doors unlocked at night, you buy cigarettes for your mother when you're twelve (with a signed note, of course), and everyone knows exactly how you lost your virginity. (For the record, mine involved a slide and a playground. Hide your kids.)
It was the kind of place for overalls and ball games, twelve packs and venison. And happily so.
While the word “home” has had a number of definitions for me over the years since the first time I strapped on high heels and set foot on a plane, there is nothing like this Home, with a capital H: The one that cradled your youth (and kicked you in the ass the first time you stole wine coolers from your parent's fridge).
When I go back, I see pieces of myself everywhere I look, from the railroad ties where I lit my first match (we had to entertain ourselves somehow?), to the “No Loitering” sign that prevented me from hanging out too long waiting for the boys with the skateboards. One thing is certain: You can leave home, but home can never leave you. Because it is you. The only thing that changes is how you see things.
Which is why, ten years later, I am back and I am in mourning.
The place that cradled my youth suddenly feels like it needs a caretaker of its own. Despite the natural gas phenomenon that's become so prevalent that they even built a school of natural gas, the place I love has become a battered lover, its face badly bruised, and its confidence shattered. As I drive through town, I cannot help but notice that things that were once charming, are no longer charmed. Homes I used to dream about living in are no longer something of dreams. And places where I learned how to stand on my own, both physically and metaphorically, are no longer standing. Even the trailer I was once mortified to live in has been stripped of its shutters. And when I see that, it feels like little pieces of me are deteriorating along with it.
Most economists might say that this is what rural economic depression looks like, and while there might be some truth to that, I have to believe that the more accurate description is simply:
This is what life looks like.
Real life. With real struggles. And real people. And real worries. Because that shit you see on The Real Housewives is a joke.
When I see the town market where I used to beg my mother to buy me 10 cent popsicles (lime was my favorite), completely closed up and boarded off, it feels like someone is punching me straight through my gut.
When I see the weathering of the town, and creaky old, rusty signs that stand as a solemn testimony to what once was, I feel like I am witnessing an alcoholic drug addict who's transformed into a mere ghost of himself.
And when I see friends struggling to make ends meet, despite being some of the hardest working people I know, I feel the despair right along with them.
Because, as with any family, their worries are your worries. Because no matter where I am, I'm still Jenny from the block. And I'm ride or die.
Which is why I've been spiraled into a wild vision, these past couple weeks, of building a small business development center. A physical building. An online version. Anything, something, to help the people and the places I love be strong.
I might not know a lot in this life, but if there's one thing I do know, it's about creating something from nothing. Entrepreneurship was my savior. I came from nothing, had nothing, rode bareback, and learned how to stand the fuck up again and again and again in business for myself. Not because I am strong, but because I am stubborn. Because that's how people from Home are. We're tough as nails—usually because we're used to actually having to hammer a few.
The good news is that eventually, when you stand back up up again and again and again, over and over and over, the odds slowly start to tip in your favor. You wear out the odds. You fucking exhaust them. And you have victory over them. Because at the end of the day, no matter how many times the lawn is mowed, it doesn't take it personally–it just keeps on growing.
This is why I appreciate entrepreneurship so much.
Because it puts a kind of power into your hands that you can't get any other way. The kind of power that says “fuck you” to circumstances. The kind that doesn't give a rat's ass about social class and where you went to school. And the kind that will help you keep on growing, no matter which asshole comes along and tries to mow you down.
Starting your own business is this world's best kept secret.
You can make far more money selling your own game than selling someone else's–whether it's a product you make, a service you can offer, or a skillset you can provide. YOU are in control of your paycheck. YOU are in control of when you show up to work. YOU are in control of how much effort you put in–and get out. And YOU are in control of your life. No matter where you live. (And this couldn't be more true now that the cat's out of the bag with that thing they call the internet.)
For anyone who's feeling trapped…this is an ax hammer.
For anyone who's feeling stuck…this is a set of snow tires.
For anyone who's feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless and defenseless…this is a chainsaw.
All you have to do is be willing to stand up…one more time.