Much like the architecture that creates a house which in time becomes a home, the word home can be complex and have a variety of styles. As for me, I moved around a great deal throughout my adolescence and beyond- at last count I had packed up boxes, stuffed my Subaru to the gills, and set out for a new place to live over 30 times in my short 26 years.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and spent the first few years of my life in a one-bedroom house about a mile from downtown. After my mom left my father with my sister and I, we later shared our home with my future stepmother and stepbrother before moving to a bigger place a few blocks away. This was my first move and I will never forget the seemingly endless trips with our ‘woody’ station wagon bursting at the seams. When I began second grade, my mother came back, my sister decided to live with her, and I decided to live with my sister… so before I knew it, I was packing up and moving into a nicer neighborhood with my semi-stranger mother and my new stepfather. Things were great for a time - they had started a trucking company when I hit middle school and we were living the nearly middle-class American dream. We went on vacations, had more than one vehicle, got to shop at stores for our school clothes, and even got a decent allowance. Looking back, it seems as though it was overnight my life changed once again. 9/11 happened and then the price of diesel and insurance almost doubled, which bankrupted our small ‘mom and pop’ shop company. We lost everything, including our home, and had to move from the city to the small town of Cheshire, Ohio (pictured right-photograph courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York) where we could afford the cost of living.
I attended River Valley H.S. until graduation and then moved once more when I began my undergraduate degree at Berea College. While in school I changed locations a dozen times or more, and then after graduation spent time as a twenty-something nomad. I lived in various countries, out of suitcases, and in multiple states looking for this notion of a home. It may be due to the fact that from an early age I had two homes (my father’s on the weekends and summer, my mother’s through the week) or it may just be how many times I was uprooted- but there exist multiple places in this world that make me feel like home. Athens, Ohio, has always been one of those magical metropolises that I can envision myself laying down some roots. I came to Athens a great deal while I was in high school and beyond due to its culture, community, and commitment to transition. Part college town, part progressive- all snuggled within the hills of the Appalachian Ohio; Athens has always called to me as a place with enough culture to fulfill, enough nature to sustain, and enough like-minded people to not go insane.
When applying for the Appalachian Transition Fellowship I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out which host community would be the best fit for me upon my return from living abroad in Dublin, Ireland. After I narrowed down the community I hoped for, I then started looking at the placement positions and which of those would offer me the growth, challenge, and support I was looking for during this year. I was extremely lucky to not only be selected for a community that I loved, but also for an organization that I feel can be my home for this year and beyond. ACEnet is an organization that revitalizes the economy of Appalachia by supporting local small businesses through services that include discounted office space, an incubation center, and workshops/training/business expertise. Because both sides of my parents own or owned a small business (my father currently owns and operates Daveytile in Columbus, Ohio), I felt a draw to return to this place and assist those small business owners like my parents in whatever way I could. I know the joy and pride that comes from ownership, and I know the heartache of failure. My role here at ACEnet as the Green Enterprise Fellow will be to connect local businesses to the plethora of information, funding, and strategies for energy efficiency implementation as a way to save on their bottom line, make them more marketable in the area, and help to create a transitioning Appalachia through lessening the local dependency on coal. There were over a dozen places a fellow could have ended up, but it is my hope that by being placed in Athens, I may have been placed in my new and lasting home.