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Choosing Home: Why I Remain in West Virginia

Portrait of Jessica Stidham

All my memories gather ‘round her…

Recently I’ve had people ask me why I choose to stay and live and work in West Virginia. Granted, these were Marshall University students in classes I was visiting as a guest speaker—my thanks to Professors Rob Rabe and Charlie Bowen for having me—but their questions gave me pause. I’ve been thinking about the answer long since the class visits ended.

Why have I stayed in West Virginia?

The answer: I’ve never pictured myself anywhere else. I’ve never even thought that was or could be an option for me, for better or for worse. Why would I want to go? West Virginia is the only home I’ve ever known. I feel safe, protected within the mountains. Each time I travel outside the state, and those mountains are behind me, giving way to flat, hill less land, I internally freak out a bit. These mountains have surrounded me for as long as I have known them, and it is a comfort to know they will never fade or shrink or give way to any outside forces. What a lesson we can learn from these Appalachian Mountains. 

I’ve lived in the Mountain State my entire life; I haven’t even experienced every corner of it yet. I certainly haven’t met every wonderful person who inhabits these hills and hollers, which brings me to my next point.

Author, Amanda Larch standing at an outlook in the mountains of WV

The people. Our people are why I stay. As a journalist and writer, a storyteller, if you will, I want to tell their stories. West Virginians’ stories. Our state is full of hardworking, creative, change-making individuals who all deserve to have their stories told, and my purpose, I firmly believe, is to do just that. 

Over the years, I’ve had the absolute honor and pleasure to meet and interview so many of our residents. I’m thankful they entrusted me to help tell their stories, sharing secrets and insights and personal histories. If you are reading this and I’ve ever written about you, just know you have touched me in a way that I will never forget. I feel as though I carry with me a part of every person I’ve written about. And writing is the greatest joy of my life. How wonderful, what a blessing, that I can stay in my beloved state to write about it and the people here and the amazing things they do. 

The support from my family and loved ones has also made this possible for me, to get to live my dreams, and the constant opportunities from editors and publishers, of course, is essential to my career and business. And I would love to work with anyone who may have a need. As a journalist, copywriter, blogger, editor…I want to offer my services to West Virginians. Let’s work together to continue making our state the best it can be. 

Author, Amanda Larch, standing in front of a waterfall

Now, I’m not knocking people who have left and found homes and success and careers elsewhere from our borders. I do miss them and know their talents are needed here as much as anywhere, but I understand it can be hard here. I know I’ve experienced those hardships within my own family, especially when it comes to job opportunities. Cheers to our Mountaineers who are loving West Virginia from afar and celebrating it and sharing its stories abroad, and cheers to those of us who remain.  

But West Virginia is growing. We don’t feel so much like a best kept secret anymore. People are starting to realize its potential, and they are eagerly moving here. They’re coming here in droves, whether to simply visit or to put down roots. Thank you to each and every one of you. The mountain air sure tastes sweet, doesn’t it?

Photo of the bridge and river in New River Gorge

And thank you to those of you, like myself, who have stayed. West Virginia needs us, don’t forget that. Our talents are not squandered or wasted here; they serve to make our state a better place. That is my sincerest belief. 

Another question I was asked during my latest class visit (thank you again to the students in the JMC 300 class) was what my dream job was as a child. Did I always want to be doing what I’ve built a career on these last few years? I think deep down, yes, I did. I still do. I am passionate about my work, about writing, about writing about West Virginia and our wonderful people, outdoor recreation, the arts and more. And my previous blog readers will know I love our glass and the history of West Virginia’s glass industry. I don’t want to stop or even consider leaving until I can tell all our stories…which means I’ll never move away from Mountain Mama.

A saying my grandfather always used to say, especially each time he came back to West Virginia from a vacation or business trip, was this: The grass is always greener, the sky always bluer, the water always sweeter, and the air always purer than anywhere else. I’m sure I’m not quite doing that little saying justice as Pawpaw would, but its sentiment rings true to me, always. Especially when I see that welcome sign crossing back into the Mountain State whenever I, however reluctantly, leave and, however excitedly, come back. 

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