I grew up in a small town in Southeastern Kentucky. It was there, in the heart of Appalachia, where I was raised from the ground up. I attended school with the same people starting at the age of four up until I graduated high school. While this sounds truly grueling to some, and at times it was, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It was spending hours painting a new themed poster each week just to cheer for our boys on Friday nights. It was the science teacher who made me contemplate my future career path over and over but ended up being my greatest mentor. It was coaches who made me realize the value of hard work. It was having a support system larger than my immediate family who saw my potential and encouraged me to chase my goals.
You see, growing up in a small town, let alone rural Appalachia, every single odd is set against you. It’s a poverty-stricken region that also so happens to be stuck in the bullseye of the opioid epidemic.
While derogatory stereotypes run true to many individuals throughout the area, it’s a stereotype that blankets nearly everyone living there. And it’s not all true. Not everyone living there fits the mold of these infamous stereotypes. These cold-hard truths of just one sector of this region prevent many young individuals from chasing their dreams.
Though I don’t speak for all, it’s sometimes hard to see big dreams become reality when the place where you were born and raised only has a negative connotation. However, it’s up to you to change the idea society has about the place that raised you.
Over the years my intelligence has been doubted based solely on my accent. I’ve been called a “Backwoods Barbie” (yes, that actually happened). I’ve even been asked if my family and friends back home wore shoes. Though these things disturbed me, to say the least, they only have been motivation.
I’ve had a dream in the back of my head for quite some time now. I am going to be a Pediatric Dentist. There are no if’s, no but’s, no “if it doesn’t work out.” I’m not stopping until I accomplish that goal.
Of course the road there isn’t easy. If it was then you’d see everyone chasing doctoral degrees. It’s because I want to do whatever it takes to prove all those stereotypes wrong. It’s about having that drive and determination to be a kid from Southeastern Kentucky who made something of themselves.
Against all the odds, you became successful. You’re the underdog and sometimes you just have to be your own cheerleader. You’re just as capable as anyone else is.
You just have to find your passion and chase it without fear of failing. I found that “want to,” and so should you.