When people hear, “New York” they think of the big city – lights, cars, skyscrapers, business, stores, the crazy guy on the corner holding ‘THE END IS NEAR’ sign, and people as far as the eye can see.  The city has everything you need to survive (and many things that are just icing on the cake). Endless numbers of people move to New York City and others all across the world.  Some love it, some hate it.  But everyone has big dreams of what their life will be.  Whether it’s the next big music producer or an upscale chef with your own restaurant, New York City is the mecca of the Eastern Seaboard. That’s not anything new. It’s always been where the-next-big-thing hits the market.

But there’s so much more to New York – like, a whole state attached.  With people living in it – and cars – and color television.

I know that most people don’t think about that. Country!  That’s down south!  Farms! Those are out in Kansas!  I have heard it all.  Most people don’t realize that there are rural places in the North East United States.

I come from Western New York – right on Lake Ontario.  For 18 years of my life, I lived in the same house.  I graduated High school with nearly everyone who was in Kindergarten class.  My town has a Post Office, some houses, fields, woods, and nothing else.  ‘Going to town’ is a big thing out here… mainly because you have to drive about thirty minutes to the nearest grocery store. The corner store is 5 miles away.

I live in Rural America.

I graduated high school and went to college.  Small town kid in a big city.  I went out of state, far enough away from farms and livestock because I wanted to experience life in other places.  I earned my degree, bounced around a little, and worked in dead-end jobs that barely covered my rent and student loans.  I was tired, unhealthy, and not in a very good frame of mind.

And now I moved back home for good.  I have lived in several states and cities, with friends and roommates, near the streets and cars and skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of people living on top of each other.  I returned home with no job and too much student loan debt – like so many of my peers.

Two months ago I felt like a failure coming back here.  I felt like I was worthless, like I wasn’t good enough to do anything.  Why can other people make it while I can’t?  Why?  There are many different reasons, but my mother didn’t care about any of that.  She wants me happy and healthy – and for me, that meant here in the middle of corn fields, horses, and the summer humid heat.

I have always looked for my place out here, but I never really fit in.  When I was younger I thought it was because I was meant for city living – and I met many people who agreed with me.  But over the course of seven years I have found that my place is out here – I just have to find it.

So, I am finding the beauty in rural, small town America (Small is a bit of an understatement).  People who are born in a small town grow up and leave.  They want bigger and better things, and rightly so.  The result of that is the rural community is dying.  Small businesses easily parish under the poor economic climate that has plagued us for over twenty years.  It is harder and harder to make ends meet.  The cost of living keeps rising while income stagnates or declines.  We have the same problems that people who live in the city have.  The difference is that out here, all we have is ourselves.

This past April, the closest hospital closed it doors.  It was in the nearby college town, 30 minutes away.  Now, we have to drive an hour to the nearest emergency room to receive care.  I heard the message loud and clear: We don’t care about you.  People who live in rural America don’t matter.  Just die, because you don’t even deserve a hospital.

I don’t accept that message.  I don’t accept the fact that the world is blind to us, our hardships, our people, and our community.  I don’t accept the fact that we are powerless to change that world view.  I don’t accept the fact that the world thinks we are worthless.  I don’t accept that we are invisible.

That’s why I am here.  I am on a journey to chronicle life out here in rural, small town America.  I am going to show you that we are beautiful, vibrant, and filled with sights, sounds, places, food, and more.  I am going to show you that the heart of America is worth saving.

Come on the journey with me.

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