Section 3: From Yuma to Nogales
Today was a dark day. They happen sometimes and you just gotta roll. We are the closest of friends but walking a long trail with a best friend can be incredibly hard. You are constantly in each other’s space, your manners disappear, you see the best of each other and the worst. Little misunderstandings can spark major resentments and hours of walking provide the perfect conditions for a good fester.
And with someone who knows you well, there’s no option for hiding your frustration and hurt. Absolutely no avoiding it?
Today’s crisis started with a minor disagreement over the best way to find the trail leaving our campsite, and after a couple hours of hiking it had turned into a major fight. These fights can always be traced to our different underlying insecurities - usually from childhood - and they do help to better understand ourselves and each other. But they are devastating and overwhelming in the moment. It feels impossible to continue when we are at odds and it’s particularly difficult to be stuck together on a stupid road with no options for bailing when you’re just a mess of fury and hurt.
Tenny: It’s impossible to summarize how growing up in a backwoods community has contributed to this project. My family alternated between rural Kentucky and remote Alaska; they were seasonal workers for a large portion of my childhood. I have always been hesitant to talk about my youth in Kentucky, it is both the best part of me and the worst. I often wonder if my inability to talk was a gradual conditioning. A conditioning that many overlooked areas of our country experience. No one told me to keep quiet, I taught myself. I have been determined to teach the world I’m just as good as everyone else. A seemingly great philosophy, but which ultimately means I hid everything I deemed vile.
In Eastern Kentucky there’s a feeling that often becomes ingrained in you, that you should not speak because the rest of the world will recoil from your lack of education, your comfort level with dirt and your exposure to adult experiences. The feelings which develop from poor education - you get halfway through a sentence only to have it dissolve behind your next words. You are convinced your thoughts must be wrong and it is best to them abandon midway. Every word is an obstacle, even when you know the meaning you are certain it will deceive you. The foundation you desire is above you instead of under you. You nod because you so badly want to embody a symbol of conviction and understanding. And you hide your knowledge to give the world what they assume you know.
Of course many people in Kentucky are scared of who they are, of course the only safe option is to stay at home where everyone is subjected to the same infractions. Many that grow up in Eastern Kentucky stay in Eastern Kentucky because they know what their neighbor thinks, they know everyone has felt a similar hurt and shame, they know the neighborhood understands. And if they leave their neighborhood and the hurt they feel, it will all be less than the amount the world will point out. Forever scared of the stereotype they are inherently confined to. So they stay in their isolated communities because they are scared of the hurt the world will inflict. People in Kentucky do not have to be stupid, they are smart. People in Kentucky do not have to be made of dirt, they are clean and organized. People in Kentucky do not have to be pregnant at 14, they have beautiful families.
Can we please have communication and movement between our communities so there is no one stereotype? Can we please expose and destroy the stereotype so the next generation doesn’t grow up in one?
May this project help us better understand border communities so we do not confine them to a stereotype. So that they do not have insecurities and hurt that are perpetuated by our lack of knowledge.
Every single day Claire helps me. She listens to my stories about Kentucky, she watches when I’m furious or when I’m overwhelmed by sadness. She touches my insecurities, she knows why they developed, only she tells me to keep talking. If I do not talk no one will hear. I can see her shock and her confusion, and I can see that she listens. I can see that she doesn’t treat me delicately because she sees more strength than I do. She is proof that it takes both the person living the stereotype and the person listening to the stereotype to destroy it.
Kinda applicable to our project!?