Monday, October 18, 2010

Radford and Pulaski - an Oustiders Inside Perspective.

I’m a transplant. Well, at least I thought I was. What I have learned is that I’m actually an “outsider.” No, I don’t run with a pack of leather jacket wearing “greasers” and no, my husband doesn’t call me “Pony Boy,” but I am still an outsider. Why? Because I haven’t lived in the New River Valley long enough. What is considered long enough? My guesstimate is that you need to have been born here, or lived in this beautiful area for at least 25 years, minimum.

Almost five years ago I moved to the Town of Pulaski from Northern Virginia. I was looking for a quieter life style. I wanted a great place to raise a family, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I found that in Pulaski. I loved it there. The people were friendly, the cost of living was low and the pace was much slower than what I was use to. I was welcomed to a quaint little town that had a ton of potential and a group of people willing to work hard to help the town meet its potential. I loved the “can do” attitude. I loved the faith these people had in their town. I jumped right in.

Then, one day, about 6 months after moving to Pulaski, I went to a store in Radford. When I was asked where I was from, I proudly said, “Pulaski!” The woman proceeded to look me up and down, take a step backwards and say, “Oh.” This was my first taste of the negative stereotype. I didn’t understand. How could anyone not like Pulaski? Then, the woman asked, “But are you FROM there?” My reply, “No, I’m a transplant from Northern Virginia.” I could literally see her internal sigh of relief. “I didn’t think you were from there, I figured you were an outsider.” I was baffled. This woman gathered all she needed to know about me by where I was “from.” Her attitude went from disgust to cheerful in .0025 seconds flat after learning I was actually born in Northern Virginia and not Pulaski. In this case, being an outsider was a good thing.

I started to notice the same response everywhere I went outside of Pulaski. I started to find myself defending the “underdog.” I was on a one woman mission to turn around the stereotype, one person at a time. I started telling people, whether they asked or not, where I was from and why it was such a great place. I was a walking brochure for the town.

After a couple of years, I actually started to notice a change. Not because of me, there were lots of positive things going on in Pulaski and lots of positive people working towards the same goal. I like to think that in some small way, I helped. But, what I did notice along the way is that even though the people were friendly. Even though they welcomed me, I was still treated a little different. When speaking at a meeting and someone else, who had lived here their entire life began to speak, the lifelong resident would find more support. This wasn’t just with me. I noticed it with other outsiders, too. Regardless of who had the better idea, the better point, unless you’ve lived here long enough, it was hard for some to take you seriously. Now, not everyone was like this, but I did run into it time and again. As have many other outsiders, according to conversations I’ve had with them.

After living in Pulaski for a few years, I married and moved to Radford, where my husband already lived. I have now been in Radford for a year and a half, so I am still the same outsider, different town. I have a feeling that just about every small town has this phenomenon. In most cases, outsiders are welcomed, but with a bit of hesitation. Everyone in Radford has been very nice and hospitable. I have made many new friends and absolutely love living here. Radford has wonderful schools, friendly, hard working people and many beautiful parks. But, I can still tell that I’m an outsider.

The one thing I have found disheartening is that in some circles there seems to be an “us versus them” mentality between these two fabulous towns. In my experience, I have found that Radford and Pulaski have much more in common than they realize. As a Cougar turned Bobcat, I think both towns could really benefit each other if they work together. They have a lot of the same ideals, community pride and amazing, interesting people.

There is a bridge that extends over the New River between Radford and Pulaski County. This bridge is often looked at as the dividing point. I think it should be looked at as just that, a bridge, something that connects the two communities. It is just one of the many things they have in common and one of the many ways they should be connected.

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