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I suppose this is as good as a place as any to introduce myself, my name is Jarrod Mills and if you’ve picked up a copy of The Times-Tribune in the last month or so, there’s a possibility that you’ve seen my name. I’m the newest staff writer here at the paper and honestly, I couldn’t be more happy about it.

When I was brought on board in late August, I essentially landed my dream job. I was given the opportunity to do something I love to do, write — and I’m being paid for it? No problem.

All jokes aside, I feel extremely fortunate to get to write about this area, because even when I don't want it to be, it's always home.

I was born in Barbourville, but growing up my family moved around a lot. My dad was in the Army and my mom caught a bit of wanderlust afterwards. I’ve lived in places like Germany and Montana, and have visited just about everywhere in-between.

It took a while getting used to being the new kid at school and adapting to a new place and sometimes cultures. Looking back on it though, I consider it a blessing.

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to come back here during school breaks and vacations. I’m sure most of it was due to the fact that all of my extended family was here, but regardless I loved coming home to Kentucky.

We moved back to this area when I started high school at Whitley County. I was happy to have stability and to be back around family. As the years went on however, and I started college, I felt myself wanting to move away again. I had gotten tired of the small town life and everything closing at 10 p.m. I was a teenager, and was surely suffering from a "grass is greener" mentality. But then again maybe wanderlust is hereditary, I don’t know, I'm not a doctor, I majored in communications.

After graduating from the University of the Cumberlands in 2014, I was dead set on moving. I was going to save up money while working at my non-profit job and move to Seattle, Washington. I was worried I would miss out if i stayed here in southeast Kentucky.

I knew I wanted to end up in the creative field somehow, but those jobs are few and far between. Especially here in rural America, or so I thought. Obviously I never moved, because when you make plans for life, life laughs, sends a blitz, and forces you to call an audible.

I’m OK with the way things worked though. Like I said, I was able to land my dream job here at home. The past month or so has been one of the busiest in my life, but one of the most rewarding, as well. I love it here, and after seeing our community come together this past week for Machinist Mate 1st Class Ulis Claude Steely’s funeral, those feelings for this area have only grown stronger.

There were no strangers at Steely’s funeral on Saturday. Everyone was there to pay their respects to one of our own. Even though most of us never met him, we still cared, and the city of Corbin wrapped its arms around Steely’s family and invited them to be a part of ours.

It truly made me proud to say I’m from this area. Those “small town values” often go overlooked when you’re 22 years old and are sure the west coast holds all the answers.

Over the past month I have also had the opportunity to interview some amazing people within our community too. A couple of the interviews have really opened my eyes to the growing number of artists we have here at home. We’re all aware of the Chris Stapletons, Sturgill Simpsons, and the Tyler Childerses who “make it” from eastern Kentucky, but I’m telling you friends, these hills are hiding a plethora of talent.

When I was handed the keys to my very own column, I have to admit, I had no idea what I was going to write about every week. So I took some time and thought about what it was I wanted to share with you, and that is it. I want to write about those chasing their dreams here in a place I once thought was impossible. I want to share the stories of the artist, the musician, or that friend you have that makes papier-mâché collages. We have amazing culture here in southeast Kentucky. I want to shine a light on it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be the occasional week where I feel like writing about something different. I worry about pigeonholing myself to one specific topic. Like most men who aren’t married, I suppose I have a subconscious fear of commitment. However, this column will ultimately be looking at those Tri-County creatives we see everyday.

I hope that it does the obvious, and helps those I write about with their projects. I also hope it helps legitimize their dreams to others who maybe think they should "stop with that silly hobby." I want to help show that you don't have to sacrifice all of the great things we have at home, to move and try and make it somewhere else.

Mills is a staff writer at The Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at jmills@thetimestribune.com.

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