Photo by Patrick O’Dell
’m 21 and I was raised in Louisa, Kentucky. I love it here. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. I have two kids, Destiny and Jacob. They’re one and two years old. I’m raising them on my own because their dad was unfaithful. He pays child support and he sees them once a week for about four or five hours. I met him when I was working at Pizza Hut in Paintsville. We met up there and we were friends for almost a year before we dated or anything. He used to run around with my older brother all the time. We were together for close to three years. Then he decided he didn’t want a family, he didn’t want kids, and he didn’t want the responsibility. So he started running around. I ended up catching him. His manager at the Pizza Hut called me and told me to watch out. It’s common for people my age to have kids down here. I know a girl who’s 18 and she’s pregnant with her fourth kid. I couldn’t imagine doing that! I know a 16-year-old who has two now. I never regret anything myself, though. Just to look at Destiny and Jacob, it’s worth it. It’s really hard to find good work in this county, especially something that will pay good enough to raise two kids or that you don’t have to drive an hour to get there. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get work here. A lot of the smaller places shut down. There’s a Wal-Mart in Paintsville that closed a lot of the little businesses, and I think that a lot of the big restaurants shut down the little places too. McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
Photos by Jerry Hsu
Poverty is the main problem in this area. It’s been like that since I was born. I’ve always known it. I know families that live out near where I do that still don’t have running water in their houses. In 2006, I don’t know why that is. I know one family that had 13 people living in a three-bedroom house at once. There was a lot of them. There was a husband, his ex-wife and their kids, and his new wife and their kids. And then one of his daughters was married and had a baby. They all lived there.
I rent a trailer now. It’s next door to my grandmom and aunt. They watch my kids while I’m working. It’s just a two-bedroom. I do maintenance stuff on the trailer instead of paying rent. I replaced the floors and the carpet. My uncles come down and help me too, but for the most part I do it myself. I have to miss work a lot because of my kids. Destiny just had to have some teeth cut out, so I missed two days because of that. I bring home about $460 every two weeks. I don’t have to pay rent, but I need to buy materials. It comes out to about $200 a month. The cable TV costs about $40 a month for basic. My phone is only about $17. I don’t have long distance since I don’t need it. My electric is usually about $100 a month. I don’t have to pay for water cause it’s from a well. And then trash pickup is like $14 a month.
I also pay $38 a month to go to school online. I’m learning to be a physical therapy aide. It takes about seven or eight months to finish the program. I found out about it from paying attention to pop-up windows on the internet. After you see it so many times, you’re like, “OK, I’ll click on it.”
When I was 16, the guy I was dating got shot and killed over drugs. Mostly it’s prescription painkillers down here. They’re easy to get. There are a lot of people around here who sell drugs because it pays better than a lot of the jobs you might get.
I haven’t seen a lot of change since I was a kid. I think more parents might be fighting for their kids to not drop out of college, but a lot of kids are still not going, or dropping out, or taking forever to finish. I know one guy who has been in college for nine years and still doesn’t have a degree.
I want my kids to have better than I did when I was growing up. I had an alcoholic dad and a mom who was on pills. Nobody ever tried to do anything for us until my grandmom ended up raising us. She’s still raising my little brother and sister.
My little girl’s name is Destiny because she saved my life. I was addicted to pills from the time I was 12 until I was 18. I bought them on the street from different people. My mom got me hooked on pills. She gave me some Xanax and said to take them with her. I guess she was bored and didn’t want to do them alone. After I got pregnant with Destiny and got cleaned up, I went back to confront my mom about it. I was like, “What were you thinking?” We ended up having a fistfight.