“I love you so much!” I grab my wife and kiss her, smiling and just feeling full of life. She smiles back at me, beaming at the husband she thought she had lost, a man who only months before was ground down by life in the coal mines. The kids come running out of their room and jump on me. I wrestle them down, tickling them both until they beg me to stop. I think to myself, “This is how life should be. Damn, it feels good to be alive.”
Only a few months before I was utterly miserable, suffering from a deep depression. I felt trapped. My body suffered from continuous fatigue, a result of the odd shifts, hard work, and unhealthy lifestyle I was living. My nerves were continuously frayed from dealing with the dangers of coal mining and the back-stabbing assholes looking to get ahead within the company. On top of it all, I couldn’t help but realize each and every day just how much we were all being screwed by the company and how no one was willing to do a damn thing about it.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep from bringing it home with me. My fuse was always short from a lack of rest and everything I once found enjoyable lost its appeal.
My family suffered as I suffered, something that should have never happened. For over three years this had been our life. Was this happiness? Was making more money worth this? I knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way, but I thought I would be a complete idiot if I were to quit and give up the high wages and health insurance. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I smile now, I laugh now, I feel great. The longer I’ve been away from the mines the happier I have become. I decided why stop there? I’ve quit smoking, started sleeping and eating right, and I am running two miles a day. The entire family is doing the same (except the two miles of running a day). The difference in the way we feel mentally and physically is amazing. It doesn’t stop there either. Everyday it seems we meet more and more wonderful people and make great friends within the movement. We have been truly blessed.
Even the knowledge that tough times are ahead as I am still unemployed and our savings are dwindling, that has not been enough to bring us down. We feel as if the sky is the limit. All we are worrying about now is having a great Christmas, and afterwards, well…that’s when the adventure will begin!
Daniel Hawkins is a former coal miner from Virginia. Having finally gotten fed up with current labor practices and environmental destruction within today’s Appalachian coal mines, he has left the mines in search of a better future for his family. In this series, he looks into Appalachia’s past and possibilities for the future. You can find his full series on his own blog, http://thoughtfulcoalminer.blogspot.com/. This post originally appeared on Daniel’s blog on Saturday, December 4, 2010.