Growing up I always told myself when I was old enough I would get out of this city. I felt as though my city had nothing to offer my generation. There wasn’t anything to do. It was extremely boring.
Then I grew up. I went off to college, but after graduating returned home thinking, “Ok, I’ll start here and figure out where to go next”. How was I going to find a job around here? Why are people my age staying?
Well, I did find a job, and then I had a family. “Ok, you’ll raise your baby here for a few years so she can be around her grandparents, but then you are definitely moving”.
Uhhuh, sure. Go ahead and tell yourself that.
I live in a city that is considered part of the Rust Belt. Years ago our city was known as the “Furniture Capital of the World”. Now most of those buildings and warehouses are empty and desolate, almost haunting to look at. Over the years our city has been hit hard with a drug problem. Heroine, meth, cocaine, and opioids are some of the recent drugs that police have seized. Poverty is slowly consuming more and more families, leaving homes rundown and decrepit.
How am I supposed to raise my daughter in a city that seems to be falling apart? We have friends and family that have left. From Maine to Florida they’ve hightailed it out of here and made a new life for themselves in cities much more thriving than ours.
So why stay? Why live in a boring, drugged up, impoverished, diminishing, small city that seems to be minutes away from annihilation?
I’ll tell you why.
Because there are things to do.
As a high school teenager maybe I was “too cool” to do these things or just didn’t think they were interesting enough for my “too good for the world” teenage brain, but there truly are plenty of places to go with your family, spouse, or just independently around the city.
There are fun activities such as bowling alleys, golf courses, tons of local parks to play at. There is an ice arena to do free skate, and there are plenty of events held there as well. We have local theaters that continually give performances or show popular movies. There is amazing local food such as SAUCE, Forte or the Landmark. There are adorable places to get coffee like Crown Street Roasting Company or Labyrinth Press Company. Grab a drink after work at The Pub, Souther Tier Brewery, or Brazil. Stop and get ice cream at The Sprinkle Cone, and while you’re there check out the skatepark right next door. A few days a week there is a Farmer’s Market to attend, or Historical Walking Tours to try. Our local library offers story time, classes, or fun lego activities for children. Get out and enjoy nature with a newly created Riverwalk trail along the river, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute or visit the Audubon Community Nature Center. There are even new Escape Rooms to gather a group of friends and try out.
This doesn’t even include all the places in our surrounding area that are a just a drive away. Our beautiful Chautauqua Lake, Midway Park, Chautauqua Institution, the many wineries we have in our area, Allegany State Park, local places to ski, the list goes on and on.
I’m sorry, but you cannot tell me there is nothing to do.
Because there are drugs and crime everywhere.
Face it. No matter where you go there will always be drugs and crime. Yes, we’d like to think that we live in a picture perfect town where everyone gets along and does what they’re supposed to do. I’m sorry but that has never existed, and will never exist. I’m not condoning drugs, and I’m not condoning crime, but I will tell you that you will never be able to completely run away from that. Drugs are taking over lots of places right now, not just our city.
People are beginning to realize the problem, and more and more people are stepping up, trying to make a difference.
Because the cost of living is lower.
This may not be true for everywhere, but compared to large cities, the cost of living will be more affordable. Buying a house in this area is a great way to start yourself off financially as opposed to some other places.
Because there is a sense of community.
Don’t you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. C’mon guys, I had to.
Living in this city means no matter where you go, you will always find someone who knows you. Growing up I thought this was slightly annoying. My mother ALWAYS ran into at least three people that she would have fifteen minute conversations with, and errands like grocery shopping seemed to take months.
Now I go to the grocery store with my daughter and the same thing happens to me, except this time it’s comforting. People ask me about my family, my job, my house, “and did you hear that so-and-so is pregnant again?”.
People truly care about one another.
Because the city is trying.
There are tons of people in this city that are trying to make a difference. We now have the a local Renaissance Corporation that has worked so hard to improve the city in so many ways. They have started a farmer’s market, are working on creating a vibrant downtown atmosphere, are building community gardens, are installing programs to clean up our city, and coming up with friendly ways to encourage better looking homes. People in this city are trying.
And let me tell you they are doing a damn, good job.
Because it’s home.
No matter what, the place you grow up in is your home. It’s who made you who you are today. The people, the places, the neighborhoods, the traditions, they are your home whether you chose them or not. Most of our family is here, and to us that’s home.
Because if I move, how am I going to help make a difference?
Earlier I stated, “So why stay? Why live in a boring, drugged up, impoverished, diminishing, small city that seems to be minutes away from annihilation?”, and this is the biggest reason why. I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want to make this city beautiful again. I want to keep our downtown renovations worth something. I want my daughter to live in a place she’s proud of.
A lot of my friends have moved away. Do I blame them? Not even a little. Do I respect their decision? I do, 100%.
But for those that continue to ask me, why do I stay? This is why, and I hope you can respect my decision too