I don’t have a lot memories of what I thought about you growing up. As I got older, people would say things like, “If you don’t leave before you turn 21, you’ll never leave,” or “Go as far away as possible for college, leave the valley,” or “You’ll come back, everybody always comes back;" which were all extremely daunting for a 13 year old. I was pretty much scared shitless. Yet, here I am as a 21 year old who still lives with her parents back “home” and I promise I’m not shaking in my boots. I think everybody at one point or another not only wanted to leave, but had a plan to leave. Then reality hit them like a bus. I should say they just realized how much of a bitch you really were… and that’s putting it nicely. You’re a little behind the times, like seven to 12 years behind. So, the expectation from literally everyone is college right after high school. Which isn’t fine, because college isn’t for everyone. College can also get ridiculously expensive and take it from someone who has witnessed at least a quarter of their former classmates drop out of college or transfer to a college that was closer to you. So, why push people away just to pull them back? You know that’s toxic behavior, right? You give the option for someone to just leave, but that is expensive as fuck and you don’t really let people make good money while living here. The option to just work after high school might be entertained by few because the pressure of what everybody else their age seems to be doing or what older people think they should be doing is just as strong as it was when the youth was in high school, I highly doubt they’ll pick that option. A gap year? Unheard of and bullshit in your eyes. You’re called one of the most miserable places ever for a reason. You don’t allow any money to be made and the people who do have money use it in favor of those who have power and connections. Small businesses don’t stand a chance, making mom and pop stores hard to come by these days. Between crime and poverty, finding a good location for a new business is trying to find a needle in a haystack. Then trying to keep that business in business? Oof, seems almost impossible. You’re not what you used to be, which growth and change usually is a good thing and strongly encouraged. Except, you’re going backwards and down hill. I’m not sorry to be the one to break that information with you. Everybody knows it because it’s what everybody sees on a daily basis. Your schools aren’t safe; nowhere is safe. Gang activity is in your schools and on your streets everyday; it probably feels like a problem that has gotten out of hand and isn’t fixable anymore. A lot people feel like you’re a lost cause and people certainly are right to think that. Not only have you given up, the people around you have given up. You have potential, but nobody knows how to use it. The people that could help you have their heads too far up your ass, and the ones that do want to help don’t know where to start, or it’s too much money for them. You might’ve been great back in the day, but you aren’t anymore. You are filled with toxicity, close minded individuals, and just not good people all together. So, don’t get offended when I don’t want to be here. This is where I grew up, raised by amazing parents, and you’ve helped shape me in to who I am. You’ll always be my hometown, but you’ll never be my home. Oh, and for god’s sake, clean up your river.