When I was younger, I would always be envious of those who were older than me. Their lives looked so fun as they explored their options of activity in Rochester, New York. I would watch adults go out to festivals, restaurants, bars, or even just the mall and have a great time, and always think, “I can’t wait to grow up and be able to enjoy life how they do.” …but when the time came for me to grow up, nothing was the same.
I always loved the city feel, and in Rochester the downtown area seemed to be the closest thing I could get to that. Around the age of 15, I excitedly told my mother that I was going to go downtown. To my surprise, my mother scolded me and warned me to never go down there, “It is dangerous and unsafe”, she said. The words “dangerous and unsafe” meant nothing to me at that age, I figured my mother’s choice of words were just pure worrisome for her daughter, like typical mothers tend to do.
So, I went anyways, me and my friend just hopped on a bus (for the first time) and went. I had never been downtown before, but my imagination had. I pictured it would be just like New York City, with tall buildings, bustling restaurants, adults socializing, shopping, diversity, etc. But when I stepped off the bus, I quickly realized why my mother was so persistent on me not going. I felt like I had entered a completely different world. The entire city was grey and cold. The flashing lights I had hoped and dreamt of seeing were solely from police cars and ambulances. The only bustling happening came from the homeless, drunken, addicts who carelessly roamed the streets. There was no one shopping because none of the stores were open anymore. Racial diversity was impossible to see because anyone who didn’t resemble the white man was already in handcuffs. The only glimpse of happiness I saw came from the folks who were walking out of their corporate buildings. I was confused, scared and a little hurt…What were all the adults doing when I was younger that looked so fun? Because this was not fun; this was pure misery embedded in a city. This was something I had never seen before; something I never wanted to see again.
Since that day, since I was 15 years old, I have stepped into Downtown Rochester twice. And those two times mirrored my first experience. Now, at 22 years old, sitting in Manhattan, New York, I am still furious but also curious as to how our elders let Downtown Rochester turn into what it has become? Why has our generation stayed silent, instead of using their powerful voices and brilliant minds to prosper and grow this city into the potential it’s invisibly holding? I have so many questions, but it’s too late for the answers, it’s time for change.