Pete Jones, the “brains” behind the locally celebrated popular blog, “Des Moines is Not Boring,” wanted to pull his hair out. He was interviewed by Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa on Monday about a term that is starting to wear thin on him and on me as well:
That term is no longer relevant and continues to be used as an excuse to explain the departure of young Iowans after graduating from high school and/or college. You can call it a “phase,” “migration,” or whatever. I agree with Pete that “brain drain” should be put to rest. The smartest and brightest minds are already here in state. In fact, a sizable number of them have never left.
Maybe young Iowans are not leaving the state for better jobs, better salaries, or to see the world. For some, it’s for survival and to escape from troubles.
I grew up in Waterloo, which has recently become a hotbed of violence. Shootings, murders, fights, et cetera. In the Waterloo African-American community especially, they have seen the endless “drama”and cyclical troubles that have beset their parents, siblings, and other family members. Substance abuse, selling illegal drugs, poverty, and making bad life choices due to peer pressure.
It’s not about taking their talents and intelligence out-of-state. They want a better life than the one they are living. The only way is to get the hell out, even if it means leaving Waterloo and moving to a different town, or leaving Iowa, for their own sanity.
New residents to Iowa leave the large urban areas for a better quality of life for themselves and their families. For some of my old high school classmates, they wanted to break the chain of falling into the same traps and choices that their family members and friends have made. Leaving Iowa was a no “brainer.” There were too many negative influences surrounding them.
When we get together to catch up and talk, all of them say that leaving Iowa was the best decision of their lives. They miss Waterloo and their families, but they are happy where they are at.
It’s not always about losing the brightest and the smartest. It’s the only avenue that some need to escape the life and sadness they have grown tired of.