The yearly exodus of creative talent is a psychological drain on those of us who remain. It’s a bitter pill I’m happy to swallow if it means the creative, financial, and mental success of my fellow artists. But it doesn’t make me like being Left Behind in Beaumont any more.
Maybe it’s because I never planned to be here this long. Maybe it’s because, in my entire life, I never planned to be here at all. But life takes you where you need to go, and I don’t want to know the version of myself that never lived in this town.
Still, being left behind stings all the more when you realize that Beaumont could do a hell of a lot more to retain their talent. Building a creative economy has never been a priority for this town, and I can’t for the life of me accept the reason why.
Because I know the reason why, and it’s so infuriatingly short-sighted. You don’t need to leave the interstate to figure out the purpose of this town: oil. We scream it from every corner of our promotional materials. We’ve even created a shrine to it in the food court of our biggest mall.
Refineries fuel our local economy, but what fuels our collective soul? Who are we, Beaumont? Are we one big oil boom and bust after another? Is that what sustains us? Are we Dowlen Road strip malls with a crumbling downtown facade? Are we the promise of something real quickly forgotten in place of what is easiest?
Of course, this entire conversation is a lie if I don’t admit the glaring truth that, if my husband wasn’t employed by the oil industry, I never would have come here, and I never would have stayed.
Yes, we are oil. But, aren’t we something more? Could we be something more?
Maybe. But not if we keep losing our best imaginative minds.