This essay, by Shanelle from Valor Christian High School, is one of the top five finalists for our scholarship. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below this post!
9:00 pm Nostalgia & 6:00 am Rain
(a poem about Highlands Ranch)
Lavender and cerulean frost
puffed and irritated eyes pour out
Regretful memories well up in
those water lily eyes,
for pouted lips prophesied drowning
in the propaganda.
Violet, cerulean bright! The rain
left cirrus clouds behind
and dried, slumped, exhausted tear ducts paused
in retrospective blur.
Clarity. Nostalgia. Haunted street
lamps burning eyes to tears.
Everyone here brought me to weeping.
Everyone lost themselves.
I am a Colorado native. Growing up, I remained in the state but moved from area to area. Through this, I developed a rounded sense of everything East of the Rocky Mountains. When my family and I were deciding which high school I should attend, we discovered Valor Christian. After receiving scholarships and financial aid, my parents decided to take the financial risks posed and relocate to Highlands Ranch. Valor Christian and Highlands Ranch are inseparable in my mind, as they both were essential aspects of my high school experience. For this reason, my understanding of Highlands Ranch may be different than others because it is entirely tainted by my school and peers.
Therefore, moving to Highlands Ranch may have been the right decision for my family and me as far as academia is concerned. However, while the academic and social pressures here were beneficial to my education, my health was boldly threatened by a toxic subculture that isn’t immediately apparent to the eye. Furthermore, not only did my emotional health suffer but so did that of my peers. In my above poem, “9:00 pm Nostalgia and 6:00 am Rain,” I reveal a glimpse of my emotional experience within the part of the culture here that camouflages mental illness in order to maintain appearances and ultimately value outward success over inward happiness. The poem begins with a statement about clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are the towering clouds that bring intense rainstorms which, in Highlands Ranch, often follow beautiful lavender and light blue sunrises. This paradox of gentle skies precipitating heavy storms reflects the fierce waves of emotions and tears that always come after rare moments of genuine happiness here. In this way, a danger of Highlands Ranch is that it doesn’t always present its flaws openly, but hides them away from the public eye. This upholding of pretenses harms its children, forcing them to suffer in their emotional and mental pains alone and in silence.
The poem then introduces the idea of regret. In the beginning, it is hard to detect the negative aspects of Highlands Ranch, and many new people who aren’t used to those parts of the culture hurt themselves in the process of figuring it out. For this reason, relationships in Highlands Ranch can often be shallow and short-lived. Therefore, many people they cannot trust anyone because the pressures to be the best often cause people to have alternative motives. A void of deep relationships ultimately causes people to seek approval and make regrettable decisions in their quest for acceptance. This regret is one of the many consequences of living here and a reason why Highlands Ranch can be both mentally and emotionally unhealthy for its residents. Finally, the poem closes by highlighting the disappointment of watching people you loved become people you no longer know. The toxicity of a subculture solely focused on outward appearance drives many to lose the authentic pieces of their identities and cope with their confusion using unhealthy behaviors. This loss of self within a community that constantly asks its citizens to be better often leads to overall feelings of sadness, loneliness, and regret. In conclusion, while this city does offer safe, clean neighborhoods and beautiful sunrises, I don’t like Highlands Ranch because it pressures its citizens to be people who they aren’t and lose authenticity.