WARNING; you incited a small novel. (Many people from DE flee DE and gladly put it behind them. I feel the opposite. So I thought about why I stay a fair bit.)
I have lived and worked many different places. I grew up and went to college and all in DE, so I'm a true native, although my family stayed in suburbia and out of Wilmington for the most part. I've never lived in Wilmington proper before (though I have lived in one or two other 'bad areas' of Delaware; at one place there was a shooting on my street, no injuries though).
Currently, I work in Wilmington and have for the past 3 years (nearly!) because that's where my job is. Wilmington is a big center for banks due to Delaware's business-friendly tax and incorporation laws, so there is a lot of opportunity in my field there. I am moving to Wilmington because I wanted to get out of Newark, because I was frustrated with it for a number of reasons, and I helped my friends move into a great apartment complex (in a good part of the city on the outskirts of town) and decided to seize the opportunity, move somewhere really nice, and also get to be near/with friends.
Those aren't necessarily very strong reasons to answer, "What's keeping you in Wilmington?" but I wanted to start out with them because I think me being in Wilmington is more of a "thing that happened" than continued active decision. More specifically in response to your question, I freely admit I am a Delaware girl, have always been in love with the state, have always loved the parks, suburbs, and general feel of the area of DE in which I've grown up and lived. I like to quote Lord of the Rings when Bilbo speaks to Gandalf about Frodo: "He's still in love with the Shire." There are people I've grown up with who couldn't wait to leave DE, and denigrate it in their wake. There are people I know who scoff at people like me who (although not technically correct in my case; I've lived in PA and MD, too) "have never left." Heck, there's lots of literary tropes about how small towns are evil, or bad, or small-minded, or if you want to grow and develop as a person you need to leave them. Lately I have been thinking that there seems to be a general air of disdain, often, about people who "never leave" their hometown. But why? What is wrong with loving the area where you grew up, and continuing to love it, and staying there? - I don't think anything really. But sometimes people try to tell you that such feelings are hokey, or that people who stay are people who "never go anywhere," instead of maybe "people who love this place and want to stay." That's more what's keeping me in Delaware, though, not Wilmington.
I can't help working in Wilmington unless I were to move to another state where we have other worksites, or began WFH full-time (which I do not want). I have considered on and off moving to VA - work's HQ is located there; the housing market's pretty buyer-friendly; I've always wanted to live in a slightly more southern climate (weather-wise); etc. But recently while discussing this with a coworker she raised some potential pitfalls to doing that, which frankly bother me enough at the moment that I've decided for now, I definitely don't want to move to VA.
In the meantime, MD tax rates are just freakin' ridiculously high, so I have no interest in moving there (lived just over the border in MD for a year which is how I know that). I enjoyed living in PA but no longer have anything that draws me there; my brother has graduated and moved to Portland for grad school, the friends I lived with have all coupled up and are living with their S/Os and not looking for roommates, and I no longer have a job in PA either, one of the reasons I moved out there in the first place. So if I were to move, the states nearest me that would allow me to keep working out of Wilmington aren't good options in my mind, so I'd have to move further away and probably transfer to a different work site.
And right now, there's simply nothing persuading me to do that. I mean, I guess you could cite Wilmington's crime rate and say that should be a persuasive factor, but I don't have a family and don't plan on starting one in the short-term. Most of the Wilmington crime is drug-related and usually committed by male persons of color against other (often also male) persons of color. Some parts of the city are very, very bad, but I don't live there, work there, or go there, so the impact - besides being aware of it - is minimal. I have friends who are very committed to Wilmington and they feel strongly about standing by their city and working to redeem the community there, as opposed to simply fleeing and abandoning the city to fall into itself. I do think there is a point there that is valid, although I'm no city's savior or martyr and know that.
Meanwhile so much of my life is in Wilmington, Newark, and the surrounding areas. Many very dear friends, many very dear memories, my current boyfriend, etc. Honestly, I was saying at Thanksgiving the biggest drawback about living around here is that there is no way I can get out of going to my family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, unless I want to have absolutely NO relationship with my family - and I'm not there, by any means.
Once I wrote a poem that began,
"I live inside my memory, I cannot help it."
I really love revisiting past places, past times, past moments. I love the comfort of knowing how to get places. I love running into other native Delawareans and getting to swap stories from middle school and discover that we went to the same place for kindergarten, or etc. I love that it's a two-hour drive to the beach and I've been there and done it enough that I kind of know my way around even though I probably only make the trip a half-dozen times or so a year. I love all the country roads, I love knowing and going to all the state parks, I love the farms that start to pop up as you head away from Wilmington and Newark. I love that sometimes, I can take someone I really care about and go on a 30-minute drive with them and point out numerous meaningful places from my childhood and recount random stories that make up a part of who I am, just because I drive by places and they jog my memory. I love that I know the house with the best Christmas light display every year and I love bringing new people to see it.
There are drawbacks to living in the same place and knowing all the same people - they know all your past mistakes and drama - but I've been improving my life and growing up and being pretty straight and clean, post-college. I live and interact with people in such a way that I am not embarrassed by my choices or most things(people) I've done over the past 5 years. I have cut out the poisonous friends and, even though I'm still living in the same town they probably live in, I don't run into them, not more than maybe a chance meeting in the street once a year, and when that happens I don't have to engage. I am proud of my life and who I am and where I've gotten, especially compared to when I've been down in the past. So I feel like the common complaint of living in the same place for too long, that "you know too many people and too many people know you/about you," doesn't come into play in my life very much. And I have always felt that the best part of traveling is coming home - I do not have an innate urge to go new places, break new ground, go someplace totally different where no one knows me.
Besides, the Poet Laureate for the state has just retired, which means there's an open position. She held the post for like 8 years, and while she's a good poet, I kind of feel like I am one too. And I feel like being a native makes me a better candidate for the position than not! ;)
(It's been a running joke since college that I'm going to become poet laureate of Delaware. I have done basically nothing to accomplish this, but then again, how does one get that kind of post anyway? Who knows. Prestige, I guess. Prestige and writing regional love poems.)
Side note - best thing about the passage you quote above?
| that Wilmington just got its first homicide unit.
The police chief actually vocally opposed this development. Crazy hubris IMHO - there is a clear violence/crime problem in the city. But the push to add a homicide unit came from an outside review and I think he just didn't want to agree with any of the suggestions that came from it.
Anyway. That's why I live in, basically, the same area (certainly same county) where I grew up and went to college and why it doesn't bother me - why I actually enjoy and like it. Wilmington is kind of a side effect of those choices. But again...I could flee Wilmington for its crime rate, or I could stay and try, in some small way, to help fix it and its problems. I don't think that Wilmington's problems would be improved in any way if everyone who could afford to leave it left.