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Returning home: You don’t have to move to choose opportunity

In an article published in (the Feb. 10) Journal, a fellow New Mexican suggested that young people like himself must choose between our state’s culture and beauty or their own professional and personal success. To the author, I ask: Porque no los dos? As someone who has spent the past four years in D.C. after living in New Mexico virtually my entire life, allow me to save the readers the time, the energy and the cost of moving out of New Mexico with this spoiler alert: you can have New Mexico’s food, culture and beauty, and opportunities for success.

Just last week, I reunited with two of my dearest friends from home. For 11 years, the three of us have never loved the same TV show, we’ve never shared the same hobbies, and our views could not be more politically unaligned. But that night, as we sat in D.C.’s attempted version of a New Mexican restaurant, there was one thing on which all of us could agree. Of all the places where we had trekked since leaving home, no neighborhood, no cuisine, no tourist attraction in any other state could compare to the greatest asset New Mexico has to offer: its people.

In New Mexico, I have seen my parents, my neighbors, my teachers and all those who raised me fearlessly face whatever challenges life has thrown at them. When the going gets tough, they roll up their sleeves and get to work, seizing opportunities where they see them and creating ones where they don’t. Observing this firsthand, I incorporated these practices into my own life. When I wanted my first job in Roswell, I didn’t wait for a job opportunity to appear; I emailed, called and showed up in person, résumé in hand, until I got the job that same summer. When I noticed a lack of books for students in underserved regions of my hometown, I didn’t wait for politics to sway in my favor and funds to be granted; I started a book drive.

But don’t just take it from me. Take it from my college friends whom I’ve taken home to see our turquoise blue lakes and snow-kissed mountaintops. Take it from my co-workers who have been forced to hear about our soul-warming enchiladas and annual balloon fiestas – and have subsequently traveled to New Mexico to experience both! Take it from my friends in D.C.’s New Mexico State Society who commiserate about our yearning for New Mexico between bites of whatever green chile we can scavenge. Take it from the facts which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, show that not only is there growth in nearly every sector of our economy, but also the sharpest decline of any state’s unemployment rate.

Opportunities, whether in New Mexico or New Hampshire, will never be easy to come by. Unlike other places, however, there exists a certain sense of freedom in New Mexico – a certain room for possibilities in exploring the unknown that exists nowhere else. The beauty of New Mexico is that it is a network of unblazed trails waiting to be set afire because here, when something is broken, our people don’t abandon it; they fix it. This spirit of resilience is one I’ve taken with me outside of New Mexico because I, too, once thought like the author. But trust me when I say you’ll be better off giving back to the land that so graciously raised us than to settle in another state in pursuit of better politics. It’s true that much work lies ahead of us, and I encourage my fellow New Mexicans to resiliently rise up to that challenge in the way we have for generations. As our home state grows, let’s grow with it. I, for one, can’t wait to return to New Mexico to do just the same – all while eating the Los Cuates huevos rancheros I so dearly miss.