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Young, ambitious and staying in New Mexico

I graduated from the University of New Mexico with my BA in 2014. In 2015, at the age of 24, I bought my first home in a Downtown Albuquerque historic district. I have worked as a waiter and a civil rights activist. In 2015, I was accepted to the UNM School of Law, and today I am in my last year. I graduate in May, I take the bar exam in July, and I’m not going anywhere.

I decided to write this because I was so disappointed in Michael A. Aguilar’s (Feb. 10) op-ed that read more like a letter from a bitter ex-boyfriend than a farewell to an amazing state.

New Mexico has many ways it can improve, as do so many states across our country. But Aguilar’s partisan tirade against our state was biased and unfair.

New Mexico is a brilliant place to make change, but you must be willing to do the work. In New Mexico you can make real, substantive change in an area that you’re passionate about, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It requires patience and diligence, but if you show up and work hard, you can participate in decision-making at a level that is incomparable in so many other states.

I believe in New Mexico, but to succeed, you must look past your own direct self-interest, as Aguilar cites “the opportunity to advance (himself) professionally and personally,” and see how we can work together to build a community that helps each other. I think we need fewer naysayers and more do-ers.

New Mexico isn’t like the run-of-the-mill, big city, ladder-climbing communities you can find in any of the 31 larger cities across the country. There’s a sense of connection to the land and to our families, some which have existed for over 1,000 years. In New Mexico, you can still afford to buy a home and to do a job that you love, and most importantly you can make a difference. Our state surpasses most other states in rates of women-owned small businesses and ranks sixth in the nation for minority-owned businesses. This is truly a testament to our communities’ resilience, creativity and entrepreneurship.

We, of course, support those who choose to leave and follow their dreams, but to trash a state on your way out is no way to leave. It is not a true reflection of the mentality here, and Aguilar’s rant just reinforces that stereotype of New Mexicans trying to hold one another back. I’m disappointed, to say the least.

Many have sacrificed countless hours working to change this state for the better. We’ve watched as leaders let our city and state spiral, offering no help for people struggling with mental health or those who were hit the hardest during the recession. Instead they focused on dated, disproven trickle-down policies that did nothing but hurt our state and put us back 10 years. So I agree, there’s lots of work to do. But I am more hopeful than I have ever been for my state. Together, we accomplished something no other state ever has when we elected a house delegation to Washington that truly reflects our community. Change, true representation and success are on our horizons. But we must stop living in the scarcity mindset that has inspired a fear to invest in ourselves and our state.

I’m doubling down on how we can ensure that we don’t become Portland or Austin but that we create a community that’s vibrant, cares about one another, something that is uniquely ABQ. We are on the precipice of change, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I hope Mr. Aguilar succeeds in advancing himself. Regardless, we will be here, committed to the uniqueness of New Mexico and working to uplift each other and our state.