On Feb. 10, I read an opinion piece in the Journal titled “I’m young, ambitious and I’ve got to leave NM,” and it really struck a nerve with me. Although I do respect the author’s opinion, I am frustrated that this seems to be a common theme in New Mexico’s rhetoric, regardless of our collective experiences.
Much like the author, I, too, am community-minded. I turn 24 next month, I work full-time at the Anderson School of Management, I am a graduate student, and I volunteer my free time for various nonprofit boards. Mine is a common story. When I look at my peers, I am excited about the future here. I see passion and ambition. We have high hopes and worthy dreams, and we will do whatever we have to do to reach them. That’s what makes me proud to be a part of this generation. However, it disheartens me to continuously hear that there are no opportunities for us here.
The phrase “brain drain” has been a frequently used expression in the past to describe New Mexico. This messaging has been reinforced frequently for some time. But is it true? I know many interesting, talented people who want to stay here. I am one of many examples of young people who believe that you can build a strong career path right here. Opportunities are there, and too many people are giving up rather than looking, or fighting, for them.
Take a step back and look at New Mexico. In the past three years, our state has welcomed major employers, such as Facebook and Netflix. What does major mean? Billions in investment. Not millions. Billions. We’re seeing well-known companies making the decision that Albuquerque is worth investing in. This upward trajectory is exciting to me and what it might mean for my career.
I am thrilled to be a young person living in Albuquerque. Within this community, I can have access to CEOs, policy makers and community leaders as a young person, which I am confident I would not have as an individual elsewhere. I can create opportunities to grow myself personally and professionally. Furthermore, I have an opportunity to shape Albuquerque into the city that I want it to be. New Mexico has amazing momentum, and I am excited and eager to make a real change.
I do empathize with the author, because I agree that we are far from where we should be. I appreciate the hours that young people across New Mexico are putting in to improve this state. My message is this: Don’t give up. Our community is far from perfect. But if we collectively believe that our contributions will one day shape the New Mexico that we want, we will be successful in creating that environment. There are dozens of professional organizations working hard to improve this problem. Recently, community leaders have come together to start a campaign about highlighting this community’s potential, rather than its challenges. “Stop Bagging, Start Bragging” are words people my age should be living by. We are young, but that is to our benefit. We can never stop working for something we genuinely believe in, and the future of this state is something worth fighting for.
This belief that we have to go elsewhere for prosperity isn’t just about politics. It’s about choosing to believe in the assets and possibilities this community has to offer. It’s about fighting to make sure we keep moving forward. Not to get philosophical, but Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” and I think that this phrase captures how we can improve New Mexico. Let’s stop bagging and start bragging. Let’s come together and make the changes that we want to see in this state. Let’s be One Albuquerque, and let’s push this community to its full potential. It starts with each of us.