Why Love (For Your State) Matters
Considered quite the sage individual back in his era, Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” The first part of this quote gives a glimpse into the frustrating years I experienced while living in Philadelphia: verbal street harassment, taxes mismanaged by an incompetent city government, drama on every corner, and cult-like narcissistic work environments. I was “fighting” to somehow accept these things, but the result was feeling burnt out.
In American culture, from a very young age, it’s drilled into our heads that our highest priorities in life should be chasing a career, owning a home, and walking down the aisle into marital bliss. I’ve often found it amusing how our country claims to be “individualized” compared to its international allies; however, our country cannot claim such individuality when its citizens conform so often in these three departments. A major priority I’ve found to be overlooked is finding a state (or region) to live in that’s compatible with our individual selves. Where we choose to live has an impact on our emotional, mental, and physical lives.
I often felt like I was trapped in an internal struggle, trying to force compatibility between myself and Philly.
For two decades I had loved, thrived, and felt nourished living in major cities. But those years in Philly were the beginning of the end to all of that, as I was falling out of love with living in big cities. In March 2020, while driving home from a weekend escape to Cape Cod, I realized that I could not live in Philly anymore. I often felt like I was trapped in an internal struggle, trying to force compatibility between myself and Philly. Moreover, I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to continue living in the Northeast. I was over the intense “rat race” mentality, hordes of people, and neurotic drivers on I-95.
During that same drive, I briefly flirted with the idea of moving to Cape Cod. I lived in Boston for many years and Massachusetts holds a special place in my heart. However, as much fun as Cape Cod is during the summer months, I wasn’t totally convinced living there year-round would be satisfying enough.
The other factor that was lingering in the back of my mind was New Mexico.
- Rebecca in New Mexico.
A few years prior I had visited the state and felt some love for it, envisioning a life there perhaps in my “senior citizen” years. Well, I didn’t need to debate this issue much after that day. As I drove the rental car into the Alamo lot, the parked car I pulled up behind held a beautiful sight: a turquoise New Mexico license plate. Now, I’m not religious, but even this agnostic gal had to admit that the universe was nudging me in a particular direction: the Southwest.
Even though the Northeast had not necessarily changed, I had.
Even though the Northeast had not necessarily changed, I had. I needed (and wanted) to build a new chapter in life in a region that was more in sync with who I had become. Soon after that Cape Cod weekend I did some soul-searching and list-making, writing down the “Pros and Cons” of Philly/Northeast versus New Mexico. When I finished the list the Pros column was longer for New Mexico, while the Cons column was longer for Philly/Northeast. It was written proof that the Philly/Northeast chapters were over.
To be extra certain of this decision I made plans to take a summer 2020 trip out West, carving out a significant portion of time in New Mexico. When finding a state that you love and want to call home the goal is not about expecting the state to be “perfect”, as no state is. It’s about finding the place that is most compatible with your expectations, needs, and personality.
Fast forward one year later to August 2021. While driving further away from Pennsylvania, the burden of Philadelphia slowly lifted from my shoulders. The pent-up anxiety, bitterness, and frustration were melting away with each state line that I crossed. Regarding the moves I’ve made over the years, the decision to live in New Mexico has felt like coming “full circle”.
The pent-up anxiety, bitterness, and frustration were melting away with each state line that I crossed.
There are a few small things about the Albuquerque area that are reminders of where I grew up (in Illinois): the tranquility that blankets the city in the evenings, the unpretentious Burqueños, and a bit of an “old school” vibe throughout the metro area. I’ve “come home” in a way, albeit home now being New Mexico. And the sights here outshine any skyscraper city: the stunning Sandia Mountains, the Pueblo-style adobe homes, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains running parallel to I-40, and the colorful hot air balloons dotting the Albuquerque morning sky.
My heart and mind feel more nourished with freedom, rejuvenation, and love for this state. It’s the combination of history, landscapes, and people that make New Mexico—and the Southwest—truly special. Americans tend to stay rigid and “devoted” to the region where they were born or raised, along with their identity overly attached to it. But when we muster up the adventure, courage, and inquisitiveness to step outside of our “regional comfort zones”, that’s when we discover more about ourselves and each other.
Photo credits for Why Love (For Your State) Matters by Rebecca Biage.