The Valley Was My Home, Stay If You Can.

Alright, I felt compelled to respond to an eloquently written article that surfaced a few weeks ago about how it is oh so important to move out of the Valley and explore the world. Look, I think she made a very valid point about traveling and exploring the world. It certainly has its perks and I don’t disagree with that. What I do disagree with, however, is the perception that if you don’t do that, you’re miserable and stuck in a terrible bubble at the tip of Texas.

I grew up in McAllen, Texas, one of the fastest growing cities in The Rio Grande Valley and in the nation. In 2010, I graduated high school from McAllen High and did one year of studying at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which was then known as University of Texas Pan American. Oh, and I’m gay. While I didn’t have a traditional college experience at UTPA, I was educated by some of the most intelligent professors in the country. That’s a fact.

My time at UTPA ended when I decided I needed to steer myself towards a school that had more of a focus on film, since that’s what I was studying. So, in 2012 I decided to move to San Francisco, California with $600 in my pocket. A city where the average one bedroom cost $2700 and minimum wage was $12 at best. It wasn’t necessarily the smartest move, but I made it work.

Over time, the universe lead me to Washington, D.C. where I started working for LivingSocial, a daily deal company that convinced me tech was really where I needed to be. It helped me realize that film was more of a hobby for me than it was a job I actually wanted to pursue. The last five years, I’ve had the honor of being a part of some amazing companies like Livingsocial, Yelp, and now Zynga Inc. Because the industry is constantly growing, these companies have given me the opportunity to go back to San Francisco and find my current home in Chicago, Illinois.

You get the point. I’ve had my fair share of living in new cities and figuring out who I am. I will say this though: there hasn’t been a day that I don’t think about the foundation that made me who I am, and that’s in the Valley. If it weren’t for my experiences in the Valley that led to my 2012 move, I don’t think I would have made the leap to go live in these new cities.

The Valley is built on comunidad (community) and that’s something you don’t find just anywhere. While it may be inevitable to walk into HEB and see someone you know, I promise you will miss it if you find yourself in a brand new city surrounded by unfamiliar faces. There is a great comfort that comes with visiting my hometown and when I do visit, I never take it for granted. It has been great to meet new people and learn about different cultures but home to me is a generous, inviting community at the tip of Texas, and it always will be.

The Valley is one of the most affordable areas in the nation. It’s a great place to make something of yourself as it’s booming with new opportunities every day. If you’re feeling stuck and motionless, this is normal and can happen anywhere. Trust me. If you feel you cannot be yourself and find it hard to conform, then perhaps it is time for a move, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the most of your life, regardless of what part of the world you’re in.

While I don’t live in the Valley anymore, I know many people in different industries and communities who do, and I would be happy to connect you with them. Feel free to reach out and let me know! Keep on enjoying life because you know what? You’re in a fantastic region with an incredible community that will always have your back.

Thank You Michelle Hammond for revisions.