How many times have you heard the following?
“Ugh, another rainy day.”
“It’s too hot, I can’t wait until summer is over!”
“I can’t stand the people in this town!”
“I can’t wait to move out of this city…”
I’ve heard these and many other negative comments over the years — some even from myself. Growing up in a military family then finishing off my middle school and high school years in a small town in Upstate New York, I experienced two very different worlds: a world where everyone moved every 2–4 years and though they didn’t want to leave their new friends, enjoyed the excitement of living in a new place. Then I saw a world where people were often born and raised in the same, small, rural town that had a quaintness to it and a great sense of community.
Yet, in every place I’ve lived I have never once been somewhere that people collectively say they love the town or city they reside in. Why?!
I always hear more “I hate the <insert weather condition here>!” than people saying they appreciate and enjoy the conditions they live in. Now in Phoenix, it’s often 3–4 months of people complaining about the heat, and how it’s too hot to do anything. Yet, when winter comes, those same people don’t actually take advantage of the beautifully diverse landscape Arizona offers.
In that tiny town back in New York, it’s 6–8 months of complaining about how cold it is, or how there’s too much snow. Yet when summer arrives, those same people don’t explore the countless little towns, villages, or state parks that are sometimes in their own backyard.
Weather isn’t everything though, there also has to be a culture you like when it comes to living somewhere. We often desire a good job market, lots of amenities and shopping opportunities, people we can relate to and call friends. There’s so many things we want where we reside, and yet so many of us settle for a less than desirable place (less than desirable in our minds at least).
Start with the weather
I discovered during my college years what a “dry heat” was. I moved to Phoenix over 10 years ago and as someone who always loved the heat of the Carolinas (I was actually born over there), but I didn’t realize there was somewhere I could live that had glowing summer heat without the humidity.
Phoenix weather was my gateway drug.
The weather got me in, but living all over what we call “The Valley” here in Phoenix (basically the 70+ mile-wide Phoenix Metro Area), I’ve experienced several different types of regions this mish-mash of cities offers. I love the blend of cultures we have here as it makes for a more diverse community than I was ever exposed to in Upstate New York. The fast-paced growth Phoenix has experienced has produced tons of amazing restaurants, weekend festivals, and outdoor sports.
The weather of Phoenix was the icing on the cake, but the people, food, art, and landscape is what kept me here. However, like most of America, we are not without our major issues when it comes to issues like inclusivity or gentrification. There are problems, but it’s something I’m willing to live with and help move towards fixing as I call this place home.
This is just Phoenix, I haven’t even scratched the surface of why I love the rest of Arizona. What I’m getting at here is I found a place I could call my own and fell in love with it, and I did it by starting with the weather. Not everyone likes the summers here and that’s ok. Phoenix isn’t for them. Not everyone likes the dryness of the air, and that’s also understandably O.K.. Arizona isn’t for them. You don’t have to like 360 days of sunshine, hot weather, and a lush, prickly desert to be happy — you just need to find what makes you happy and focus on it. Weather can be that great starting point.
I’m a big believer that when you have the crappiest of days — if the weather you experience outside brings a smile to your face, that day will seem so much better. Phoenix and its baking sunshine brings a smile to my face every single time. Yes, even the 110° oven we live in during the summer. That blast of dry, hot heat hitting my face and arms when I walk out of a 65° office building is like an immediate shot of bliss to me. I also know how to take advantage of the heat by swimming in pools, floating down the Salt River, or paddling out on one of the many massive lakes we have.
For you, it might be the coziness of a snowy day or the excitement of a thunderstorm that brings that same satisfaction. You know what it is, and you should embrace it.
Explore your own backyard
Growing up in a military family and living in every corner of the United States, we always explored what was around us. Family vacations and weekend getaways often meant going camping at a glacier-fed lake in Alaska that was only a 40 minute drive away from our front steps. Or we would immediately leave for the soft, sandy beaches of the Carolina coast after school on Fridays to go camping next to the waves — only a 2 hour drive from those front steps.
We explored what we had around us, and we did it on a budget too. Anyone in the ARMY knows that while you work your way up in the ranks money can get a little tight for a family of four, but my parents made a lifestyle that seemed like money was never a big issue during these excursions. They created memorable experiences with the landscapes, state parks, and national monuments around us.
Looking back I held on to those values of being grateful for what we have near us, and not just longing for an exotic vacation on some Caribbean island. Heck, I didn’t even get to Disney World until I was 24! Nearly 11 years in Arizona and I’ve seen more of what this state offers than most people who live here a lifetime. Why is that? What is holding so many people back from appreciating and experiencing what’s just a few minutes away from them?
Taking advantage of our own backyards (our states, provinces, countries) isn’t something that costs a whole lot. It also makes you more of an advocate of your local area, as you dig far beneath the surface of storefronts and weather patterns. In the U.S. alone there are so many historical landmarks — from old colonial forts, to ancient petrified forests that date back millions of years. All of these cost a little to get into, but they’re way less than a resort vacation and sometimes even cheaper than a night out at a mediocre restaurant.
Pick a spot on Google Maps, pack a lunch, load the family (or maybe just yourself) in the car, and go explore!
Love it or leave it
By now you might be thinking, “I hate where I am, but I can’t afford to move!”. It’s a very real thing — we might be bound by a mortgage, poverty, or family. This doesn’t mean we should be miserable, and it doesn’t mean that you will be forever stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.
For me, college was my ticket to a place I wanted to be. It’s way easier (though arguably more expensive) to go to college out of state, make friends, and upon graduation share a place to live with those friends. You have time to build up connections in a community so you can get your desired job, and the support of friends in a similar “starving college student” situation until you can make it on your own.
If you already have a family, trust me, I know how much work that can be to move. I was fortunate enough to have the military move my family and uplifting our lives was the norm. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would be for someone who raises a kids up to their teenage years and then wants to move. Here’s the thing though, kids are resilient and have more ways to connect today that I did back in the 90’s. They’ll make new friends and probably thank you later for the diverse experience. An added bonus —they’ll probably be less scared to move away upon graduation because they’ll have more confidence that things will be alright if they leave home (speaking from experience here).
So say you have to stick to where you’re at, and you hate it. That is ultimately your choice to hate it. You can make the best of any location, and I guarantee there are things to be discovered where you’re at. This goes back to my saying that I’ve seen more of Arizona in 10 years than most people have seen in their lifetime of living here. I can’t tell you how many people I know that were born and raised in Phoenix or lived here for decades, and when I tell them about Wupatki National Monument, they ask, “Oh! Where is that?!”.
Don’t be like that. Don’t experience your home state through photos. Get in the car, fill it up with gas, and drive around.
Making lemonade out of lemons isn’t all you should do though. If you desire to live on a beach, then set that goal to move to Portland, Maine or Huntington Beach, and know it doesn’t have to happen overnight. The important thing is to realize you have hope and you can enjoy where you’re at now until you get to that perfect place. Who knows, you might fall in love with your current home!
I’ll finish this by saying that things don’t always have to be sunshine and rainbows though. If fact, it’s good to complain about the things that bug us, even if they are as minimal as the weather. Don’t dwell on these negative things though, as it’s like a cancer that can spread inside. The point is we can choose to be happy if we make the effort to live somewhere we love, or show some love to the places we already live in.