I have lived in Arizona for over 14 years now. My family and I moved here from Gig Harbor, Washington when I was only four years old. I remember when my parents first told me we were going to move to Phoenix. They had propped me up on one of our old kitchen stools and asked if it was okay if we moved, pretending like I had the last word on the matter. Being very young, I imagined a scene similar to the setting of Aladdin with endless sand dunes and not a single tree in sight. The prospect of going somewhere else, however, excited me greatly and I agreed to the move.
Arizona is where I grew up. We moved to a small but growing community south of Phoenix called Awhatukee. Awhatukee was one of those suburban-type towns where all the houses look the same and most of the families know each other due to the fact that all of their kids have grown up together going from kindergarten to elementary school to middle school. Practically every family would be involved with the local school carnivals and celebrations that brought a community closer together.
It really was a great place to grow up. My house sat directly on the base of a mountain and my sister and I would spend hours climbing on the rocks and discovering new species of cactus and looking out upon the valley as if we were explorers coming across a new land. Summer heat was always taunting but it never seemed to slow me down. I would spend practically half of my day in a pool whether it be my own, my friends, or at the Awhatukee Swim Club. Even in the heat of the summer, my friends and I would ride our bikes to the nearby Water-N-Ice to buy giant snow cones and ice cream bars. We would eat them under the shade of the big Safeway grocery store that also had a flower center inside that contained ice-cold refrigerators. My friends and I would stand by the refrigerators pretending to purchase some flowers just to cool off.
The summer I graduated from middle school, another change came upon my family. We were going to move from Awhatukee to central Phoenix. Being 14, I was a little skeptical of living directly in the city seeing as I had grown up in a much more contained community, but once again I agreed to the move. I attended Camelback High School my freshman year and was completely thrown off by the diversity and appearance of the new area. I joined my high school swim team and from then on, my life began to change but in such a way that it opened my eyes to a bigger and greater world.
Awhatukee was great for when I was a kid because it was safe and private but central Phoenix really allowed me to see and experience more now that I was a teenager and trying to find my place in the world. I befriended people who came from different backgrounds and had different experiences than my own. I realized from then on that it was okay to be different.
As I’ve gotten older, my appreciation for Arizona continues to grow. Not only does my family own a boat and RV that we use to enjoy Arizona’s outdoors but I have also learned the art of dirt biking. Dirt biking out in the Sonoran desert has shown me to the vastness of the area and differences in appearance and terrain throughout the state. Arizona is very diverse and it still excites me to know it will always be full of wonder and mystery.
As I approach graduation from high school, I have been given the chance to choose once again where I want to go. I knew from the start that I couldn’t bear leaving the great state of Arizona, the place I’ve grown up, but I was also ready for another change in setting. To me, Northern Arizona University seemed like the perfect place to achieve my thirst for something new and still slightly familiar. NAU was my top choice for college and after I was accepted, I jumped for joy at the thought of experiencing another aspect of Arizona. I know that my next move up to Flagstaff will once again be the perfect transition from being a teenager to being an adult. I know it will continue to open my eyes to other aspect of life and to that, I thank Arizona for teaching me about life and allowing me to grow into the person I’ve become.