“Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life. ” An excellent way to set a man on fire is to have him live in the state of Arizona, where it is summer all year-round and the scorching climate temperatures without humanity reaching the triple digits is nothing less than normal. However, when I use the word “warm” in this context, it is intended to be a reflection of my time in Arizona. In the midst of my one year and nine months spent in The Grand Canyon State, I have encountered numerous involvements that changed my life. There may have been a few experiences I have endured amidst this time which may have not necessarily been favorable, but given that fact it would not have made the better times possible, thus not having the ability to yield my overall “warm” lifelong memory of Arizona. These experiences mainly consist of the places I’ve had the opportunity to discover, the life-long friends and acquaintances I’ve formed and lastly, the life lessons presented to me.
Contrary to popular belief, Arizona is not a land dwelling in endless miles of indigenous desert invaded by tumbleweeds, but more so a land harboring a kind of beauty you will only find in very limited places. Arizona combines desert and comfortable living through populous cities made possible by snowbirds, mainly from the North. My first impression of Arizona was an astonishment because I was not expecting it to be such a hot spot (I’ll be here all night). I arrived late at night in December of 2013 caressing my heavy suitcases into my newly-issued dorm room at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, AZ. I didn’t get to witness much of the desert atmosphere due to the fact it was too dark and obscure upon arriving. Nevertheless, my time of not being able to take the initial glimpse at the famous terrain ended soon as I woke up the next morning and walked outside. The transition I felt from stepping across the threshold of my sleeping quarters to the outside atmosphere that morning is comparable to inserting your hand into an oven to feel the hotness of it, except instead of just your hand it’s your entire body. The green is very limited and the sidewalks are outlined by bodies of gravel. Admittedly, all of these features took me a while to appreciate (mostly because I was not accustomed to the environment). Moreover, I had the opportunity to understand the phrase, “Location is everything” because I lived in rural Phoenix which is conveniently located within driving vicinity of places such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon; as well as many other “undiscovered” places I believe a lot of others will enjoy which include Flagstaff, Sedona, Fountain Hills, Tucson, Scottsdale and Tempe.
While the places in Arizona carry their distinctively interesting aspects, I cannot leave out the engaging people I’ve met who helped shape my life. After I graduated from technical training in Texas, I returned home for Thanksgiving where I caught up with my friends and family on the junctures of life. Needless to say, I didn’t miss a whole lot. Most of my hometown friends were either out-of-town attending college or were busy working a full-time job. After spending 18 days in Illinois, I flew to Arizona. Within the first two months, I met a lot of my family I never had the chance to meet while growing up. It enlightened me getting to know them because I am able to relate to them so well and get an understanding of the other side of what I’m used to. I’ve been on some great adventures discovering parts of the Southwestern United States with them and got the chance to catch up and exchange stories about their life in Arizona. As for my friends, I have made many amidst the time I was there. I would say that the amount of friends I’ve made in Arizona would be just as much as the amount of friends I made in my four years of high school. They have gotten me through work, showed me the great hang-out spots on the other side of town, provided me with useful advice I could take with me throughout life and have showed me some pretty awesome dance moves. I still keep up with them to this day and I know I will for the rest of my life. Anywhere I happen to be.
Living life can be easy if there are individuals providing you with the tools to get by. For instance, it would not make sense to worry about financial complications such as paying for gas, internet and cellphone, or rent if it is being provided to you. On the other hand, when you are thrown out into the real world, you get put into a position where these obligations must be filled. What do you do now? Run around and panic? No. You make it happen. (Then you run around and panic when you go over your data plan and pay twice as much for your phone bill.) Arizona is the first place in my life where I was living on my own and forming grown up decisions. At the age of eighteen. There have been days where work and school get jumbled around badly. To top it off, personal relations and matters reach an enigma. However, my Arizona acquaintances, partners and family gave me reassurance and helped me push on. Now, I’m thankful because I have retained a spiritual encouragement that I can take with me everywhere I go.
I was on fire for almost two years. Although the feeling went away now that I am not in Arizona, I still carry a portion of that warmness with me. It was a nice, short lived episode I will soon revisit. To all of my friends and family, I raise a glass to you and thank you for the positive vibes. Without you, I would not be where I am today. I had a chance to see great sights, meet awesome people and learn valuable life lessons. Next step is to see what I learn in South Korea. So far, being able to use chop sticks properly is working to my advantage.
They say that life is a journey, not a destination. Not just metaphorically speaking; in the midst of the journey we encounter sets of crossroads which we are inevitably faced to make decisions at. One of these said crossroads most individuals meet is the intersection subsequent to high school graduation. What are your plans after high school? What college are you planning on attending? What are you going to do with your life? These are simple questions most of us have heard as our transition from teenager to young adult took place. As we all may know, the process could involve the daunting task of relocating far from everything we are used to. Leaving home in what feels too soon is not always an ecstatic moment in our lives; however, it’s one imperative to the mental growth and independence of an individual.
To say these questions I mentioned earlier were inquired of me would be an understatement. I couldn’t make myself a bowl of cereal without being asked what I planned on doing after school. I made my decision early on before graduating. Junior year I decided to join the active duty Air Force, which came to a surprise to many. My plan was to continue my education throughout and after my military service which is still in the process and slowly coming to fruition. I signed up at the age of seventeen, so early that my parents had to sign release forms for me to begin the actual process.
After all was said and done, I had a departure date in July. This meant I only had two months after graduating high school to be a free spirit, to do what I wanted before going to basic training in San Antonio, Texas. I could not have been happier knowing that my future was off to a good start, that the foundation of my life “infrastructure” was slowly unfolding to an adventurous yet slightly inexplicable journey. My mind was immersed on the focal point of my future, and I was excited about that.
Little did I take into account what this meant for other parts of my life. I probably won’t ever “live” at home again; just visit. If it wasn’t for social media, I would have forgotten a majority of the people I’ve known for years existed; and the list continues. All of these factors didn’t really hit me until the second week of basic training. I spent a substantial amount of time contemplating if leaving home at the age of eighteen was the best idea. Fast forward to the present, I can say that leaving home early was an unparalleled experience I believe everyone should go through, given the opportunity.
As a young adult, being sovereign with your own life is paramount to personal success and mental growth. I arrived in Arizona, starting my first full-time job. With this in mind, I also realized that I was going to need a mode of transportation and an effective budgeting plan to support the decision. I’m receiving a steady pay check, which means that financing a new sports car is definitely not ruled out. I mean, who wouldn’t want to cruise in a car that screams, “I’m everything you could ever want and more” when looked at? However, as I mentally assess my priorities, I came to the conclusion that making such a decision wouldn’t align with the my intended goals. Aha!– Growing up just happened! This being one of many confrontations I had with my conscious by my eighteen year-old self. This example is very minute. Nonetheless, it will take a “snowball effect” role and turn into even greater challenges down the road which will require self-perseverance.
Those various experiences serve as reassurance that the future is completely dominated by oneself. There are many more to come and I have an abundance of anticipation waiting for them, whether it’s down the street, across the state or on the other side of the world. To those who are apprehensive or mystified by breaking free from home young, my words to you are: Go for it and don’t look back. Home will always be home. There is a world full of scenes to see and people waiting to meet you. The training wheels are off. The journey of life has just begun. It will be a ride worth going for.