Growing up in Arizona has been an experience like no other. I recognize that it does not have many national treasures or popular tourist destinations. However, it is equally as special.

During my childhood, I constantly wished that I lived in a much more exciting and lively place like California. I always complained that Phoenix was not as exhilarating as cities such as New York City or Boston. I used to want to trade the desert landscape for the beach setting. After living in Arizona for over fifteen years, I finally learned how to appreciate its natural beauty.

I love Arizona’s wonderful weather. Despite a few 120 degree days and a couple of dust storms here and there, the weather has never been a problem. I have never had to experience dealing with snow blocking the driveway or six-inch rain. These are luxuries that people in the east coast cannot enjoy. One of my favorite past times is to hang out poolside and admire the sunset.

In order to beat the triple digit heat, my friends and I have learned how to be creative and come up with activities that do not involve the outdoors. Going to brunch, exploring Butterfly Wonderland and Odysea Aquarium, and go-kart racing are just some of favorites. From this, I have learned how to make the best out of every situation.

Living in Arizona has taught me how to be grateful for the little things. I have learned how to treasure the small distinct features that make it unique. Besides the famous Grand Canyon, it has other underappreciated gems such as the jaw-dropping Antelope Canyon, the majestic Havasu Falls, and picturesque Sedona. These destinations are great road trip destinations and only a few hours away. No matter how many times I go, I never get sick of the views.

Besides the weather, the people that live in Arizona have heavily influenced my experience. Everyone that I have talked to, whether they were born in Arizona or just live here, are not immune to its charm. Their pride and love for their state are admirable.

Arizona has given me a lifetime of memories. I will always remember jumping in the pool in the summer to cool off, wearing shorts in the winter, driving two hours north to see a patch of snow, and waking up at 5 a.m. to go hiking. It has taught me so much about myself. Learning how to make the best of every situation and valuing the little things are lessons that I am able to apply in my everyday life.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to grow up in this desert environment. As I begin to prepare to leave for college, I know that I will miss it so much. No matter where I go, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It is my home. Thank you, Arizona for an unforgettable childhood.