One Year in the Desert

This month marked my one year anniversary of moving to the southwest with my partner. This major life change still seems unreal at times, but I’d like to take a moment to reflect upon the things I’ve learned from living in the desert.

1. Water is precious

Nothing could have prepared me for this lesson like living in the desert did. Although there are droughts happening all throughout the U.S., the barren landscape takes the meaning of drought to a whole new level. Living in the desert has really taught me how to better conserve water and how necessary it is to not waste it. Before living in the desert, I considered myself pretty conservative when it came to using resources, but I’ve taken my practices a step further. For example, I hardly ever use the dishwasher anymore, I do one small load of laundry a week, I wear clothes way more than just once, I take shorter showers, and I cherish the moments when it does rain. Rainy days are my favorite days, because they’re a welcome break from the constant blazing sun.

2. Never take the trees for granted

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” When I first moved to Phoenix, I was constantly searching for the shade of a maple or pine grove. This probably sounds completely ridiculous to you, but I never really considered that Phoenix would not have many trees. Things like hiking and running are completely different for a person who is used to the protective cover of a tree canopy. There’s not much shade and it can leave me feeling overexposed. Now whenever I travel to a place that is lucky enough to have trees, I relish every moment. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt my anxiety lessen simply by being in a forest.

3. Not everyone shares the same values regarding the environment

When I studied abroad in Australia, I witnessed how the people were more mindful of their use of resources. I picked up on the pride Australians took in their cities and caring for the environment around them. Sydney, for example, had zero trash cans on the streets and yet, somehow, the city was one of the cleanest cities I had ever seen. The naive little idealist in me thought that moving to the desert would certainly mean that people would be more mindful of the resources they use because of their obvious scarcity. How wrong I was! It was a bit of a culture shock to say the least. I was surprised to find lack of public transportation in a city so massive and sprawling, but that people would rather endure the torture of traffic on the 101, as one person per car is the norm. I was also surprised to find the amount of trash littering the streets everywhere. I can’t walk a block without seeing at one or more of those Polar Pop polystyrene cups in a ditch somewhere. This is entirely disheartening to say the least. But, in a determination to not become discouraged, I’ve only just clung to my environmentalist values even harder. Admittedly, whenever I see trash on the street, I’ll pick it up and throw it away. I make a point to refuse straws at restaurants and I insist on bringing a water bottle for my water in lieu of using disposable cups. Some may think this is obnoxious, but I’m hoping to lead by example and stay true to my values.

4. The desert has it’s own mysterious beauty

Like I mentioned above, when I first moved here and quickly found that the protection of trees was virtually nonexistent, I started to freak out when I felt overexposed. The forest was my home, and I was used to spending hours just walking aimlessly through the woods inhaling the rich smells of the rain-soaked moss. After a few months of feeling like I was definitely in the wrong place, I decided to try and make the best of it. Instead of locking myself in the apartment and cursing the whole state, I opted to get out and explore a little more of what the southwest had to offer. I found that I could enjoy the desert for its own unique beauty. Once I got out of my little hole I quickly fell in love with the flora and fauna of the desert. Cacti are among some of my favorite plants now, and every time I see a hummingbird, I take it as a good omen. I have fallen in love with the unique beauty of each rock formation I’ve seen from the Grand Canyon to Sedona and everywhere else. I have yet to see a javelina, and I’m excited for the day I get to see a Gila monster (but I won’t get too close).

5. No matter where you go, you will find like-minded people

Although I struggled to accept that it seemed the people in the southwest had a different mindset when it came to environmentalism and other values, I found individual people that shared my same values. I’ve found that as important as it is to try and understand other points of view, it’s crucial to be surrounded with people that want the same things and who care about the same things as you do. When moving to another place that seems so different that it might as well be another country, it’s nice to have people who can validate my ideas so that I don’t feel as if I’m some crazy person.

6. You are loved and supported by the universe

At times it felt like I made a huge mistake moving away from the familiar. I thought I might have been crazy to leave my family and friends to live in a place I have no emotional connection to. I felt alone a vulnerable for a long time, but this largely helped strengthen my daily spiritual practice. Even when it feels like my prayers go unheard sometimes, I find that things eventually work themselves out if I do my part and put in the work. I’m the type of person who sees a dragonfly or certain number sequence repeatedly throughout the day, and I take it as a sign. I now see that no matter where I go, the signs the from Universe abound that I am loved and supported. So day after day, I keep pushing and challenging myself to step outside my comfort zone, because I know that’s when the most growth happens.

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