When I was 27, I couldn’t wait to get out of New Mexico. I wanted action, big cities and exciting events. I wanted to be in the middle of it all, and somehow in my mind, the middle of it all wasn’t in New Mexico.

Fast forward 10 years, and I did it. I got out. I lived in Los Angeles, Seattle and more recently, South Korea for the last seven or so years. I lived in big cities, did exciting things and traveled the world — Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Taiwan to name a few. And yet, in the back of my mind, New Mexico was always there. Calling to me. “Come home,” it said. “There’s lots of good things right here. Aqui esta muy bueno.”

While I lived abroad, taught and traveled, New Mexico was slowly but consistently improving. The movie industry (so called Tamalewood) grew. The oil industry and tech sectors expanded tremendously, bringing much-needed revenue to the state. And our new Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, recently passed the Criminal Expungement Act, giving thousands a second chance at a meaningful career. She also increased teacher pay by 11 percent and wants to make New Mexico a free-college state along with the likes of New York, Washington State and 18 others.

All that is to say, New Mexico is rocking it and poised to rock it even more in 2020 and beyond. I can remember growing up in Taos in the 1980s and being jealous of my family in California. “They’re so cool,” I used to say. “Plus they have the ocean.” I think now the tides have turned as outlandish housing prices and a high cost of living have sent Californians seeking refuge in states like New Mexico. Did I mention New Mexico just added a second national park at White Sands? Well it did, and that’s great too.

There is one caveat with living in New Mexico — you have to travel. Get out and see other places so you can come back to the Land of Enchantment and appreciate it so. Go to the bustling and dirty cities of India, cram yourself on a Tokyo subway, get stared at angrily for being American in Vietnam, and choke on Beijing pollution — New Mexico will seem like a dream state. And in all honesty, it is. We are not without faults (the affordable housing crisis in Santa Fe, for example, the education gap or gun violence in Albuquerque), but in my opinion, the good vastly outweighs the bad.

So for the snowcapped peaks, the unending trails, the stout pines and sneaky creeks. For the high-dessert moon, the howling coyote and the big-eyed raven. For bustling Albuquerque with its movie stars and university culture, to Taos with its pueblo and funky trucks. To Santa Fe with its opulence and flare and Carlsbad with its power of industry and secret underground world.

There’s not enough space here to mention all the great places in New Mexico — the fifth-largest state in these here United States — but I hope my humble ode will do in communicating that I, for one, New Mexico, do love you.

Murdock O’Mooney is an educator and sometimes writer originally from Taos, although he considers the whole state and region his home. He lives in South Korea but plans on moving back to New Mexico in the near future.

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