Insight: Living in Arizona made me love my home state more

Moving away from Maine helped me realize everything I love about it

When the time came to consider which colleges to apply to , I was confused and indecisive. I only knew one thing for certain — I wanted to get out of Maine.

Maine has been home for my entire life. By the time I turned 18, it all felt so familiar.

It was easy to find myself feeling trapped in a small town environment where I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. The population of the entire state of Maine is estimated to be around 1.3 million — to put that into context, the population of Phoenix alone is nearly 1.7 million.

I wanted to branch out, but I felt I couldn't in a state I had outgrown.

READ MORE: I hated Arizona, so I moved away. Then I moved right back

After years of having this feeling, I was ready for an out-of-state adventure. Uprooting myself and moving to Arizona for college commenced my journey in open skies and eternal summer weather welcoming me to the West Coast.

The environment I called for the next 10 months could not have been more different. The vast mountainous skylines and plentiful cactuses were almost alien to me compared to the forest and shores of Maine. I drove along desert highways for the first time, and I loved it.

I was finally in an place where I knew nearly nothing and no one. I could begin an exploration outside of the small towns I knew like the back of my hand. From late August to September, I hardly thought about Maine at all.

But as freshman year continued on, I was met with the inevitable "get-to-know-you" questions. 

"Where are you from?"

Strangers asked me this question in the elevator, on the lawns and when I tried engaging in small talk to make new friends.

Many people joked about no one actually living in Maine. Others said I must have lived in a woodland cabin, cut off from all civilization, with my pet moose. These claims were amusing, but I felt an innate responsibility to defend my home state and prove to everyone how it was truly one-of-a-kind, despite the fact just months ago I was itching to leave.

They provided the opportunity for me to prove Maine was more than a just mystery state nestled under Canada.

Telling others about the awe of Acadia, the adventures of Sebago Lake and the charm of the Old Port made me yearn to return to the state which had so recently grown mundane.

Eventually, fall came and went. I missed the colorful foliage and apple picking — something so rarely seen in the desert. The buildup to winter festivities felt lacking without snow and skiing at Sunday River.

As much as I had learned to love how the sunny Arizona weather lifted my mood and how the vibrant sunsets always left me in awe, I began acknowledging that I hadn't actually outgrown Maine — I just needed to view it from the outside in order to fully appreciate it.

A state which had previously felt dull to me turned into a badge I wore with pride — I loved being the girl from Maine, experiencing life in the West.

I love how Maine's driver's education courses taught me to know what to do when there's a moose in the road, and I love that I immediately notice whenever anyone wears an L.L.Bean flannel. But, I also love that I left.

Despite my newfound appreciation for my home state, I don't regret my move back in the slightest — it was necessary for me to explore beyond what I already knew.

I've created a new life in the West providing me with plenty of opportunities for the next four years. I look forward to exploring nearby areas until they, too, are ingrained in my mind.

While I now call the Grand Canyon State my home for the majority of the year, Maine will always have a special place in my heart.


Reach the reporter at jecote@asu.edu and follow @jillianecote on Twitter.

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