“This is the greatest valley.” That’s what I thought every time I drove to Fresno, Merced, Modesto, and Lodi to visit family and friends. Leaving our home in Santa Clara Valley to drive to San Joaquin Valley on the weekends was always an occasion I eagerly anticipated throughout the week. I couldn’t wait to run and play in the cornfields, stroll in the small downtowns, and meet the locals who seemed to have a charm unlike the locals in the city I lived in just a short drive away.
That’s why I was excited to leave the shoebox (we lived in 400 square feet!) that my husband and I rented in San Francisco to buy a home in Merced in the fall of 2016. We wanted to live in a place where we could get involved and make an impact on the area around us, not a large city where nobody remembered our name. Since moving here, I have found ways to get involved through organized events or by simply seeing a need, rolling up my sleeves and getting to work. Most surprising about this move was the impact that this community had on me; the generosity and determination of those around my husband and me drew us in and inspired me to want to contribute more.
One of the reasons why we moved here was for the opportunity to get involved in the community and make an impact. I’ve lived throughout California and never felt that my prior places of residence afforded me the opportunity to make a difference. That’s why I couldn’t be more thrilled to start writing a column for the Times; it’s long been a dream of mine to write for a newspaper, and the Times, in particular, means a lot to me. This paper was a bright spot of Merced when my husband and I decided whether or not we should move here full-time. We picked up a copy at The Branding Iron and had great fun reading about the positive stories featuring influential locals, and about all of the events that take place in our area. That day we decided to move here and also get a subscription to the paper.
There aren't too many people in our peer group who have made the decision to move here like Aaron and I. But, there are a fair amount of Millennials from the Valley that are making a positive difference here. I’m constantly impressed by these young professionals, educators, and folks raising their children here. It’s easy to pick out the youth along the California coast, but there’s not enough coverage of the future leaders of the Valley. Therefore, my column will be all about the young movers and shakers of our town and county. The Valley, specifically, Merced is a great place to live and I hope that this column will highlight that. Other authors might point out that the Central Valley is not a place to invest in or live in, but I beg to differ. Much is happening here and our youth are driving the change.
Merced has been a fun place to live thus far. My husband and I have taken up sailing lessons through the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association, we bike Merced’s bike paths/streets, we frequent the Elks amazing Friday night dinners, we swam in the 23rd Street Pool throughout the summer, attended the Vista Nights out at Vista Ranch, have fixed up our charming 1950’s home, and have made connections with incredible people of all ages throughout the town. We primarily eat and shop in Merced to support our local town businesses, but we also have our favorite go-to’s in the surrounding towns.
Beyond local events, I enjoy gardening, writing, learning about local history (I was a volunteer docent in San Francisco for a historic home), reading about presidential history, skiing, wine tasting in Murphys, hiking, and spending time with my family. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising/FIDM in 2009 and have spent seven great years (and counting) working for Gap Inc.
I never knew my life would lead me to Merced, but I’m so glad it did. I look forward to getting to know and hearing from all of you readers. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org should you like to chat or nominate someone for me to feature in this column.