One day, I walked out of my house and said to myself, “I cannot believe a place so beautiful exists.”
The snow on the surrounding mountains, the smell of tortillas from the nearby factory… Living in the desert not too far from Mexico was an entirely new and positive experience for me.
Being in a new environment, I saw so much opportunity for the first time in my life. At the time, Indio was behind on technological advancements and being from Silicone Valley, I had a lot to offer to this new community.
Furthermore, I stuck out like a sore thumb because I came from a completely different culture – it was virtually a whole other planet. I was basically the only white person who was living in a Hispanic community.
I was often asked by the locals, “Where are you from?” among other things. People wanted to know about me, and before I even knew it, I had so many friends everywhere I went. I also went on to buy my very first dog, and I also did extremely well in school.
My first friend that I met, “Lester,” introduced himself to me by saying, “I need help with homework. If I help you with anything you need, could you tutor me?”
At that point, I still didn’t have a car. So, we made a deal – I would help him out with his schoolwork, and he would help me out with transportation.
Also, being a starving student, he would bring food over every time he used my service – which was every day.
Eventually, he referred people to me, and I had a full-blown tutoring business running with clients! After tutoring my first friend, my name began to spread, and I garnered a huge reputation for tutoring.
My belief was that if I taught somebody else what we were studying, then I would gain a deeper understanding through teaching. Every time I would explain anything to my friends, I would be faced with resistance with remarks such as “You are wrong.”
These rude remarks I received ultimately opened up a lot of doors for conversation, which transpired into many deep and meaningful friendships.
One morning, before school, I rode my bicycle to the grocery store. I saw what appeared to be a dead dog in a ditch. I was quick to get off my mountain bike to check on the dog’s well.being, and it turned out that the dog was barely alive.
The dog actually tried to attack me as I attempted to pet and calm it. However, she didn’t have the energy to do so. I got on my bike to leave, but not without telling the dog, “I will be right back, I am going to bring you food.”
As I looked back, the dog was struggling to crawl out of the ditch and follow me home. With that said and done, I successfully picked the dog up, brought her home, cleaned her, and named her “Thena.” I had yet another new companion to call my friend.
Before I started school, my Aunt told me, “You have to do your best.” I started college with a “get in and get out” mentality which inspired me to double-up on all of my classes, always succeed, and accomplish many academic achievements.
I was a double majoring in history and communications. I set myself up to finish in one year and maintain an almost perfect GPA.
One day, I received an email that said, “You are invited to join our honors society.” All of these achievements happened fairly quickly, and I felt Indio, CA was where I was supposed to be in this new beginning of my life.
Luis was another classmate of mine in college. On the first day of class, when we stood up to introduce ourselves, he stood up with an introduction that led me to believe he was no good.
He said: “Hi everybody, I’m Luis. I don’t really know what I am doing here in college, I’m just here. What I want to do with my life does not involve college at all. I want to grow marijuana, trim plants, yeah, that’s what I want to do. It’s a growing industry!”
My first impression of Luis was that he was a hood rat and nothing but trouble. Not surprising, he would invite classmates after our 7:30 AM class to smoke blunts and take dabs.
What did surprise me, though, was that the only person who took him up on the offer was an intern who worked for the senator. He had to get straight to work after getting high, which was strange.
Luis was considered such a fiend for weed that one time in class, he said “If anyone has weed for sale meet me out in the parking lot,” and let the room at eight in the morning.
On the surface level, I thought Indio was a dream place to live. However, that was what it seemed on the exterior. Quite quickly, I discovered it was a ghetto and pretty rough in reality.
My two bikes were my only mode of transportation, and one morning at 9 AM when class was out, my first bike was stolen. Perhaps it was a fluke, because one day I rode my bike to school, stopped at a liquor store on the way to get some coconut water, and when I came out I had a tire stolen in that short period.
Having no choice but to leave my bike locked up and go to my college campus across the street, I got out of class and returned to where it was locked up only to find that the lock had been cut and the entire bike was gone.
That was the moment of truth when I realized that Indio was not the nice, perfect place I initially thought it was. Despite this, I still loved it and all of the new opportunities it gave me. Plus, I loved skateboarding much more than riding my bike so I started skating to school and still loving it.
I loved Indio because it was in the middle of a desert, so in the winter, you could still see snow on the distant mountains surrounding the desert, but you could still wear short sleeves and be warm.
Indio was old-fashioned and quite slow, but people were still ambitious to modernize and make progress in the city. People were super friendly, and it is still developing to this day, so there is a ton of open land and plenty of opportunities.
Another quality I admired was the small-town feel. Where I was living, the community would serve free orange juice and waffles completely run by other volunteers of the community.
Everybody knew everyone and cared about each other. They all looked out for one another, just how Lester would give me car rides everywhere.
I’ll never forget my time in Indio, California.