On moving to Nevada, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and turning 25

In February of this year, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I always knew I wasn’t going to live in Puerto Rico my whole life, but a conversation with my psychologist last year opened my eyes. I told her I “didn’t fit,” and she told me that both “fit” and “alignment” can only happen if you look at values and compare them. My values didn’t and don’t align with those of Puerto Rico. I wanted to move to a place where individual freedom is valued and respected over institutions, and I wanted to move to a place where the state wouldn’t be constantly meddling in my life. I had already lived in Canada for my Master’s, and although British Columbia is gorgeous, I know the amount of rules that are part of Canadian society doesn’t align with me. Thus, I had to search for a new place.

After several months of research, travel, and conversations with my fiancée Jennifer (yeah, I’m getting married!), we decided to move to Las Vegas, Nevada. Leaving Puerto Rico wasn’t easy; the amount of bureaucracy involved didn’t allow us to make a “clean cut” move as we had wished. However, we found a good house in the Las Vegas valley and have settled in well. Not knowing anyone in the city, I decided to enroll in a wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu gym nearby. I had always been told that I was strong and a big guy (at 6’1” and 300lbs, they’re not wrong), but I had never figured out what I wanted to do with that.

On my first day at the gym, I was very nervous, yet I looked around and was the biggest guy. I thought no one could beat me. Silly me got tapped out by someone 70lbs smaller than me in less than 2 minutes. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I like surfing and freediving, so it’s not like I run from adversity, yet this was HARD. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it again, but I showed up to the next class, and the next one, and then I paid the monthly fee, so I might as well show up the next month. Fast-forward 3 months, and I competed in my first Jiu-Jitsu competition (American Nationals) and lost in the semifinals against the No. 1 guy in my division. I genuinely can’t say what I like about Jiu-Jitsu, but my primary purpose of getting to know my community in Las Vegas has been more than fulfilled. I have found a family in that gym, and I can’t thank them enough for showing me how to better show up in my life as a man focused on values, respect, and discipline.

This past year has been strange. When I moved to Canada in 2018, I used to cry a lot because I missed Puerto Rico and my family. This time, it’s been different. I miss Puerto Rico, but not with sadness. It’s more like a phase and place in my life that helped me grow. The part that I’m still not settled in is whether it will always feel like home. However, here in Vegas, we have a saying: “VEGAS STRONG.” I’ve learned in these months that it means being strong in a reliable, mature way. Showing up for those around you, supporting them, being kind to all people, and, more than anything, having the strength to live and let live. This November, I turn 25, “la peseta” (the quarter), as we would say in Spanish. Yet, I still feel like a person who is just learning who they are in the universe and what they want to do with the random accident of being alive.