For the first time in my life, I didn’t spend Christmas in Maine. My family decided not to sit around being sad about Dad in the cold when we could sit around and be sad about Dad in the tropical warmth of Hawaii, so we took some of the surprise life insurance money and had ourselves a trip.

Like everyone who has ever visited Hawaii – and I highly recommend it – I thought, “Gee, I should move here.” It is so beautiful, and depending on the biome, on the Big Island alone you can live on a grassy plain, in the mountains or in the set of “Jurassic Park.” Plus, Hawaii is tick-free and full of friendly people.

A lot of people ask me why I don’t move away from Maine. It’s a fair question. There are plenty of other places where rent is cheaper and jobs pay more. Plus, Maine has ticks. I don’t stay because it’s the most beautiful state in the Union, or because I am naturally an Arctic mammal (although both these things are true).

I stay because of Mainers.

Did you know that every time I or a family member has been on the side of the road in vehicular distress (which seems to happen a lot, honestly), someone has stopped to help?

Although it’s the wrong holiday, I want to take a moment to thank all the Mainers who made 2017, the worst year of my life thus far, better:

All the nurses, CNAs and doctors at the Gibson Pavilion at Maine Med and the hospice workers of Gosnell House. You couldn’t ask for a better place to either get better or die.

Related: That one guy who found me sobbing in front of the fish tank in the cancer ward. When someone is crying in a cancer ward, you know that asking “Are you OK?” is pointless.

But Fish Guy knew what to say. He walked up and said, “Have you seen the big guy?”

Me: (sniffling) “What?”

Fish Guy: “The big striped yellow one. He likes to hang around in the back.”

Me: (looking at fish, momentarily distracted from crying, enjoying the beauty of nature) “Oh! Yeah! Right there on the left!”

Libby from the Buxton Hannaford, who ran out in the rain to give me $10 that I had left at the self-checkout. You can’t beat that honesty or customer service. (I would name everyone else on this list but she was the only one conveniently wearing a nametag.)

The guy I saw get out of his pickup and put a turtle who was lumbering onto Route 112 back in the woods.

The bystanders of a fender-bender in Gorham who, before the police arrived, had made sure everyone was OK, set up a single-lane road and were directing traffic.

The three people who stopped to help dig out me and my friend when our car was stuck in ice.

Pretty much everyone from St. Luke’s Cathedral, who self-organized like a very helpful military to get my family through the long, terrible summer, by bringing us food, mowing our lawn and cleaning out the litterbox.

The nice Scarborough police officer who gave me a ride to the hospice after my car was totaled, and took a picture of me in the back seat of the police car so I could frighten my mother.

Slugger the Sea Dog, for taking a selfie with me, thus fulfilling my childhood dreams.

The members of my sister’s mosque, who sent what I can only assume was an emotional support delegation to my father’s funeral and who also made the most delicious Sudanese food for us (shout-out to Mrs. Bashir).

The sommelier at the White Barn Inn, who took me, my sister, my boyfriend and my overexcited wine nerd father on a tour of the wine cellar.

Every person who has let me pet their dog.

The gentleman at the Timberline Country Store who helped me reach a soda on a shelf that was too high for me to reach with my short little limbs.

And, most of all, everyone who reads this column. That means you. Yes, you. Hi. Thank you. (And thank you even to the people who leave mean comments yelling about kids these days.)

I’m not leaving this great state of ours, for better or for worse. We need all the young people we can get. Hawaii is beautiful, but I’ll take pine trees over palm trees any day of the week.

Happy New Year, Maine. I love you.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial