Friday, March 23, 2018

I Could Never Live in Utah

Two years ago, our family made the decision to move from Northern Virginia to Utah. My husband had spent six years working for the federal government in DC, and decided to make the switch to the growing technology community in Utah known as the “Silicon Slopes.”

Leaving the DC area was gut-wrenching. We had fallen prey to “Potomac Fever,” and couldn’t imagine a spring without cherry blossoms, weekends without national museums, or our favorite nighttime walks around the monuments. Surely no other city had as much culture, energy, and patriotism, and don’t even get me started on the friends we were heartbroken to leave behind.

Amid the tears though, was an excitement for the prospect ahead of us. When we broke the news to our friends and family in Virginia, most were benevolently sad to see us go, but supportive and eager to share our enthusiasm.

More than once however, the response to our decision was something along these lines - “Congratulations! Good for you! Not for me though. I could never live in Utah.”

This always took me back. It didn’t offend me, but it did make me wonder. What is it about Utah that makes it exempt from social protocol? I can’t imagine anyone saying to someone who just made the decision to move to, say, Michigan, “Congratulations!” and then, “I could never live in Michigan.” But for some reason Utah is free game, and I was surprised how many people were comfortable expressing their aversion to the place we had decided to raise our family.

Not that I blame them for thinking it. Utah is a quirky state for sure. It welcomes you with fry sauce, dirty sodas, and alternatives to the F word (flip, fetch, freaking). It’s true you can’t buy a lottery ticket here, and that drivers don’t let you merge. The rivalry between its universities is a legitimate holy war, and I’m still trying to figure out what happened to letter T in the middle some of its words (Lay-on, moun-ain).

But. After two years as a resident here, I can now say with some authority to those who “could never live in Utah,” that you actually could. And I feel so incredibly lucky that I do.

First of all, have you seen this place!? If I don’t eventually crash my car because someone won’t let me merge, I will very likely crash it because I’m continually awestruck by the mountain views out my window. They are breathtaking in every season, but I’m partial to the snow capped vistas that reveal the first evidence of winter, and the fading of it into spring. Google any list of the most beautiful states in the country, and you will without fail find Utah in the top five; always number one among those without a coastline. And it’s not just the mountains. The red rocks and desert views of the southern region are my favorite scenery in the country.

And then there’s the climate, which is also unequaled. The beauty of all four seasons, but with zero humidity, and no matter how hot the summer day, the nights are cool enough to open windows.

I love Utah’s grid-system streets. I love the charm of downtown Salt Lake City. I love the soda shops on every corner, immaculate gas stations, the sight of wholesome teenagers on creative dates, and that Pet Shop Boys and They Might Be Giants play on the radio.

I love the women here. They are warm, giving, and remarkably creative. When they bring you a meal, plan a neighborhood playdate or host a book club they go all in. I’m continually inspired by the high density of educated, committed mothers here, who run the schools, rally together for charitable causes, and oversee homes where my children are welcomed, fed, and entertained.

Utah also has the largest average household size in the country, and trust me this has its perks. Children aren’t perceived as an inconvenience or annoyance, but rather are expected and graciously accommodated in meetings, waiting rooms and restaurants. They are also cheap to entertain. After living in Southern California and DC, we went hog wild when we moved here and discovered the comparative cost of sports leagues, bounce houses, roller skating rinks, etc.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that, and I’ll leave it here. I realize there's no point making a case for Utah to the next person who pities that I live here, because I understand it’s not for everyone. I’m just fetching grateful it’s for me.

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