A letter to The Utah

Dear Utah,

Remember me? I lived in you a lifetime ago. I went college at BYU and taught elementary school in Jordan School District. The school was so amazing that, when I left, I felt like nothing in my career would ever match that experience. And in my teaching life, nothing did.

I moved to the east coast, then the south, then back to Vegas. I still visited you during that time. I can’t say I always appreciated you, and naturally I had my reasons. But a few years ago, I did a writing retreat in one of your little mountain communities. My friend, Rachel Hawkins, dubbed your land “The Utah”, We spoke about what life would be like if we lived within you. The fantasies involved chunky sweaters, raspberry shakes, and words that just flowed from our fingertips. I didn’t think I could ever move to The Utah, because my former husband’s job was in The Vegas, and I figured my life would always be built atop the dirt and sagebrush.

Then, my life got flipped upside down, so upside down that it turned right side up. I wasn’t stuck in Vegas because I was no longer stuck to that husband or his affinity for Vegas partying/womanizing. For the first time in my adult life, I was free to make choices for myself and my three daughters. After breathing in that freedom for a few months, it became very, very clear to me that we needed to transition from a southwestern suburb to a quaint, country neighborhood with a stream running right outside. Which is what brought me back to you.

I have a lot of allergies here because things seem to, you know, GROW. A deer I’ve named Anferney eats the flowers I didn’t plant. My town has a main street, and my girls and I swim in assorted bodies of water and eat s’mores. The elementary school has a stuffed, two-headed calf. I have a well-lit office to catch up on some festering deadlines, and friends to visit as soon as said deadlines stop festering (Festering. Gah, that’s an awful word. Sorry). I keep saying it feels like an episode of Gilmore Girls, minus that weird season when Lorelei and Rory didn’t talk.

Utah, I’m a writer now. And just like when I taught school here, I once again feel like I’m with my tribe. Last weekend, I was able to meet with dozens of Utah writers, many of whom I’ve been friends with since I first started writing. Throw a rock in Utah, and you’ll hit an author (especially if you are aiming for one). I love being one of the many. I love your local bookstore, The King’s English. There’s a robust community here, one that motivates me to get my butt in the chair. The fact that the nearest Target is 30 minutes away probably helps when it comes to distractions.

(BTW, Utah, if you felt inclined to add a Target in Park City, I promise I will discipline myself. Please?)

My wonderful, supportive, and loyal Vegas friends check in periodically, asking if change is hard. And I keep having to tell them that although there are things about Vegas I miss, I’m just no longer a Vegas girl. I don’t know if I ever really was. I’ve moved 9 times in the last 15 years. NINE TIMES (Ferris Bueller peeps, you get that?) I’m up for the adventure, for rebuilding and recasting. Maybe at some point I’ll stop taking detours to show my kids the glories of your nature, but I hope not.

For now, you’ve opened your green arms to us, shown us a simpler and fulfilling life. I hope you’ll stay kind this winter, when that snow thing happens. Maybe… make it not happen? Like, ever? Is that possible?

Either way, I still heart you. Thank you for the community and calm. I’l make sure to recycle and not litter. Also, I buy local. You probably care about that.

Your newest resident author,

2 Responses to “A letter to The Utah”

  1. Lindsey

    Oh my gosh, Irene, I have a note on my white board to call you once I turn in my next book. I miss you fiercely and hope Alabama is treating you well. Come to The Utah soon and see us!

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