On leaving Utah (three times)

The first time I moved away from Utah, I was in preschool, so I doubt I cared. My family moved to Olympia and Seattle, where I spent those formative years up through eighth grade. We went back to Utah most summers for a visit, and I got to see my grandma and my cousins. I used to dream that I could teleport between Salt Lake City and Seattle so that I could see my grandma whenever I wanted. But I grew to love Seattle. I was in the generation where parents still let their kids out to roam the neighborhood, and so I owned my neighborhood, from the Fremont library all the way up to the Woodland Park Zoo, from the blackberry bushes west of Phinney to the little grocery store on Fremont.

At the beginning of eighth grade, we moved back to Utah. I missed Seattle — a lot. But I made friends, and roamed the neighborhood — the park, the library, the mall, the junior high, and the high school. Once I started driving, I drove all over the city — the library, Beans and Brews, Trolley Square, everything. It was my city. I belonged to it, and it belonged to me. I got jobs I liked. I made close friends, hopefully lifelong ones. It was my home, and I loved it.

But I never did stop missing Seattle. All my happy memories of Seattle got mixed up with the childhood nostalgia we always feel. And I never did quite belong in Utah. And I had to go to graduate school.

So the second time I moved to Seattle, I went to the University of Washington for an MFA in creative writing, going straight from my mom’s house to my own apartment. Two heady years of learning and writing and traveling and making friends! But I missed Utah, and I missed my job, and I missed my family, and I missed my boyfriend. It was cheap to fly back home, and so I did it a lot. It was always disconcerting. I had been one person in Salt Lake City, but now I was a different person in Seattle, and when I visited, the two people didn’t know how to fit back into one. And I got homesick all over again. It was also hard because my parents had recently divorced, and so I had to face not only the loss of a home (Salt Lake City) but also the loss of a united family and the stress that I felt whenever I saw both parents at once, and whenever I had to choose between visiting with one or the other. It was also hard because I had recently joined, and then left, the Mormon Church, and so all that baggage was always waiting for me. 

After graduate school was finished, I had a hard time choosing where to live. I loved both cities, in their own way. In Salt Lake I had roots, and in Seattle I had dreams. Seattle is the place for Kristin-the-writer. In either city, I would be with my boyfriend. I made one decision and then another. I wanted the independence, and I was afraid of it too. My boyfriend and I went looking for apartments. We found a good one and met with the landlord and started writing the check — and I chickened out. Moved back to Utah.

My boyfriend got us an apartment in a complex called the Villa Franche. (Pronounce it Franch-ie.) I went back to my old job. We had good times! But going back to Salt Lake City made me realize I belonged in Seattle. Our mothers both freaked out, for different reasons, and so we got engaged. It was a five-year engagement, because we were nowhere near ready to get married, but we did want to leave Salt Lake with some semblance of propriety and some feeling that we were family to each other.  

And so I left Salt Lake City for the third, and probably the last, time. Of course, I keep going back. My family is still there, and so are my friends. Every time I go back, I get homesick for everyone all over again. But the city itself is like a place from a past life.

My home is Seattle.

But I’m visiting Salt Lake City soon! And this time will be different than all the other times. I’ve finally, after quite a long time achieved my dream of publishing a book. In keeping with my dual-heritage history, this book was written almost entirely in Seattle . . . but it’s about Utah.

Go figure.


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