By Kelly Albrecht
Should I stay or should I go? For the past 12 years, I have repeatedly told myself and my friends that it’s time for me to pack up and move from Utah. The world is a big place, so after 30-plus years of living here, why limit myself to one little corner when there is so much more I could be experiencing? There was nothing holding me here, and putting on a winter coat with a scarf around my neck was getting tiresome. I have always been more of a T-shirt and shorts kind of guy who wants year-round barbeques. Plus, the Pisces in me has been yearning for fresh water, so it was just time to go.
Well, I am still here. But I am not alone. I have met several others over the years who have told me the same thing: They want to move but have a hard time getting out. Even those who do make it over the mountains to greener pastures end up right back here, again. In other states, if you ask a group of people where they are from, you get a mix of different locations. But if you ask a gathering in Utah the same question, you usually get the same response. They are from Utah, of course.
There are several theories as to why we stay, from our hardwired family values to the force shield over the surrounding mountains that lets you in but does not let you out. But whatever the reasons may be, and despite our major differences in opinion, Utahan’s stick together and stay in Utah.
My reasons for leaving were never because I wanted to run away. I have never hated it here. In fact, I have many fond memories of growing up here. My only reason was for the simple experience of living on my own in someplace new, to experience life as others do outside the valley.
So if experience is the only reason I had to leave, what is there not to experience about staying? Life is always in a state of shift and everything is in constant change right outside my front door. As a child, I could step out the door and see fields of wheat that I could ride my bike through on the dirt trails that went through them. Down the street was a little red-brick church at the intersection of Redwood Road and 6200 South. At the time, that intersection had only a four-way stop sign. My oldest brother once sat at that intersection and counted the cars that went through it for his Eagle Scout project. Because of him, Bennion put in its first stop light. The fields I once rode my bike through are now filled with houses. The famous red-brick church is now gone to make room for the ever-expanding Redwood Road, and that intersection has become six lanes of mass confusion in every direction.
Currently I reside downtown, where old buildings are coming down and new ones are replacing them so fast I can’t even remember what the old downtown looked like. I miss the crazy hallways and layers of Crossroads Mall. But what is there not to love about Gateway or the new City Creek? And the most crazy thing is that if current weather patterns continue, Utah may become the new California, and the most I will need to put on is the occasional hoodie to protect me from the cool-night breeze.
I sold my car years ago, and most places I visit are within walking distance. My friends often offer me a ride and are surprised when I tell them no; there is just too much I would miss. Though nothing compares to the cities I love—Las Vegas, New Orleans, Venice Beach and San Francisco, the quiet streets of downtown come alive to me. There are so many cute bars, cafes and shops that are only a blur when you drive, and every block is different. Not to mention the smells from the taco carts, the sight of a white bag passed off for a 20, or the chimes of Trax two blocks down.
Singer Merle Haggard once said that the world is his home. Yes, the world is home to all of us, and right now, my little corner of the world is right here. And if you watch carefully out your car window, you might spot me shuffling along in quiet solitude with my hands in my pockets. It is my time, and I am right where I belong, in downtown Salt Lake City.
Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series writing group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., 210 E. 400 S., Ste. 8, Salt Lake.