It has been, officially and by the numbers, exactly one year since I finished packing up the U-Haul truck that was sitting in the driveway in front of my San Francisco apartment, slammed down the back door, and got on the road to Utah. Packing frantically, hauling all your crap down a long hallway and down a steep driveway and around back of the truck and throwing it up onto the bed and running back inside for more and having arguments about what fits where and how, and why the other person is crazy go-nuts and should just be quiet, that doesn’t leave much time for introspection, for the I am leaving beautiful San Francisco and my beautiful apartment and my friends and my job and everything I know to move to Utah? freakout.
God, when you put it that way it sounds completely insane. Exchanging California for Utah? For Utah? Really, for Utah? All I had ever known of Utah was what everyone else knows–Mormons and conservatism and a vague impression of a state full of backwards unsophisticates who know nothing about culture and hate the gays and also like extreme sports. It is cold in Utah, there are mountains, what the hell am I doing?
Once we were in the truck, and on our way over the mountains and through the pass, our bellies churning with McDonald’s breakfasts and the adrenaline dying down, I found that it was a chant in the back of my head–what the hell, what the hell, what the hell am I doing, am I doing, am I doing? I had had so many good reasons for moving–Utah is cheap, I can live off my freelance salary, I can use all my time to write, and there’s this boy who I love and who loves me back and I think we have a real chance except for the fact that he lives, of all places, in Utah. And if I can move there and see if it works–it being my freelance career, my writing, my relationships–then there are all my happinesses, gathered in one spot. I don’t have to live in Utah forever! What the hell am I doing?
We pulled in after 18 hours of driving, and my apartment wasn’t ready. My landlord was crazy, the snow came down and the apartment was freezing and I had no friends and I was cold all the time, lonely, not writing, barely ever out of my pajamas, never showered. I spent a lot of time under my electric blanket, thinking what the hell have I done? I spent a lot of time wondering why nothing ever worked out for me and wondering what I was going to do, and waiting for everything to get better soon, please, because it had to, because a move of this magnitude had to work out. Narratively speaking, there was no other way for it to end up, because I am not living in a tragedy, by god.
Spring came and the sun and warmth and meeting people. Waking up and feeling better about life. Buying a bike, getting the hell out of the house, finding out that my little town is beautiful. Discovering that Salt Lake City isn’t a cultural wasteland, that I am happy in the work I do and good at it, too, that among the best things that ever happened to me is my relationship with a wonderful man who pushes me and makes demands of me and asks me to make demands of him and who makes me happy. We figure each other out, and start to figure out how to be together, begin to realize how well we really do complement each other. We have fun.
And a year later I look around and I think, you know what? I love this state. I love the wide-shouldered mountains and the huge expanses of sky. I love the people who are kind, the liberals who know that they are swimming in a very red sea and are all the more passionate for that. I love the snow and the wind and the huge, white hills for sledding and the icy-cold nights for curling up with tea. Sprinting across the empty golf course with the dogs at my heels and E behind me, laughing. I love my beautiful apartment which would cost me a million dollars in San Francisco. I love that everything is so cheap it feels like I’m getting away with something when I dry clean a coat. I love the people I am surrounded by, and E’s family who call me family too.
I love my life here. I don’t know when I stopped thinking what the hell am I doing; I’m not sure when I stopped wondering how long my furlough would be and where I’d be going next, and just started enjoying where I was, who I was with, who I am. A year ago I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but a year later I am so glad I did it anyway.