Goodbye, Utah ... hello, college life

Sunday , September 03, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By ALEX JOHNSON
TX. Correspondent

Well, I just spent three days of my life driving more than 1,500 miles east to the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a quintessential college town that holds the heart and soul of the University of Michigan.

As a recent high school graduate and new full-time university student pursuing a political communications career, it is unlikely that I will be visiting Utah often, or living here again. So the best way to cope with this move seems to be to write a goodbye letter  to the great state of Utah.

Dear Utah,

It is with a heavy (but extremely excited) heart that I have to say goodbye to you as I begin my collegiate journey.

This state has been my home for 11 of the past 18 years, all within Davis County. I was born here, went to kindergarten here and came back for high school. My most recent and the most cherished memories have happened within these state borders. For that, I have to say thank you to the state as a whole. But I think my appreciation can be more adequately expressed by thanking three different components of the state: the people, the places and the things.

To the people of Utah: There is no one I can thank more profusely than my extended family, who made it their priority to see me at all my biggest events — assemblies, award ceremonies, graduation. The cold and wet winters in Michigan will feel even more bone-chilling knowing that I can’t drive to my grandmother’s house for a warm cup of soup and an hour of storytelling. There are no long weekends at an aunt’s house, no Sunday dinners with my family gathered around the grill. Thank you for filling my mind with these memories; they will keep me warm in the winter.

To my friends, who wholeheartedly accepted me when I was the new student, and again when I came out as gay, and again when I decided to leave the state for college: I can’t thank you enough. I thought that you were supposed to hate high school like the television and YA books had taught me. Instead, I walked across the graduation stage with a piece of my heart left at Clearfield High School. To my teachers, my peers and every student I met from schools across the state, my FBLA advisers, state officers, state advisers and even Gov. Gary Herbert, thank you all for the chance to leave my mark in high school.

To the places of Utah: How am I supposed to survive in Michigan without an In-N-Out? They don’t have a Sill’s Café, or a Dolcetti Gelato, or even a Betos for a good, oversized burrito. How am I supposed to study without a comforting latte from Ground for Coffee? Where else can I shop for groceries from local companies like Harmons? You never realize how much you miss the local institutions that have felt so much like home until you leave.

On a larger scale, the places in Utah have held so much excitement and memories. I’ve spent more Friday nights than I can count exploring the streets of downtown Salt Lake City, trying restaurants and shops and figuring out the transit lines. The hikes up Adam’s and Waterfall canyons, and even my trip last week to the Timpanogos Cave, have showed me that Utah has an outdoor culture like no other. The state is built to encourage its residents to explore the landscape surrounding them, something I have yet to find in Ann Arbor.

And finally, to all of the quirky, odd and downright indescribable things that makes Utah just so . . . Utah. There’s the never-ending parade of construction working through I-15 and US 89, something that has become all too familiar, once again, this summer. Or the “Salt Lake City is for Lovers” sign that has been pasted across my Instagram feed one too many times.

And who could forget the far-reaching influence of the LDS church on the state in every corner of Utah society, from business hours to school schedules.

Truth be told, I can’t think of a better place to grow up. The Davis County suburbs I’ve grown up in have all been excellent places to raise families filled with caring people and fantastic schools. I’ve had the opportunity to meet more people than I thought possible, run a campaign for state office, meet Gov. Herbert twice in less than six months, and because all of this, I get to go to one of the top-ranked public universities in the country (did I mention that University of Michigan is also really good at football?).

I’d also like to take a brief moment to thank the Standard-Examiner for a wonderful two years writing for the paper’s TX. section. I am positive that the experiences I have gained here are not only invaluable now, but will prove to be invaluable in the future. To all the staff I’ve met, collaborated and shared cookies with at meetings, thank you for being the absolute best.

And so, for a final time, goodbye Utah. I am sure I will see your snow-peaked mountains again during vacations home and, if nothing else, I will one day be able to show my husband the place I grew up. Thank you, Utah, for shaping me into who I am today.

With nothing but love,

Alex Johnson

University of Michigan Wolverine

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Alex Johnson is a recent graduate of Clearfield High School. Email him at alexj1498@yahoo.com.

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