When people ask me where I’m from, I always hesitate. How much do they want to know? It would be easy to answer if I were from only one place. Do they want to know where I was born (Kirtland, New Mexico until I was 8 years old)? Do they want to know where I grew up (Springville, Utah until I was 16 years old)? Or do they want to know where I graduated High School (Evanston, Wyoming until I went to college at age 18)? I’m constantly misreading what people are asking because when I assume they want the whole story I can see their eyes begin to glaze over, but when I think they want the short answer they will often follow up with a “is that where you’re from originally?” (and then they still glaze over when I tell the longer story.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the closest place I can call home is northern Utah. I’ve lived there (excepting a 2 year LDS mission in the South) for 16 years. I was educated there, I fell in love there, I began a family there, and I technically “grew up” there. (You can ask my wife, my various bishops, and my colleagues about all my growing pains.) Two months ago, as I drove into the beautiful Cache Valley, I was pondering all my homes, and said an audible prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father that I could finally settle on saying “this is where I’m from, this is my home.” And then I got a phone call within the week…
So I want to thank the people I’ve met in that place: You met me as young college freshmen, or a recently returned missionary, or a newly wed husband, or a brand new seminary teacher, or a young father… and you were good to me in all my faults. I have often been guilty of a false sense of knowing everything, with a healthy amount of brashness often leaving a wake of stepped on toes. And yet you’ve helped me improve, you’ve helped me learn to listen, you’ve helped me hone my strengths and acknowledge my weaknesses. You’ve left me a better man. I’m committed to give Illinois a better version of myself than any of my homes have ever seen, and that’s largely because of your influence in my life. So Northern Utah, I want to thank you.
And now it begins all over again. I will meet many new people who will ask me where I’m from, and I’ll get to decide how much of my story they really want to hear. But I think I will just default to the place I have loved most and called home the longest. I’ll say “I’m from Northern Utah”.