As a native of Chicago, I’ve found moving to a small town in Utah to be a significant adjustment.
I live in Brigham City, Utah, a small community about an hour north of Salt Lake City, with my husband and our sixteen-month-old son. We moved here in September 2005 because of my husband’s job.
The move was a positive change for us in many ways. Living in the Midwest all of our lives, we had both spent too much time each day commuting to our jobs and sitting in traffic. My husband still has a thirty-minute drive to work but he cruises through beautiful mountain ranges instead of sitting on clogged interstates looking at billboards.
Moving here also gave us the chance to downsize our lifestyle in anticipation of having a baby. We decided we didn’t need the big, brand-new house we previously had and we opted for a smaller, older home so that we could afford to live off one salary once we had a baby. I love staying home to take care of our son, so that has been a huge blessing.
Brigham City is a quaint town with a charming main street, beautiful old homes, nice sidewalks, and friendly people. We live within walking distance of shops, the grocery store, and the library, and I love the lifestyle of being able to walk everywhere. I’ve probably put more miles on my stroller than I have on my car this year.
Wherever you walk, you can see spectacular mountains. I also get amazing views of the Wasatch Front of the Rocky Mountains from our living room and dining room windows. Of course, the other benefit of living in the mountains is outdoor recreation, like skiing and hiking.
The area is growing a lot and it’s one of the few places where the real estate market is still strong. Our home has appreciated more than fifteen percent in the past two years, which is a major plus for us as a young couple just starting our family.
But living here has it downsides, too. It’s lonely sometimes being so far away from my family and friends. It was also a little intimidating being such a minority when we moved here. We’re not Mormon, but most of our neighbors are.
I grew up Catholic and went to CCD (it’s like Sunday school for Catholic kids but it’s held on a weeknight) and attended church fairly regularly. My godfather was a deacon in the Catholic Church. But religion was not a huge part of my childhood and I never considered my religion to be a particularly defining feature of myself as a person.
I had friends that were Baptist, Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh and the public schools I attended were extremely diverse. I never gave it much thought as we grew up celebrating different holidays and attending different places of worship.
Brigham City is the only place I’ve ever lived where religion is actually an issue. In other places, the topic might come up eventually in conversation, but here it’s always one of the first things to pop up. Within a week of moving in to our home, Mormon missionaries came to our door with pamphlets about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or “LDS” as it’s called here).
If you don’t practice some sort of religion, you are definitely in the minority. And my husband and I fall into that category—at least for now.
When people ask, I casually tell them that I was raised Catholic and my husband was raised Methodist, so we haven’t decided yet how we are going to raise our children. That is true, but we’re not exactly in a huge hurry to commit to a church. After all, we were married for over four years before we had our baby and it wasn’t a pressing matter for us.
Being religiously “unattached” made it a little more difficult to meet people and make friends. A lot of the social activities are coordinated through churches here so we didn’t feel like we had as much open to us as newcomers.
It is also tough to be an outsider because many of the residents of Brigham City have lived here their whole lives and have extended families here. My husband and I on the other hand, have no family anywhere in this time zone. It’s hard and often disappointing to be raising our first child so far away from his grandparents, aunts, and cousins. This also means that most holidays are spent either traveling or hosting house guests.
We also have to travel to find some of the urban comforts I am accustomed to. Having grown up in Chicago, where there is a fantastic array of ethnic restaurants, I sometimes find myself hankering for Persian or Indian cuisine. But Brigham City isn’t known for its ethnic diversity so we don’t have a lot of international dining options.
A more serious concern is that as our son grows up, my husband and I worry about his future education. The public school systems in Utah are not well funded and we question whether we want him to go to a school that doesn’t offer him the same advantages that we had as children. Even with what will be a nearly thirty-year gap, some programs and educational opportunities that we had as kids are still unavailable here.
Overall, living here has been an adventure with many happy memories along the way. After all, my husband loves his job in Utah, we welcomed our son into the world here, and we’ve made some wonderful friends, so we feel like our life is full of blessings. I’m sure one day we’ll look back on these years as some of the more interesting and unusual times of our life.