Fish out of water

Last year, I dug up my roots. I packed them into a minivan full of kids, tootsie pops and faith in our future – then drove them 1300 miles to our new home. Actually, it was my fella who did most of the driving – but let’s not split hairs. The point is, I left my Midwestern homeland.  And the last few months have been quite an experience as I get used to my new homeland: Utah.
I was raised in the western suburbs. Save a stint at an out-of-state college, I have spent my entire 30+ years living in and around Chicago. I know the streets, alleys and footpaths of some towns and neighborhoods better than I know the back of my hand. I know how to walk six blocks of the loop underground. I know every stop on the BNSF. I know the Chicagoland pace of life – and I miss it.
It’s not that I have it bad here. I wake up every day next to the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. Utah has its quirks, but the Salt Lake Valley really is a great place to live and raise kids. I have a 14-mile, 20 minute relaxing drive to a great job. And I’m sorry friends, but the stunning view of the Wasatch Mountains beats the Chicago skyline – for me, anyway. Come check it out for yourselves if you need convincing. People are incredibly friendly, and not because they are trying to persuade me join their polygamist families. Despite what Sister Wives suggests, Utah is not full of those freaks. But Utah is overflowing with children, so I don’t worry too much about mine bothering people with their noise.  Our neighborhood is peaceful, safe, convenient to everything and close to nature. While hiking in the mountains last summer, we came within 50 feet of a moose family.  Oh, and we have fry sauce!
Amidst all of this friendliness and beauty, I’m struggling to blend into my new community. I just can’t figure out how to fit in here. I don’t base my friendships on superficial qualities… but appearances are a quick way to strike up a conversation. For women, it’s very possible for a meaningful friendship to begin with “Who does your highlights?” or “I love that shirt! We should go shopping together”. But what the heck can I say in Utah? “Your hair is SO BIG. Where do you buy your Bumpits?” or “Your mom jeans really flatter your ankles”. I can’t relate to what I see, and I don’t even know what fashionable IS anymore.
Ok, so let’s say I meet someone I want to know better. I’m too afraid of humiliation to suggest a girl’s night with margaritas, only to be turned down by “sorry, I don’t drink”. Faith-based sobriety is a new concept for me. Seriously…I’m no drunk, but I love a good glass of wine or even whiskey once in a while. I don’t think I need to feel ashamed of that fact. I’m starting to think that the state liquor store might be a good place to make friends – in that store, I know I have at least one thing in common with everyone else! 
I miss being able to buy wine at Jewel. I miss talking to my neighbors on Sundays. I miss Trader Joe’s, south side accents and ethnic diversity. I miss bluntness, pigeons, even Eisenhower road rage. I miss the North-South rivalry.  I miss you, Chicago.


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  • Chicago misses you! I am glad to hear you are blessed with some amazing scenery. I find it really hard to make friends when you are an adult.

    What if you and your sweetie take a cooking class or something together. I have taken a class at Williams Sonoma and chatted with a few people before and after the class. (I am trying to think outside the usual mothers groups...)

  • In reply to erago:

    A cooking class is a great idea! I will look into what is available.

  • In reply to erago:

    OK, those pictures and your beautiful imagery makes me think that I really need to visit. Every January, I whine to my husband that we need to transfer to his firm's California office. But, I, too was born and raised in the Midwest, and it would be really hard to move somewhere completely different.
    I've found that all of my "new" friends are the parents of my kids' friends, which is rather amusing as my children have better social lives than I do. Perhaps their new friendships will lead to yours!
    You are brave! You are incredible! Others will see that, too!

  • In reply to soontobehotmama:

    Thanks, Crystal! It's funny how quickly kids make friends. And yes, mine are helping me meet new people.

  • In reply to soontobehotmama:

    Ah, Dre, it's funny you post this now, or perhaps not funny, but relevant to my life as well. Though I feel like a fish out of water here, where you just left. Even having been raised here, coming back to live has been such a culture/environment shock that I too can no longer relate to what I see. I always knew I was a stranger in my own homeland, but didn't know to what extent it was true til I left. To be back now is surreal.
    I hope you find your solid footing soon. I empathize deeply with the uprootedness. Here's to us settling in to our new homes with grace and ease.

  • In reply to parachuteparent:

    Curse our bad timing, if you had moved back a year earlier we could have set up a babysitting co-op! :) I hope you are adjusting well.

  • In reply to soontobehotmama:

    Andrea, it has been years- more than a decade!- since we last talked, but I had to respond to your post. After I finished up college in Indiana, I moved to Boston for a couple of years and after finishing grad school moved just north of Salt Lake to join my fianc

  • In reply to LeahRomaine:

    Leah, thank you for your kind words! Wow, it sounds like you can relate perfectly to what I am feeling here. I know I'll find my niche - it just takes time, patience and an open mind. And yes, Red Rock is awesome :)

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