03 October, 2008
This is my place.
I like to make important decisions by the seat of my leggings. For example, my senior year of high school, I was making list upon list of where I wanted to apply for college. At the time, I was interested in pursuing my Japanese language experience, so when we had visited BYU Hawaii a year or so before, I thought that it was the perfect place for me. I knew, as a white girl, that my chances of getting in would be lower than for most other universities, but I figured I had a pretty impressive CV (for an 18 year-old) and it wouldn't be much of a problem.
I mentioned that to my bishop, and he asked if I was going to apply to BYU Provo, just in case. My response was a church-appropriate equivalent of "hell no." I would sooner live in a war zone than Provo. At least a war zone would seem like familiar territory.
But God, as we all know, has a wicked sense of humor, and likes to prompt me to do things I would never otherwise do (hello, serving a mission). So as I was getting my paperwork together for my application to BYU Hawaii, I noticed that for a mere 25 dollars more, I could also apply to BYU Provo. What the heck, I figured, and checked the little box on the web page.
For days following I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. The same way I feel after eating too much at Chuck-a-rama. The feeling said to me, Utah. You need to go to Utah. But I don't want to go to Utah, I responded in my head.
And the response was something along the lines of, "Have I ever cared about what you want, puny mortal?"
After a few days of misery, I went back online and modified my application so that Provo was my first choice. It sounds ridiculous looking back, but at the time, this was an immense trial of my faith. I had always dominated close games of Mutual "I never" with my secret weapon: "I have never been to Utah." The closest I had ever been was Montana. I had always known that I could never be happy there. I barely fit in with the Mormons in Seattle. I was just too different for Utah. And now I was going to live there? Sight unseen. I hated my life.
Then I got accepted, and talked to my Young Women leaders about BYU (they had all gone there ... go figure), and emailed my roommate-to-be (I love you Lori), and I started to get ... well, excited might be too strong a word. Curious would be better. I was curious about Utah. And how I would fit in there, if I could.
By the way, I was rejected from BYU Hawaii. I think God wanted to remove any unnecessary temptation.
My first few years in Utah were eventful. On the one hand, I came to see that I wasn't quite as different as I thought I was. Plenty of other kids at BYU came from cities where Mormons were a minority. I met a couple of kids who were also the only members in their graduating class. Additionally, I was not the only liberal, either. There was even an Amnesty International branch at BYU. I was, surprisingly, pretty happy. However, there was a disastrous first date with a boy who had liked me for months, which ended in a near-hysterical political row. There was the time my fellow students practically booed Helen Thomas (one of my heroes!) off the stage, and I left the devotional in tears. There was a time when I unconsciously crossed myself after a prayer in class and the girl next to me pointed at me as if I had conducted some sort of idol worship and screeched "Why did you do that???" One time, a friend of mine invited me and my three roommates over for dinner. The conversation began like this.
Eliza's mom: So, which one of you is a vegetarian?
Me: (Smile hesitantly, raise my hand)
EM: Oh, how interesting! Now, which one of you is the convert?
Me: (Smile hesitantly, raise my hand)
I never got over people's confused expressions when I explained about my family. I never got over the awkward personal questions about why I was a vegetarian, how my family reacted to my joining the church, when my parents had gotten married, etc. I also never got over my snobbery about how I was from a "real" city, and Provo was lame.
I have Grant Olson to thank for this paradigm shift. Once in a casual conversation, I dogged on Utah (he's a native) and Grant responded, with actual anger, "You say something like that and I will punch you in the face! The only people that hate on Utah are the ones who don't know what it's really like!"
This past year, I have experienced some of the things that make Utah great. And I'm not talking about the abundance of temples, or the fairly low crime rate. Not really. But after nine mile canyon, and the SEGO festival, and the farmer's market, and all the restaurants on center street ... how could anyone not think Utah is amazing? More specifically, after five years, I finally think Provo is amazing.
I feel so zen about this. I have no desire to escape from Provo anymore. Conversely, I am filled with a desire to make Provo a better place to live in, because I am here, and I am cool. I want to make Stand Up for Students a legitimate organization. I want to make Provo the kind of place cool people would want to live. Where all sorts of interesting types can dwell, and none will molest them from morn until ev'n.
What I'm really trying to say is, I think I want to go to law school here.
Oh my gosh. I can't believe I typed that in a public forum.
Posted by Elisa at 12:04