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You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

I think I can speak for most people my age when I say that growing up in Park City was idyllic, but I never fully appreciated it until I went away to college. As a teen, the beautiful winters seemed too long and the mild summers seemed too hot. The incredible mountains shrunk to the point where I hardly noticed them. Our little town seemed sleepy and unexciting.

My family and I moved to Park City when I was four years old. My memories before Utah come in flashes and snippets: my airplane-shaped playground swing, walking to a pond with my mother, a rocking horse I named Macaroni. Aside from disconnected recollections, all I’ve ever known as home is Park City. I moved here when I was too young to appreciate Utah’s beauty and I had nothing else to compare it to. Even when I traveled around the rest of the United States and to other countries, I came home a little disappointed that Utah just didn’t measure up to the other places I had seen. I took advantage of almost everything Park City and Utah had to offer. I’ve skied every Park City resort, I remember going down my first black-diamond run without falling, I’ve been to all the National Parks, I’ve hiked countless trails and I have many wonderful memories. Regardless, when it was time for graduation and choosing a college, I always knew that I would definitely go out-of-state.

I chose Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., because I wanted to experience life away from home in a major city. The prospect of living somewhere with a subway system, world-renowned sports teams and much more diversity was enticing, to say the least. I left telling myself that I was headed to bigger and brighter things–that this was when life really started.

Fast-forward four months later to the end of my first semester at college. I stepped off the airplane and immediately sucked in the dry, clean mountain air, a telltale sign I wasn’t on the East Coast any longer. As my family and I left the airport and began the drive up to Park City, I settled back in my seat ready to nap the whole way home.

I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.

The mountains, once so small and insignificant, were enormous. Where I was used to seeing buildings, here were nature’s greatest skyscrapers. Where I was used to clouds and grey skies, Utah gave me the best bluebird sky I could have asked for. The snow surrounding me glittered like a billion diamonds and I saw my home for all it had to offer.

It took a long time away from Park City, but I now fully understand what it means to call a place your home. To me, home is not a definition, but a feeling. It’s the lump in your throat and the tightness in your chest when you look out your window and realize mountains don’t surround you. Upon return, it’s the butterflies in your stomach and the inability to control your grin when the airplane dips down for landing and you get your first glimpse of Utah in months. The place I once thought of as boring and simple is the now greatest place I’ve ever known and each time I have to leave to go back to school, I just want to return home even more than I did the last time. If I end up moving out of Utah permanently after my college graduation, I only hope that it won’t take me 16 years to love my new home as much as I love Park City.

Erin Carmichael is a 2012 graduate of Park City High School and a student at Northeastern University. She is a summer intern for The Park Record.


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