The sky is a bright blue, and the sun is filtering through the yellow-green leaves of the old tree in our front yard. My hands are cold, and the air is crisp. It’s a clean and peaceful autumn morning in Salt Lake; a sharp contrast to yesterday’s cold, wet and dark. I sit on our lovely porch, the worn out futon beside me, in the old, dilapidated house that I share with my roommates. Days like this, I feel the world is wide open again, as immense and open to possibilities as I can make it.
I came to Utah one winter four years ago. I was working on a farm in Hawaii while waiting to get into a farm apprenticeship program; I wanted to be a farmer. One day, I woke up and realized I was tired of being broke. There was an unease and restlessness inside me. Before I knew it, I was driving from California to Utah to make it to a job fair at a ski resort in Park City. I had never worked at a ski resort before, and like my other 100 or so different jobs before, the idea was romantic, adventurous and fun. I got the job easily and spent the next night partying with strangers and sleeping in my truck while I looked for a room to live in in Park City.
Just a year before, I had discovered friendship and community in San Diego while being immersed in volunteering and community gardening. I confidently assumed it would be just as easy to make real connections with people anywhere. I quickly found out the transitory nature of Park City and the elusiveness of its residents. I felt a deep sense of isolation and loneliness that first winter.
Shortly thereafter, I heard that I did not make it into the farm program. So like many of the working class people in town, I took on a second job to make ends meet. One day, in between operating the cash register and gathering shopping carts, I finally had one of those moments of epiphany: what the hell am I doing here?
Determined not to spend another winter doing cart runs and using my ever-present fear of being 60 years old and cashiering in Walmart as motivation, I hightailed it to Salt Lake City, where I found my first-ever apartment, an office job working for a stereotypically thankless lawyer, and Salt Lake Community College, where I started to take part-time classes at night. I was determined to make something of myself, to become proficient at something I could build on wherever I was in the world and to use my intelligence and creativity to make a difference in people’s lives.
Two years passed, and I was laid off. I couldn’t afford next month’s rent, and I felt helpless and stricken with fear at the imminent possibility of being homeless and not being able to attend school anymore, which was one of the few things in my life that gave me a sense of hope and direction. I had no family or support. I was alone in Utah. Then I remembered the Digital Arts Grant, and I guess, like in so many other instances, the universe had other plans for me. I realized I could go back to school full-time, and with student loans and work-study, I could possibly make it. What seemed like the end of the world when I lost my job turned out to be one of the most positive and empowering things that could have happened to me.
I am graduating next year. When I look at myself now, I am amazed at how far I’ve come and the skills I now have. I am thankful for the opportunities that have been given me and for the chance to make a new beginning for myself. As my time at SLCC draws to a close, I feel the world is opening up once again with possibilities, and unlike four years ago when I first arrived in Utah feeling restless and lost, these days I feel more at peace with myself, confident of the growing skills I have to contribute and excited for the new adventures that await me.