I’m finally home. It took me almost a decade to figure out where “home” really is, but I think I’ve finally found it.
Like many youngsters who grew up in rural Utah, the 22-year-old version of me wanted nothing more than to explore the world — or, at least, to get outside of the 435 area code.
But, I’ve learned over the past eight years that the grass isn’t always greener, whether that grass grows in northwest New Mexico or sunny southern California.
Let me take a step back for a second and tell you a little about me.
I grew up in Moab, a place that is a bit of an oddity in rural Utah. It has become even more of an oddity since I graduated from high school 12 years ago and moved on to attend college at Southern Utah University in Cedar City.
That said, Moab is a town that shares a great deal in common with communities in Tooele County. When I was growing up, it was the kind of place where when the high school football team took to the field on Friday night, downtown was deserted. It was also a place where we didn’t have all the big-city conveniences — many of those were 115 miles away in another state.
It was a place where the community felt more like a family than anything else.
After eight years away, I began to miss that.
So, a few months ago, I decided to make it my goal to return to my rural Utah roots. The Transcript-Bulletin posted an advertisement for its vacant community news editor position, and here I am.
Standing on the sideline last Friday at Stansbury High School’s football stadium reminded me of just how much I had missed it here in the Beehive State. I’d even missed the crispness in the air that comes with autumn.
More than anything else, I’d missed the feeling of community. The home stands at Stansbury were packed, much like they were every Friday night during my days at Grand County High in Moab. It reminded me of the days of getting to high school football games hours before kickoff to reserve a spot in the stands, and even further back to the days of playing catch with my friends beneath the stands, dreaming of someday playing under those Friday-night lights and representing our hometown.
Where I lived in southern California, you’d be lucky to find a couple hundred fans in the stands — and this was at schools that had 3,000 students or more.
It was a place that nobody was truly “from.” Most of the people who lived in that area commuted an hour or more into the nearby San Fernando Valley or into downtown Los Angeles. There was no sense of belonging. It was mostly just the place where people bought their groceries and laid their heads at night.
While Tooele, Stansbury and Grantsville have an element of “bedroom community” to them with their proximity to Salt Lake City, there also are a number of families who have been here for generations. People here take pride in being from Tooele County. They’re proud of who they are and where they come from.
There’s something to be said about that.
These things will certainly take some getting used to:
• Gone are the days of temperatures in the mid-70s in December, replaced by funny white stuff that I haven’t seen much of since I was a college student in Cedar City in the early 2000s.
• The letter “T” in the word “mountain” is silent.
• I’ll have to reintroduce fry sauce into my regular diet. And In N Out Burger isn’t as easy to come by as it used to be.
But I’m looking forward to becoming a part of this community. Maybe I’ll even reach the point where people recognize me walking through the aisles of the supermarket.
I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to be home.
Editor’s note: Vaughan became the Transcript Bulletin’s community news editor and sports writer on Nov. 3. He previously worked for the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, California.