Shadley: Making Salt Lake City a Forever Home, For Now


Jack Gambassi

Chrony Opinion Writer Will Shadley poses in the courtyard of the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building on campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 25, 2022. He chose the humanities building courtyard as the location for his portraits and spent much of his time there while living out of his van and pursuing his degree in philosophy and environmental studies at the U. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Will Shadley, Opinion Writer


At the end of May, I’ll be moving again. That will be my 12th home in 22 years. Four of those, one of which was a rusty Ford Econoline, have been right here in Salt Lake City. But all that movement, across three states, makes it difficult for any place to truly feel like home. Especially Salt Lake. 

I’ve always considered Utah a stop along the way. Just the place I went for college. Any hope of Utah becoming my forever home quickly disappeared after my first winter here. I just have too many short shorts in my wardrobe. But I still had three years left in this place where I lived but didn’t call home.

I tried leaving. An exchange program through learning abroad would have taken me to Australia for all of my junior year. I would’ve spent that time out of the country with only nine months left in Salt Lake City once I got back. But, that didn’t happen. Salt Lake City would be my home for now, whether I liked it or not.

That situation can easily devolve into bitter cynicism. And while I’m well aware of Salt Lake City’s shortcomings (and make it known that I’m well aware of those shortcomings), that sort of cynicism would only lead to my own unhappiness. This time had to be more than just getting through it. Otherwise, I’d find myself without a place to call home, even if it’s just for now.

So, I dove in. I did the things that people only do in their forever homes. My first work in politics started at the state level in 2020. That job forced me to become intimately acquainted with issues that solely affected Utah. Whether it was Utah’s payday loan laws, public land policy or how we handle homelessness, I not only knew about these issues but cared about them. And cared deeply about changing them here in Utah. Even though I knew that I’d be long gone by the time my work would start to impact lives here in Utah, I lived like I wouldn’t be.

After the inevitable loss in that election, I got a job here at the Daily Utah Chronicle where I’ve had a notably local beat. I’ve written about Utah’s homelessness, public transit and wildfires and covered two legislative sessions. Again, I’ll never experience the improvements in public transit that I’ve advocated for, but I write as if I will. 

Making Salt Lake home extends beyond working jobs that have an impact on the community. It had to include becoming a part of that community myself. I walk almost everywhere I go. On my walk up to campus every day, I’ve perfected the route that maximizes my likelihood of interacting with neighborhood cats. I stop to pet my favorite cat, Macaroni and Cheese, for a few minutes every trip. He’s this vocal orange cat who yells at me every time I try to leave him. And I call out for him every time I walk past his house. We have this relationship where those five to ten minutes we spend together stand out as the best part of my day. And, from what his owner tells me, the best part of his. But even though I’m always looking forward to seeing him, and it’s always difficult to leave, the meaning of our relationship depends upon its finite quality. We spend our limited time together like it’s forever.

(Courtesy of Montana Chambers)

Mac, and the people I’ve developed meaningful relationships with over these four years, make it so much harder to leave Salt Lake City. It’s this paradoxical situation where everything has to end, but those things become far more meaningful when you treat them like they’ll last forever. But that’s true for all of us. We all call a place home for a finite amount of time, even our forever homes. And it’s only because we treat them as such that they truly feel like home. 

So, here I am. Nearing the end of four years in Utah. Four years that, in more ways than one, felt like forever. Because forever isn’t a set amount of time. It can be 80 years, 4 years, a month or an hour. But one thing it can’t be is infinite. Forever always has to end. But that’s what makes it meaningful. Forever isn’t an amount of time, it’s a way to approach relationships with people and places that leads to a deeper connection. That changes you in far more profound ways than when you view those things as temporary. Even though, by definition, they are.

While Salt Lake City could never be my forever home forever, there’s nowhere I’d rather have called my forever home for now. And that’s as close as any of us can get.


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