From starting high school, moving to a new town and having my parents live over 1,200 miles apart, 2008 was a year of many changes for me.
As a child, I grew up in Tucson, Arizona with my older sister, older brother, my mom and dad. My parents were always very hardworking, supportive and loving as I grew up. Always attending my volleyball and basketball games as well as track meets, bringing me to tennis, horseback riding, or piano lessons. My dad would make my lunch in the morning and then drop my sister and I off at carpool, while my mom would pick us up after school and bring us home. We ate dinner as a family every night and weekends were often spent doing some sort of family activity whether it was going to the pool or helping my dad plant flowers at a property he managed. We had a lot of family time and I enjoyed it.
As I graduated from 8th grade my family moved to Big Timber, Montana for my sister and I to attend high school. The town is very rural and has roughly 1,500 hundred people living there, with 200 people in the high school. My mom had quit her job and committed to being a full-time stay at home parent while my dad commuted from Tucson. At the time my dad had been traveling a lot with his side job of managing a catering crew that cooked for the Avon Walks for Breast Cancer and Susan G. Komen 3 day walks.
Entering my freshman year was hard, I often got a lot of questions such as “how do you have nice things since you don’t have a dad” or “well your parents must be divorced since they don’t live in the same state”. Questions like this were a frequent occurrence since my dad was only able to visit around once a month. He was so busy working at his property management and landscaping business as well as traveling cross country catering that visits were generally for a short amount of time. I went from having my dad play such a crucial role in my life to talking to him often twice a day on the phone.
Having parents that are married and live 1,200 miles apart is not ideal, but we made it work. My parents did what they had to do for my sister and I to succeed and I believe our family grew stronger because of it. I will forever be grateful for the sacrifices that they have made and I know both of my parents have always been cheering me on whether they were right by my side or miles away.
It is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).
“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan
“Sacramento, California!” – Me
“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan
“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me
Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”
I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.
By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor