I’ve always considered myself a bit of a gypsy.
I counted yesterday, and conservatively, I’ve moved 26 times in 29 years.
But for the last 10 years, Rexburg has been my home.
I left for a mission in Montana and a couple internships in Florida and Salt Lake, but Idaho has been my home base all through that time, making it the longest I’ve lived somewhere consecutively.
And a week ago, I left it all behind.
As Eric and I stood inside our empty, immaculately scrubbed apartment, I felt the emotion of the last 10 years brewing inside of me. But it all bubbled over when Eric held me in his arms and said something so simple and beautiful.
“I loved coming home to you here.”
I knew he meant apartment 2803. That’s where we brought home our babies, started a non-profit organization, laughed, cried and grew up. It’s where Eric spent countless hours into the night typing out complicated Excel assignments, and where I spent countless days rocking and singing to my little ones.
It’s where we put together our first crib and where I ironed Eric’s robes for graduation.
Yet his sweet sentiment described so perfectly how I felt about my time in Rexburg.
When I started school at BYU-Idaho in September 2007, I had no idea what I was in store for.
I hated everything about the Podunk town I had found myself in, dreaming for the skylines of bigger cities and promise I felt they held for me.
I remember thinking and (probably saying) I didn’t want Rexburg to change me. Into what, I wasn’t sure, but whatever it was, boy was I resistant.
In the next almost six years that followed, I began on a transformative journey of faith. I’d always heard your 20s described as the “decade of decisions,” but had no idea how true the sentiment was.
I started as a theatre education (ha!) major, switched to psychology for a hot minute and ended up in the communication department.
I dated and loved an embarrassing amount of boys named Eric.
I saw dozens of roommates move in and out, each one an amazing woman who taught me so much about how to be a better person. Some of whom, have become lifelong, eternal friends.
I experienced nearly every alcohol-free college cliché, including sliding down the door crying after breaking up with a boyfriend, discovering 36 (approximately) different ways to eat Ramen, donating plasma and laughing until my sides threatened to bust and tears streamed down my face at 2 in the morning.
My feelings about that frigidly cold Idaho town were slowly changing.
I recognized it one summer I visited my family in Arizona and referred to Rexburg as “home.”
Maybe that’s why when a boy named Eric Whitlock swept me off my feet during his first semester and my last in 2013, it wasn’t hard to decide that Rexburg was where we needed to be for just a little longer.
The backend of my time in Idaho was spent married to my best friend.
We had so many wonderful and challenging experiences there. Mostly, we made our whole life in Rexburg “home.”
We made an incredible group of friends, learned about hard work and balance. We learned the value of the temple in our marriage and the importance of marital courtship.
So many places in Rexburg have become sacred ground to us. The hospital rooms where we met Link and Bellamy; the restaurant we got engaged in; the nameless street in Sugar City where we cried together for the first time; those long drives against a backdrop of wheat fields and potato farms where we held hands and tried to take on the world together one problem at a time.
The truth is, Rexburg is not where I wanted to be all those years ago. But it took me to every place I wanted and so desperately needed to go.
And as I’ve contemplated my time in my favorite spot of Idaho over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that’s the lesson.
What Rexburg taught me is simple: Faith.
Though the lessons themselves felt anything but simple, I now see that each one was designed to strengthen my faith in Christ. My experiences at BYU-Idaho both as a student and later as a faculty member were absolutely priceless. If you are considering BYU-Idaho in your future, I emphatically encourage you to pursue your options there.
As I drove away through the snowy streets of Rexburg for the last time, a profound hope washed over me.
“Oh, how I hope Rexburg has changed me.”
I hope that as we start our next chapter in an admittedly more desirable climate, our new friends, family and acquaintances will come to know Rexburg a little bit through us. I hope we can show them our faith, our efforts to be kind, Christian people.
I hope we can show them why hard work and family matters most to us.
But I hope, most of all, they can come to know how much their Savior loves them.
Because that’s what Rexburg taught us.