Robert Kirby: What makes Utah a happy state may not be U-tah but you, too

Robert Kirby

Utah, bless its heart, has been designated as the second happiest state. Only Hawaii is happier.

It’s understandable. The fact that Hawaii is often referred to as an island paradise may have played into the ranking.

Utah is America’s winter playground. That’s how we scored the 2002 Winter Olympics. You can’t snow ski in Hawaii, except on the side of a volcano.

But let’s be honest. Can “happy” be manipulated? Possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized in Hawaii, but not in Utah. What we get are elevated consumption of antidepressants.

Hawaii and Utah are close in visual appeal. We’re both gorgeous.

On a list of most beautiful states, Hawaii again edged out Utah. The Aloha State came in at No. 2 compared to the Amen State’s No. 4.

Again, the factors are marginal. Alaska (No. 3) and California (No. 1) also bested Utah in beauty. According to the tally, the deciding element is coastline. The other three states have beaches in abundance while poor landlocked Utah is just stuck with the damned sea gulls.

It’s only fair to point out what they have that we don’t — oil spills, tsunamis, shark attacks and volcanic eruptions.

Finally, there’s personal preference. Regardless of the lists someone else puts together, we all have our own. And they’re every bit as arbitrary.

It’s understandable that Utah won’t place so positively on the lists of some individuals — it’s too hot/cold, traffic is too clogged, taxes are too high, too many Mormons, not enough money for schools, and — the biggest reason of all — it’s not like where they used to live.

For years, I listened to a friend complain about how ugly Utah was compared to the lush greenery of western Washington, where he grew up. Boone eventually moved back to his personal Zion.

Today, Boone is an accomplished artist and again living in Utah because of what his untrained eye didn’t see before: The light and rocks here are “so amazingly beautiful.” Bleakness, like beauty, is all in the eye. Sunlit redrock or gloomy rain and trees.

Some places are happier than others because of what’s going on in them. I used to wake up in the Mojave Desert and marvel at the sunrise. But I wouldn’t want to wake up in Afghanistan and marvel just because I was still alive.

I didn’t think Utah was all that happy or beautiful when I moved here. But I see it through different eyes now. It’s home. My view has been altered by time, marriage and grandkids.

The things that made Utah initially a horrible place seem so trivial now. I learned a valuable lesson by being “stuck” here all this time.

Some of the happiness in a place — in fact, most of it — depends on the person. Sure, there are less-attractive places in the world, but what if a big reason that a place is unhappy is because you’re a @#$*%*?

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.