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catching up with building hope

Sarah and Tom have lived in Summit County for over 10 years. They loved the outdoor opportunities and small-town feel when they first arrived. She works as a nurse; he works full time for the ski resort. They dreamed of living here long-term, settling down and having a family. They have been saving for a down payment for a home and entered several lottery-style opportunities for deed-restricted and local homeownership with no success. They were ecstatic to learn of Sarah’s pregnancy, a dream come true. Two weeks later their landlord decided to sell the house, and after several failed attempts to secure long-term housing, Sarah and Tom moved back to the Midwest, overwhelmed with feelings of failure and starting over again.

Billy grew up in Summit County, learning to ski as soon as he took his first steps. During the pandemic his junior year of high school, classes switched to online, and Billy struggled with this solitude, missing his friends and social connections. Slowly his motivation and dreams for the future dwindled and his plans changed. He was unsure how to re-enter the real world, let alone attend college in person. He rarely skied and found himself in a dark place. His parents suggested he get a job, but nothing really felt right. He is stuck on social media, looking at the “perfect” lives of all his friends and schoolmates. He wants to grow up, get a place of his own and find his passion, but financially he is stuck at home, living in his parent’s basement unable to “launch” into the real world.

Julie moved to Summit County in 2018, excited for a fresh start away from her past problems. She always loved the mountains, snowboarding and hiking, and felt like her dreams were all coming true. She promised to leave her past problems behind and felt so lucky to be here. She rented a room with 3 strangers, crammed into a small space meant for a couple. She worked in the service industry, looking for fast money and to socialize with people in her community.

She quickly realized that one job was not quite enough with the higher cost of living. She got a second job and began to dread going home to the crowded, chaotic space. One shift drink after work slowly turned into 4-5 consistently, along with a little cocaine, arriving home late into the night in masking her real struggles. Motivation to get outside to snowboard or hike dissipated. Five years later Julie struggles with the toxic lifestyle, feels stuck, and realizes her problems continued even when she moved to this beautiful place.

It is no debate. Summit County is a beautiful, breathtaking place to live. However, we must also acknowledge the unique challenges that come with living in our own utopia. It is not uncommon to smile and say, “I feel so lucky to live here,” but inside you miss your friends and family, financially running in circles and exhausted from multiple jobs, or struggling to leave the toxic party scene that comes with living in a vacation resort. These challenges are so prevalent in small town, mountain-resort communities that the term “Paradise Paradox” was created.

University of Colorado’s School of Public Health cites factors ranging from financial instability, geographic isolation, lack of healthcare, easy access to firearms and the transient nature of resort communities as being some of the contributors to “Paradise Paradox.” There are also direct correlations to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide in these areas. While we realize that each person’s situation and struggles are different, here at Building Hope we are committed to do our part to recognize the impact these trials can have on the mental-health challenges of our community.

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Building Hope understands that some Summit County residents face unique challenges and struggles, such as:

  • Financial instability
  • Short term connections
  • Geographic isolation, which decreases available services
  • Living in a constant party culture
  • Minimal affordable housing
  • Employment obstacles
  • Toxic positivity

We are firm believers in the healing power of connections with people and being present in real life, allowing vulnerability and change in your life, and working hard to be the best version of yourself.  Practice compassion for yourself and remember living in paradise paradox is the reality for many. You are not alone. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Paradise Paradox.

Article by Alyse Piburn, special projects writer for Building Hope Summit County. If you have a story to share, reach out to her at alyse@buildinghopesummit.org.
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