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Housing under construction

Residential construction in Missoula. 

Missoula has been good to us — to me and my wife. We both moved here from other states searching for a way to resolve the relatively difficult elements of our former lives.

Originally from Missouri, I joined the Army and served two tours overseas. During my second tour, I remember researching the University of Montana and the vast public lands I could escape into and explore. The G.I. Bill was my ticket to them. I applied to the UM then and started attending soon after my enlistment. Four years later I’d graduate with a degree in secondary English education.

The university is what brought my wife and I together. She also studied education, and after I graduated, we both worked on the Blackfeet Reservation. It was a move I decided to make because it was a job, and I thought it’d be an adventure. An adventure it certainly was, and we both feel very grateful to have had the experience — not the least because it was on the reservation where we’d learn that we were going to have a baby.

Our daughter was born at St. Patrick Hospital with the aid of nurses and a doctor whom I sincerely think must be angels. It was difficult, but she arrived beautiful, healthy and strong, as she continues to be to this day, 15 months later. Like all children, she necessitated change. I took on a wildland firefighting job, which I’ve been doing the past two seasons while my wife finished her master's, and we moved back to Missoula into a perfect little house that we rent from a landlord, who I think at this point must be doing us a service.

Housing prices in Missoula have been a trending topic lately, but I suspect they’ve been at the forefront of many people’s minds since they started their steep climb 10 years ago. These people I can’t speak for, but I know the situation: You move here. You work here. You are a teacher, a nurse, a childcare specialist, a forest service employee, a first responder, a journalist, an artist, a service worker or a laborer. You put time into the community and maybe even bring children into it. You raise them, and you question whether or not your family will ever be able to afford a place that you can call your home.

Perhaps one image of Missoula for people like me will be as a transient community — a place one goes to find themselves and experience for the many joys it has to offer. It is, after all, not a place that really owes us anything. Rather, it is a place to which we can only give in the hopes of receiving something back in equal proportion to our service. That alone could be the opportunity to explore the surroundings and find ourselves. It is not a bad image, but it also one of increasing disparity and dwindling resources as people choose to move away, or are forced to — Montana natives included, and I can hardly imagine some of the resentment there.

At this point my wife and I are likely opting out, maybe not now, but in the near future, and the reason has as much to do with being closer to our daughter’s grandparents and relatives as our inability to financially remain. It will be an amicable parting but not one without major concerns for a place we’ll always be grateful.

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Eric Wright has lived and worked in Missoula for eight years. 

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