The “Alaska, Year One” Chapter of the great book of my life is now complete.
One Year Ago Today, I became an Alaskan. In some ways, it feels much longer than that, but in some it feels much shorter. The hot summery days of Kansas were blowing me towards that plane as fast as I could get on it, and immediately when I stepped off here my world flipped on its head. In many ways, it was a hard separation. It becomes tough to chat with old friends when they are 3 time zones off and continuing on in their own lives; and I had a new job and a whole new set of challenges to face. I did what I could to embrace this life, and in many ways it embraced me. Within a few visits, a bouncer would pat me on the back and let me through when I hit the door of a pub, like I had been going there for ages. It took me just a couple of weeks to not only learn curling, but to get a nickname. I bought a house, bought a dog, and bought more hiking equipment than I likely will ever need. And in that first week I survived my first earthquake, failed my drivers license test, and saw a bear.
So do I have any regrets?
If you’re shocked … well … we obviously never met. Eventually I will regret every decision I ever made, it just takes time and for me to see something I am jealous of.
For one thing, I didn’t go dip netting. It’s a shore based fishing where you literally dip your net into a salmon run, and catch up to 25 of the little buggers in your limit. Passed by me with an early run (and a lack of a hook-up).
There are things I do regret above moving here. Alaska is simply put a long ways away from a lot of things. I struggle to maintain my involvement in the marching band judging activity because it doesn’t exist up here, I don’t have good west coast contacts, and few are willing to risk the travel expenses on a guy from Alaska to do a show. Vacations are difficult, because either you look at some time here (which is great, don’t get me wrong), or it’s a few plane rides to anywhere cool.
In all honesty, the job hasn’t turned out the way I expected. I envisioned walking into a company & industry on the cusp of doing great things, and I could be key to making a difference. The potential is there, but we are far from the cusp. Instead we swim upstream against culture change, bureaucracy, and past influences that left a bad taste. Coming from an environment where I had positions on leadership to fill my ego, I’ve fought though way more emotional and subjective arguments than I expected or wanted.
But I also regret those things that were in my control. Namely my health. In the book of my life, the chapter that preceded the one on Alaska was about the success I had with losing weight and getting my life back in order. I’ve wandered off that path fairly significantly, and now fight my way to find that path at all. In some ways, that is the hardest to swallow.
But when you look back at a chapter in your life, you have to balance out the regrets with that which makes you happy. Those scales, quite simply, balance towards the good.
Not a day goes by that there is something beautiful about this state that stuns me. From the mountains circling our fair city. From the rolling clouds, hugging the landscape. The trickle of a quiet creek, the noise of a waterfall, or the wind through a wet forest. I love a walk down a lighted snow cover path in the dead of winter, nodding to a fellow Alaskan on how nice of a night it was for a walk. I love how the low light of winter gives the city a feel of sunset, a continual golden hour. After days of rain, I love the way the grass smells and the earth comes alive.
I found it easy to fall in with the people. Most seemed to be variations of those I knew. From the Oil transplants from Texas & Oklahoma, to the midwesterners that found this wasn’t that much different than what they know. Then there is the whole slew of races and backgrounds that makes Anchorage a greater melting point than one can find anywhere. It makes daily life around other Alaskans not just livable, but enjoyable.
Of course, I don’t regret the pooper. Since the day I brought home my puppy, Auggie, I’ve had a reason to yell, clean, smell like bad food, and pick up fecal matter. I always wanted a dog, and now I have it, I found it to be hard work, restrictive of my life, and a general pain in my ass. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Day after day, I find new opportunities to do new things. Sometimes its the old things I love, like hiking or chatting over a few beers. More often than not its something new, like salmon fishing or curling. So much of Alaska is taking advantage of the opportunities available. While I don’t take every opportunity, I do take them and that makes my life more and more interesting.
So yeah, a year after moving to Alaska I can say that I have my regrets; but I am glad I made the decision. I complain a lot, but like I learned recently, that what makes us complain the most is what makes us laugh the most when we can look back at it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I regret it or enjoyed it, the fact of the matter is that it happened.
The great world spins, and whatever plan my life is one, it now includes a chapter called “Alaska”.
No one will take that away from me.