I almost had to change one of my annoying “Theories”. I have a bunch of them. From the “Pillow Theory” to the “Oil Change Theory. From the “Ketchup Theory” to the “Catsup Theory” (no relation). From “Not-Poutine” to the “50 Mile Radius” I have a lot of these concepts that I turn into thoughts. One of the longest standing was the the “Coming Off the Mountain” Theory. It came from a vacation I took through the old Civil War Battlefields back when I lived in Milwaukee. The last day included a trip over Skyline Drive over the Shenandoah Mountains, the last 10 miles of which was literally all down hill. As I took that finished that road and the realization sunk in I was ending my vacation, the gloom of heading back to work grew so much that the time I was off the mountain the vacation was over.
My last day in Alaska this week ended with a drive to Talkeetna, the town that acts like the gateway to Denali. Small, quirky, beautiful; it is considered to be the inspiration for Northern Exposure, the ’90s TV show based in Alaska – and recently lost their long time mayor, Stubbs the Cat. The drive up to Talkeetna is gorgeous with Denali looming over every hill. The ride back … well, unless you spend all the time in the rear view mirror, you have less to look at. Unfortunately, it also means more time to spend in one’s head space. It felt like I started coming off the mountain on the drive back to Talkeetna – so strong that I almost considered changing the name of that theory to “Driving Back from Talkeetna”.
I’m home now, and after nearly 20 hours of sleep since then I still feel that afterglow of a good vacation – so arguably I am still on the mountain. Yet it’s still easier to be in that mind-space that riding back from Talkeetna does to me.
Thing is, hindsight is a wicked little beast. It picks out those things that are easy to see and dangles it in front of you like cheese (and good cheese too, like a nice smoked gouda, ya know?). I can see clearly now that the reasons I chose to pursue work outside of Alaska were pretty petty – reasons that didn’t really make me any happier. I can see now the concerns I had of staying were real, but manageable. In fact, that sort of is the Alaskan way; you see a challenge in front of you, and you make do because the outcome is worth it.
Sure, I am happy these days, I like my life, I like my job, and I like my friends – but … yeah … that was true up there too. I wasn’t putting things into space up there, I wasn’t helping the world to know itself better, I wasn’t a part of something as important – but I was a part of something.
That’s part of the evil of hindsight. It’s easier to see than the here and now; and it gets you to believe you will never be as happy as you once were.
So, part of the goal of today (besides engulfing enough coffee to return to the fully awake), was to put this past week into some sort of perspective to start to look forward. I remembered that when I left Boston I quoted the Broadway show Wicked – and another line came to mind. It states:
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.
Yeah, who can say my life over the last two … four … ten years has changed for the better; but because I lived in Alaska, it had changed for good.