Taking Back Alaska – Sarah Wilcox


I came to Salt Lake at the tail end of the worst 6 months of my life.  After a huge disappointment in the love department I managed to still attend enough classes and beg for enough extra time to finish enough final papers to graduate with my masters degree.  For months after I felt the pressure and feelings of failure of not being able to find a job. I separated my shoulder and so I was not able to run or hike or bike or play frisbee or even swim…basically everything that keeps me happy, healthy, and connected.  I tried to deal with it…and by that I mean I watched every episode of Parks and Recreation.  I spent hours applying for jobs and more hours sitting in parks reading, hoping no one could tell how pathetic I felt. I did the mind-numbing walk/run up and down ‘the Y’ over and over because it was the only thing I could do with my injury that was challenging but safe.  I was offered a job in St. George.  I asked for a day to think about it.  When I called to tell them I accepted I discovered a voicemail saying they rescinded their offer and didn’t want to hire me after all.  I had no more energy to deal with the pain and isolation of being injured and unemployed.

Life was leaving a lot to be desired.
Then FINALLY at the end of a miserable summer I got a job in a hospital in Salt Lake.  Moving to a big city sounded like something I would never do, and I hadn’t really wanted to work in a hospital, but I was DESPERATE.  So I moved.  At first it was as miserable as before, another new breakup, no friends, no familiarity or structure…
Then….I found my perfect apartment, I found trails behind my house, I found the best institute class in the whole church (I absolutely insist on this).  I took my sling off and started playing ultimate frisbee, making friends at work, feeling at home in a ward.  A friend gave me Mika, my little friendly ball of love and fur.  After 6 months I started feeling like I had true friends.  I started running again, I started climbing, I stopped watching Netflix, I dated, I had a summer with NO free weekends, each was filled with an epic adventure.
There were still ups and downs, and those worried me.  Every time I started to feel something that reminded me of the summer of misery, I would feel certain everything would go back to JUST like before, my life was going to fall apart again, and maybe I wouldn’t be able to move to a magic city that would cure me this time.  I attributed a lot of my negative feelings to outside pressure from church or boys or girls or whatever I could dream up.

One day I went for a walk with my most resilient and level-headed friend, Hels Bells.  I told her about how I would never be able to feel like myself unless I moved back to Alaska, and how all of the social pressures that were getting to me me don’t exist there.  She sweetly and wisely pointed out that the issues I was having were coming from inside of me, and I couldn’t escape them by moving because they would go with me wherever I went.

It wasn’t immediate, but months later, it clicked.  I started a campaign in my head called “Take Back Alaska.”  Whenever I felt social pressure (real or imagined) pushing against who I truly was I would tell myself to take back Alaska, i.e. be the person I felt like Alaska made me, and not who I felt pressure to be.  And, predictably, the pressure lifted and I became happier.  I had a ‘best friend class’ EXPLOSION that grew to feel like a family, engaged in long and frequent life changing discussions, got promotions, raises, and opportunities at work, contributed at church, and met physical and recreational goals (half marathon PR wwwhhhhhaaatt!).
I took myself back from myself!  I didn’t need to move to Alaska.  The wall that kept me from feeling satisfied crumbled and I realized that I had actually succeeded in building everything that I wanted HERE in Utah.
Then I went back to visit Alaska.
Camping in Alaska.  Happy.
     I was awed by the free and the wild.  The wholesomeness, depth, and beauty of the connections I made with friends and family made my soul sing.  I got to alternate between feeling totally lost in the mountains and absolutely at home with my family and oldest friends.  I started to get the itch to go to the places I had heard about but never visited, to live somewhere smaller where I could make a difference, and foster fewer but stronger connections.
I was torn.  Utah was warm, familiar, lovely, easy, exciting, accessible, and full of friends and type I fun.  What more is there?

But after the first few days back

I found myself feeling antsy unless I was looking for jobs in Alaska.  The continuing bliss had the slightest shift toward tasting stale.  I started to think about what is really mine here.  My apartment isn’t mine, my job isn’t mine, the canyons and desert and mountains I love will always be here.  The only thing that is mine is my life, and that goes with me wherever I go.
When faced with a choice between something new that I am not sure if I will like, love, or hate or something old that I am positive I will like, I will nearly always pick the new thing.  I’m too curious to let questions like that go unanswered.  So when a new opportunity presented itself in Alaska, it was too much to resist.  It’s time to conquer (or fail at) something new.  I’m going back to Alaska for a few months to work, and see if it’s something I want to make more permanent.  I don’t think the opportunities will ever look better than right now.  The things I am reluctant to leave here I am powerless to keep any longer than grace allows anyway.
So if you’re looking for me this fall, I’m going to be Taking Back Alaska.
Sarah Wilcox is currently back in Alaska, and keeping us all up to date on her adventures and life. Subscribe to her blog and follow along  on her a Tall Personality Blog and read Alaska Week 1


About the Author

Randy Miguel
Randy Miguel is Co-Founder of World Light Review and Director of Marketing. He enjoys service, film, and comics, and trying new food with his wife.

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