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 When I called to tell them I accepted I discovered a voicemail saying they rescinded their offer and didn’t want to hire me after all.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.