Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Why I Stay

Every person who wasn't born and/or raised in Alaska has a story of how they got here: a job, a partner, a vacation that turned into real life, whatever.

In August 2003, I wrote my mom a long, handwritten letter on the plane back from Bethel, a rural city off the road system and the only place I had lived in the state up to that point.

I cried as I explained why I was in love with Alaska and why I was going to live there no matter what. Fat little tears smudged the ink on the page, and I knew I wasn't ever going back to the East Coast or anywhere else "Outside."

Not if I could help it, anyway.

I miss my friends and my family, of course. Many of them (mostly those who haven't visited yet or who only know about Alaska from Sarah Palin and reality TV) want to know why I stay here.

Here's why.

I stay because the people here will do anything for you, when you ask for what you need, and sometimes even when you don't.

I stay because I get to do things professionally that I could never do anywhere else at this point in my career.

I stay because the open wilderness is literally right outside my door, even if I get out in it a whole lot less often than I would like to.

I stay because the women here are my idols in competency: they drive boats and grow things and have a million practical skills I can only aspire to.

I stay because my kids are happy and rooted here now.

I stay because the weather is bad most of the time, but when it's good, in winter or summer, it's amazing.

I stay because no one here really seems to care where you went to school, or what you do for work, or how much money you make, or what you paid for your house, or what you are wearing.

I stay for my friends here, and for my kids' friends.

I stay because it's big enough to get lost and small enough to make a difference.

I stay because of the community and the authenticity of the people and the wildness of this place.

Nowhere is perfect, and nothing is forever. I don't suffer any delusions that Alaska is either one of those things. But it's as close to both as anywhere I've ever been, and that's why I stay.





14 comments:

  1. I thought this about my Alaskan town also abd thought I would never find it again. Luckily I found that many small western towns in the lower 48 also have many of the same qualities (with sun ). But there is something about alaska, I will admit that.

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  2. I thought this about my Alaskan town also abd thought I would never find it again. Luckily I found that many small western towns in the lower 48 also have many of the same qualities (with sun ). But there is something about alaska, I will admit that.

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  3. I keep moving away and going back. Alaska is home, and then I can't stand it and have to leave, and then find that the lower 48 can be cold and impersonal and judgmental in ways that you'd never see in Alaska. When you leave you trade the harshness of the weather for a deeper cold. Living in NY now. Hope to return to AK for good someday...

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  4. Hi,
    I saw your post on my Facebook. I live in Metlakatla, Ak, a Tsimshian Indian reservation on Annette Island just south of Ketchikan. But I grew up in Bethel! It was cool to read that you liked Bethel well enough to think that you wanted to live in Alaska. I deduced from you entries (I read more than one post) that you live in Juneau. I was curious to know more about that. (I am very well traveled in Alaska, minus the SouthEast, which I'm getting to know now.) I am enjoying your blog!

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  5. Thanks for the nice feedback everyone.

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  6. Aw, well said. Just catching up on some posts, a little Libby-binge. Love you.

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  7. You know how as a kid the world looks so big? The woods where you play with your friends is a wilderness and the horizon is limitless. Then you grow up and everything shrinks. I moved to Alaska when I was 19 and the world became wild and limitless again. 43 years later, I've never left.

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  8. I could not have said it better myself.

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  9. Just re-read this post - so spot on. Large enough to get lost in - small enough to make a difference. I hadn't really thought of it that way before but as I approach 60, after 40 years of living here that describes my life to a T. And I'm good with that. Thanks for putting that perspective into words.

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  10. Loved it! And this from the perspective of 35+ years here. I live in (and love) Nome and the Bering Strait Region. However I've often said that in regards to the weather, it's the perfect place for people who like to beat their heads against the wall because it feels so good when you stop!

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