I have a confession to make: I secretly feel this exact same way every time I leave Alaska for any extended period of time.
In Alaska, Outside has a capital "O," and it means any non-Alaska location. I'm not trying to say that Alaska is like prison, not at all, or at least not to me. I'm only saying that every time I leave Alaska I feel like Red on parole. Like I'm not gonna make it, and all I want is to be back where things make sense.
Every year I take a few trips "Outside," and each year I discover something new and weird has cropped up in my absence. One time it was the iPhone. Then came Groupon. Then it was Uber and Lyft. Sometimes it's a hot new toy I've never heard of like Shopkins or Hatchimals.
Which is not to say that savvy people paying attention here in Alaska haven't heard of this stuff or we are all hicks living under a rock or something. It's just to point out that certain trends are slow to catch on here, if they catch on at all, and if you're not paying attention, you can find yourself in a situation where your friend offers to call you a Lyft in Seattle, and when you ask him what that is, he literally asks if you're from another planet.
I notice it with my kids too. They don't have the words for it, but their Alaska-based cluelessness shows in the observations they make ("this town has a Waffle House AND a Taco Bell?!; "It's dark outside!" (in June)) and stuff like that.
I was having dinner at one of my Juneau "sister wives" houses last night. We were washing dishes and talking about the northeast, where we both grew up. Both of us have spent our entire adult lives and our lives as parents in Alaska.
"I don't think I could make it on the Outside," I told her. She laughed. "Seriously, I feel like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption." We both admitted we were a little bit scared of four-lane highways and giant strip malls now. Another friend, also born and raised on the east coast and who has also lived her adult life in Alaska described it once like this: "I just want to go back to my moldy cocoon."
As I prepare for one of several annual sojourns to the east coast, her words echo in my head. Before I even leave the Tarmac in Juneau, my moldy cocoon beckons and Morgan Freeman's words echo in my head:
"There's a harsh truth to face. No way I'm gonna make it on the outside . . . All I want is to be back where things make sense."