I have lived in Alaska for a year, and what a surreal time of transition it has been. When I think back to my arrival in May of last year, I am reminded of a timid, uncertain version of myself, lost and outside of herself, entering the unknown and not sure if I was ready for what lay ahead.
Are we ever ready? Life moves and shifts regardless. We choose how to respond.
I am thankful to have found Alaska. I think of Alaska as a metaphor more than a place. Alaska is a state of mind, a way of being. Alaskans (at least, those Alaskans I have been blessed to meet in Gustavus) are rough and tumble, staunchly independent, honest, aware of their surroundings, loyal friends and neighbors, artists in their own right.
For me, finding Alaska means more than a geographical relocating. It is an internal shift toward becoming a sustainable being. I found Alaska less than a year after starting the Prescott PhD Sustainability Education program. In this program, I have studied sustainability so closely that it begins to seep into every pore of my being. Questions arise as to what it means to be sustainable from every realm of life—professional, social, personal, and so on. With increasing awareness of what it means to truly be sustainable, I have found that I am no longer willing to accept the status quo or worse within these realms. This a difficult path to follow and has certainly led to tumult in my own life, and it turns out that once embarked upon it is even more difficult to stray from the course and take steps back that could lead to a return to life before.
Ignorance may be bliss, but I will have none of it. I have found in this past year that I have a strength and sense of self burning with intensity inside of me that I had previously seen only glimpses of. This fire and passion has been surfacing in pieces of many shapes and forms—playing and performing music, writing, immersing myself in the Gustavus community, finding friendship and love, delving into schoolwork and grappling with inspiring possibilities with my dissertation work.
This past year, I have experienced both intense joy and pain in my relationships with people and place. I have felt myself hide from the world and sink beyond the depths of despair. All hope, all light lost. What tiny hint of light remained at the end was not to be rekindled without much struggle and commitment to finding and celebrating a self I wasn’t certain I could believe in.
In this time of intense transition, I have found strength and wisdom in the people who see me for who I truly am, a beautiful being worthy of being loved and finding a sense of place and community on this strange planet. I can feel the storm ebb and cease its fury. The dust is still settling, and the transition is not yet complete. But then, is it ever?
I have learned much of value from the Prescott PhD program. A lesson of particular value is that I cannot offer myself to the world without first committing to the work of the self. This is truly a path less followed, but I firmly believe my inner and outer selves resonate in this choice.
While I can already begin to glimpse my life beyond the landscape of Alaska, I know that I will not lose the Alaska I have found. This Alaska is who I have become, the version of myself taking meaningful strides forward, ever seeking space in this world where my inner artist will be valued and encouraged to burst forth with mindfulness and passion.