Becoming Alaskan: What comes next

  • Sunday, January 17, 2016 1:01am
  • Neighbors

Almost one full year ago I left the Juneau Empire as a page designer, only to start down this road to finding out what it means to become an Alaskan. Since that time, we’ve talked about everything from fishing for the first time to losing a ski while heli-skiing to getting locked in the Governor’s Mansion.

In that time, the stories haven’t all been mine. There were stories about Alaskan weddings, jet-boating and hiking the Chilkoot Trail. There were silly Alaska questions, tall-tale myths and grandiose legends about Alaska. There was even Tinder.

Looking back at it all — this zany, hodge-podge year of storytelling — I think we’ve gotten somewhere.

Let me pause there for a moment though and take you back to the holidays (it will be quick, I promise). For Christmas and New Year’s this year, I made the long slog back to Seattle (incidentally, this really is a slog when you’re on the milk run both ways). While I was there I saw family, friends and Star Wars in 3D — complete with an ancient Coast Guard helmet worn by my Uncle David. (He thought it looked like Luke Skywalker’s helmet. Sigh.)

In seeing and chatting with all these delightful people, there was one conversation that stands out in particular. One evening I went to a wedding for a high school friend with a group of even more high school friends. Considering I avoided my high school reunion like the Black Plague this year, this group of friends was the most people I’d seen from high school in a long time. Among them was my senior prom date, Brad, who now lives in Idaho.

We started talking about life living outside Seattle and he asked me, “What’s your thing that you do every time you come back to town?”

For him it was going on his favorite run from his days on the high school cross-country team; for me it was reading a book in my old room. For both of us though, these activities were comforting in a nostalgic sort of way, not in a way that made us want to move back.

After a few minutes of back-and-forth comparison of the merits of living in Idaho or Alaska (Alaska – no contest), he asked me “So do you think you’re going to stay in Alaska?”

This question is the part that makes this little chat really stand out for me. It is the crux of this story, the whole point, the heart of the issue. If you’ll notice, he didn’t ask me, “So when are you moving home?”

Because for Brad, Seattle wasn’t home anymore — Idaho was. Seattle is where we’re from; where we return to see our friends, family or go for a run. This wasn’t a question of moving home; it was a question of whether I was temporarily living in Alaska — or was I an Alaskan?

And you know what? I told him I’m an Alaskan.

So here, dear reader, is where we flash forward to today. Today it’s raining outside. Today I’m looking at the snow on Mount Juneau and daydreaming about escaping to Eaglecrest this weekend. Today I’m wondering what comes next in this Alaskan life of mine.

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