There are two years in one in Alaska. Not seasons, years. There’s your work year and your recreational year.
When I lived in California there was a fishing season and a hunting season, but the hunting season was just a few weeks and I shared my region (comparable, maybe, to one of the Southeast Alaska units) with 33,000 others. The trout season was a lot of fun, but took a minimum of three hours to get to really premium ground so I fished maybe 20 days a year.
Here it seems like I am living two lives and life is going twice as fast. So, there’s the school year, and a separate year for recreation since there is not a day in which the rivers close, or there isn’t something to hunt. Most times, there is an overlap so devastatingly interesting and productive, it’s impossible to do both.
So, in order to keep a grip on things, I’ve been reading about efficiency and life optimization to make sure I’m doing things right and won’t wake up with years having been wasted. Not in a self-help sort of way, but as a way to make the most of the ever-increasing rate of time passage.
I came up with two words I wanted to focus on last year: prioritize and create. It sounds really cheesy, but it helped. It helped clarify what I wanted to get out of the year, not just make a tired old resolution I had no intention of keeping, or mock those who make resolutions they had no intention of keeping.
I tried to remember to prioritize my effort and money. Was it worth it to get all caught up in trying to win on social media through political comments? Or should I focus on local issues, things on which I can have a greater impact. I’ll surely be in a better mood. I did and was only occasionally, regionally stressed.
There is always something that I could want if I put my mind to it. Always some piece of fishing, hunting or camping gear, but rather than fall victim to endless accumulation, I’ve been saving and looking forward to better, more Alaska trips. I love my deer and bear programs here in Southeast, but the sheer fact that it costs someone from the south $18,000 to hunt a moose — and would cost me just airfare, a hunting license, and a few others logistical costs — makes me think I should definitely prioritize an epic trip and make it happen.
My buddy Matt (and others) said that identification is important, it’s like giving yourself permission to give a pursuit both barrels. Once he identified himself as an artist, not some dude who did some art, things took off. I asked myself what I was. Teacher. Writer.
I didn’t see myself as a business owner, so I left a business I co-founded which freed me of a lot of stress and time, though I believe the business could still be successful. I didn’t see myself as a coach anymore, more a guy who coached. Both were very difficult, but the decisions have made a great difference for me as the writer, not to mention I got to spend Christmas with both my brother and mom for the first time since 2007.
This seems to work for now, and the last year has been incredibly productive and fulfilling, but I don’t have things figured out — probably never will, which is fine. Just because I read a book on essentialism, doesn’t mean my life will be simplified and efficient forever. I donated probably half the clothes I own (old camo included). In some ways, it’s only a little less disorganized and cluttered than it was.
I think we’re always a work in progress, especially when it comes to being a writer and outdoor enthusiast, but I can’t wait to see what I learn in 2019.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.