As my time in Alaska draws nearer to the end, I cannot help but reflect on the past two and half years. There have been great memories and some not so great memories, but each of those experiences have made me into who I am today. Also, there are things that I love and hate about living in Alaska. My first year in Alaska was definitely one of the hardest years of my life. There is nothing easy about moving to the opposite side of the continent in a state where the wildlife population is much greater than the human population. I really struggled with the transition and trying to establish new friendships. I am not ashamed to say that I even struggled with depression for a while. Some people think that depression is not real thing or it is something that should not be talked about, but I am proud to say that I have experienced it and have emerged from it a stronger person. In fact, I am sharing my story not to seek attention or throw myself a pity party, but to inspire those who may be struggling with depression for one reason or another.
I think one of the biggest reasons I struggled the first year I lived in Alaska was that I was struggling with who I was as an individual, especially my sexual identity. I went to an all women’s college and had a long term relationship with another woman while in college. My college was a safe zone where no really cared or judged you based on your sexual identity. But after leaving college and entering the real world I became very self-conscious and afraid of what others thought of me and whether or not they would be accepting of who I was. I even went on several dates with men just to try and determine if what I went through in college was merely a phase. It did not take long at all for me to realize it was not a phase. Then after I finally came to terms with the fact that I am indeed a lesbian, I struggled with telling the friends that I had made in Alaska. I slowly came out to them one by one and the more honest I was with them, the better I felt about myself. That does not mean I go shouting from the rooftops to everyone I meet that I am gay, but if it comes up naturally in conversation I do not avoid the topic. Self-love and knowing one’s self worth is ultimately one of the keys to being able to live a happy and fulfilling life. It was not until I finally accepted myself and became comfortable in my own skin that I truly overcame the depression that I had been experiencing. I would also like to thank those in my life who accept me for who I am. For those who may be reading that cannot except me, I kindly ask that you keep any negative thoughts to yourself and unfollow me if need be.
Now that I have covered the bad and the ugly experiences during my time in Alaska, lets move onto to the good times. As I look back through my photographs from the past few years, I realized that I have gotten to experience some pretty cool things and visited some amazing places. I have developed a strong wonderlust and desire to see everything this world has to offer us. In two and a half years, I have traveled to Los Angeles twice, San Diego, Orlando, Tampa, Denver, Philadelphia, Toronto, Niagra Falls, Chicago, Vancouver, Victoria, and Whistler. Also, before my time in Alaska draws to an end, I will be adding Portland and Nashville to that list. When I drive out of Alaska, I plan on knocking a lot more off of my bucket list. I really enjoy travel because it allows you to learn so much more about yourself and your beliefs when you are exposed to new or different cultures and people.
No matter how independent we may or may not be, at the end of the day humans are all social creatures. I have been blessed to have met people from all different regions and walks of life while living in Alaska. I value the friendships that I made when I first arrived just as much as the ones that I have made more recently. I am constantly inspired by the people that I have met. If the people you associate with do not push you and challenge you to become a better person, then maybe you should reevaluate who you associate with. The majority of people that I have met up here have kind hearts and adventurous souls. When I leave Alaska, it will not be the gorgeous landscapes that I will miss the most, but the people and the friendships that I established here. That being said, I am also excited for each of us to go our separate ways in order to embark on our own personal journeys.There is no doubt in my mind that I will cross paths with most of them again.
Not only do we create connections with other human beings, but also with pets. In my case, I became the proud dog mom to a Husky named Olaf. Raising a dog can teach you a lot of life lessons. Patience and selflessness are perhaps the two biggest lessons I had to learn when I got Olaf. A puppy is more than just an adorable fur ball, it is a living creature that you alone are responsible for. They destroy things and will cost you a lot of money in the process. However, what they offer you in return is something everyone truly seeks, unconditional love. Your dog does not care about your jean size, your appearance, or how much money you make. If you love your dog, then your dog will love you back. Olaf may be crazy and hyper active, but I love him anyways.
Lastly, I have had some pretty incredible experiences while living in Alaska. I have gone on countless hikes with some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world. I have jumped off a bridge, although technically I was attached to a bungee cord. I have seen a black bear, moose, wolf, whale, bald eagle and a porcupine in the wild. I was able to see Taylor Swift and Adele live on their world tours within the past two years. I caught enough Salmon and Halibut to feed myself for a whole year. I almost accidentally drove a four wheel ATV off of a small cliff near Wasilla. I also attempted to learn how to ski, key word being “attempted.” I have walked on top of a glacier and several mountains. I had the opportunity to see the US Women’s National Soccer Team play a match in Philadelphia. All in all, I have to admit that I have had some great experiences that I would not trade for the world.
All in all, I have learned so much about myself over the past few years. Not every moment was perfect or easy and it is not meant to be. Life can be dark at times, but it is the darkness that makes us truly value the light. Even though I am excited to move on to my next chapter, Alaska will always hold a unique and special place in my heart. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and sometimes it takes awhile for the reason to manifest itself. In less than a month, I will be embarking on yet another travel adventure. I am headed to the Portland, Oregon area for a few days and will be staying with a friend from college. I am excited to experience the food, coffee, culture, and landscape with everyone in my next blog.
“Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson