I’d like to start by acknowledging that my best friend from home is currently in Mexico, where the sun is shining on her shoulders and David Boreanaz’s abs. At the same time. In the same place. In the same pool. I don’t know why I’m friends with her; she’s always doing things like this—casually lounging in a pool in Mexico, five feet away from the actor whose shirtless photo has on multiple occasions been my laptop background (which made for some awkward moments last year when my computer crashed and I had to take it to BC Tech Support guys). I can’t compete with that. Nothing in my life seems cool anymore! This cute parade means nothing to me!
This is Sitka’s Parade of the Species, an Earth Day tradition/ excuse for more costumes. Kids dressed up like animals and marched down the street singing “Happy birthday, dear Earth,” and it was so adorable that I thought I might burst. The whole thing roughly approximated the nativity play from Love Actually; I think I actually saw the First Lobster.
Speaking of animals, the tourists are back (ohhh burnnnn). Cruise ship season is upon us, which makes me feel like that girl in Mean Girls who wants to bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles. I just have a lot of feelings! But I probably have no right to share them because I don’t even GO here. I’m not really a local; who am I to be annoyed by these strangers who stop in the middle of the road for their photo ops? My family visited for the long weekend, and I can’t say I hated looking at tacky Christmas ornaments and visiting tourist traps with them. Now I can finally say that I’ve visited Fortress of the Bear!
Things I learned at Fortress of the Bear:
- Bears can do tricks.
- Eagles are like the Jack Bristows of the bird world.
- Lil Sebastian lives in Sitka!!
So I guess there’s a little tourist in all of us—and there’s still a very real, lived-in, vibrant Sitka hiding under all of those cheesy bear t-shirts. I got to share a little bit of that with my family, too.
We walked the docks in the rain, roamed Totem Park, and even hiked for a grand total of 20 minutes. My brother can only handle so much nature before he self-destructs. He doesn’t like getting dirt on his shoes.
It’s a wonder that kid even agreed to visit Alaska. Nobody in Sitka drives a fancy car, so nobody in Sitka is of any great interest to Dan. I think he only agreed to come because (a) his college roommate told him to, (b) he mistakenly believed he’d get to ride a polar bear, and (c) he wants a shout-out on this blog. He specifically requested an entire paragraph dedicated to HIM. Little brother, request granted.
Ladies, he’s single! Dan Connolly is 20 years old and an Engineering major at Villanova. Someday he will probably make lots of money, which is remarkable because when he was a kid, he sprayed Windex in his eyes. He coated the entire living room in baby powder. He threw his shoes on the roof of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. At a baseball game, he chose a special friend from his bag of peanuts, named it Mr. Goobernut, and saved it for three months, until I cracked it in the cup holder of our van and he cried. In 7th grade, he stuck a paper clip in an electrical socket because hey, what could possibly go wrong? He listens to Lil Wayne and lives for the Packers and Flyers but also watches The Bachelorette non-ironically. He definitely does not read for pleasure, except for Hunger Games. He enjoys nice cars, nice houses, nice shoes, and a nice episode of How I Met Your Mother. Ethics was his worst class last semester. He only goes to Disney for the miniature golf and the food. He keeps his toothpaste in the box. He’s a surprisingly good cook. The Crayola factory was his favorite episode of Mister Rogers. When we were kids I pinched him, and when my mom asked him about it, he told her that I would never pinch him because I love him. Dan’s a real catch.
So it’s safe to say that my brother’s not moving to Sitka anytime soon, but I think he enjoyed the food. Pharmacy milkshakes. Airport pie. Larkspur paninis. Highliner bagels. LUDVIG’S. At last! I’ve finally eaten at the legendary Ludvig’s Bistro and that sound you hear is my brain exploding. My paella was better than the paella I had in SPAIN.
I can’t afford Ludvig’s without a little parental assistance, but I think with time and counseling my taste buds will learn how to move on. Someday, they might even find love again. Maybe, I don’t know, with this HOMEMADE SPINACH PASTA and homemade focaccia bread.
JVC is like living in an episode of Iron Chef, and I love it. Eight boxes of spinach on your doorstep? Embrace the challenge! When life gives you twenty lemons, make BAKED GOODS! Then dance off the calories!
We had our dance recital a few weeks ago, which was a joyful, slightly wistful return to the world of tight hairsprayed buns, marley floors, stage lights and French words. To continue the dancing fun, we worked a wedding reception! An FJV in town was married this month, so the four of us girls bartended (there’s an image for all of you: ME bartending. The priest had to teach me everything). We basically had a very enthusiastic dance party in the corner. Guests started taking pictures of us, and multiple people thanked us for entertaining them. So, Sitka, let it be known: we do weddings.
The reception was beautiful, filled with so much genuine love set against a backdrop of Alaskan mountains. Almost all of the bride’s former housemates came to town. Because I’m sappy and reflective and watch too many romantic comedies, I couldn’t stop wondering how and when and where the four of us will reunite. Mostly where. Sitka is, in so many ways, a great place to call home, and I’m glad it’s been mine this year, but I just don’t feel like I’m meant to stay. There’s so much more to see!
Now I just need to figure out how to love Sitka in the face of change. It’s hard for me to love where I am if I honestly let myself think about where else I might be. I start comparing and get overwhelmed. Sitka doesn’t have the sunshine of California, the big city lights of New York, the friends I love in Boston. I’m so busy asking myself where I’d like to go next and so aware that my time in Alaska is temporary, and sometimes it’s hard to live in the present.
A year ago, I graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in English. I earned the top award from my department. In a world where so few people are privileged enough to hold any college degree at all, I should have been so wildly, insanely happy with my life. But instead I just felt sad and self-pitying because I was leaving the place that changed me and made me feel love, and I was scared that without that place and those people I would lose it, so I choked back the lump in my throat and took a few begrudging photos with my parents before snapping rudely at them and running off to hug my friends. It’s like I thought somehow that being sad would give me more time at BC. It didn’t, so I probably should have smiled more. I probably should have made the most of that day and trusted that good things were on the horizon.
Which they were. I have an amazing batch of roommates here, and Kelsey came to visit last week, so clearly my BC friendships aren’t going anywhere. (We had a lovely lovely week filled with café chats, Crazy Stupid Love, and kayaking. And she’s totally moving back to Sitka next week to be our sixth JV. Right?)
Things are great. So why am I scared again? Even though I know that the best is yet to come, I still worry about what’s next. And I don’t know why, because all I want to do is be grateful.
I want to be trusting and joyful and comfortable with the ambiguities and ragged apartments and lovely disasters that come with being young and free. But I’m scared of rents I can’t afford, loans I can’t pay off, jobs I won’t enjoy. I’m scared of leaving behind the places that have shaped me, of a life that leaves no room for summers at camp or long weekends at Disney and a life where Boston is more than a T ride away. I’m scared of losing touch with people. I’m scared that my relationships are temporary, that I’ll be forced to choose between living in new places and nurturing old friendships. That if I choose to return to those communities I love, I won’t really get a sense of this whole diverse world I’m in. That if I choose to wander, I’ll be lonely. I’m scared of being dependent without actually letting myself depend on others, seeking friends without being one, traveling without experiencing. Of not finding my vocation. Of not doing something truly good with my life, because maybe I’ll be too busy paying off the loans from the school that made me want to do something truly good.
In short, being 23 is hard. But I’m also positive that it’s meant to be enjoyed—probably for all of the same reasons that make it so messy. There’s potential here. I can make discoveries and make decisions and make mistakes that turn out to be somehow exactly right. Nine times out of ten, I like that. When life gives me lemons, I turn them into cookies and then watch Liz Lemon on TV. Does that count? I think it counts. I just hope that I’m good at dancing in the rain. I mean, that’s what my Xtratufs are for.