Alaska, a Love Story

Considering what’s unfurled in the past few weeks, it’s surprising I feel so much positivity as I complete the last few tasks I have up here and head back to Anchorage to catch an 8am flight back to Denver tomorrow. br6

Two weeks ago, my mother had a pulmonary embolism following her foot surgery. It has made for an anxious couple of weeks; I was supposed to meet her in Myrtle Beach next Monday, and when I asked her about informing the doctor of her travel plans, she said she was just not going to tell anyone. My mother is wildly optimistic; perhaps even idealistic to the point of absurdity. I had read quite a lot on the internet and was 95% sure she would be told not to travel, but everyone in my family is stubborn af, so I’ve been waiting patiently for her to go to her checkup. She was finally told today she can’t go (she told her doctor after I threatened to call every hospital in Pennsylvania to rat her out).

Initially I had planned to drive out there just to have a beach week by myself (my mother had decided to join later on), but I canceled in solidarity. I will return to Colorado tomorrow, take the rest of the week off, and then return to work. The drive from CO to SC sucks ass… it is so tremendously boring, and my 4Runner isn’t exactly fuel efficient.

While the prospect of anything (ever) happening to my mother fills me with dread and fear, the silver lining of canceling this trip is that I will be coming back to AK in late August, for an entire week, to hike, and play, and possibly fish. I had not anticipated returning again this summer, but I have to. I was not here long enough, and I am not done.

I may never be done. toiletEven coming here to another mess left by my winter tenants, my little house looks beautiful now after days of scrubbing, cleaning, rearranging. I had one afternoon to hike and I chose the most miserable one in our immediate proximity: Bird Ridge, which is basically straight up and down. I figured the ridgeline would be mostly clear of snow as it is exposed, and most of our other trails are still snowed in. My trusty hiking partner of the last decade+ changed her plans to meet me up here. We huffed it right up that bitch and back down in :30 under the typical time, even though she is only a few months recovered from major surgery and while I am acclimated to altitude, I am not acclimated to Alaska-intensity hikes.

We returned to town, ate most of a giant pizza and I soaked in my hot tub here at the house (I am still hobbling today). It was fucking glorious. I went back to Anchorage early this morning, renewed my 4Runner tags, ran a few last minute errands, and decided to book my next trip up here. The fact that I don’t have a ton of reservations for the summer was helpful. I feel so much better about leaving now. I told my mother on the way back to Girdwood that I had to come back, and she told me she figured I would.

So few people have been able to comprehend the love I have for this place. The day I pulled out of the driveway at my parents’ place so many years ago to embark on my relocation here is still the happiest day of my life: the level of confidence and mettle it took to do that only occurred to me years later. I remember going through the interview process for the job I accepted up here and knowing — truly knowing — I would get it, and my life was about to change in an unbelievable way. I laid in bed and cried tears of joy at night before I even returned to sign my job offer. Anathema’s Weather Systems will always remind me of that journey – the emotional one and the physical one. I still choke up on my way down the Seward Highway: I have always felt a lot of gratitude, but my life could end any day and I’d be so grateful for the time I’ve had to make this insane dream come true.

Ten years after making this place my home, after a cruel, inordinately lonely pandemic and realizing I would not be able to continue to challenge myself in my career if I lived up here indefinitely, I cried every day as I packed and prepared to leave. I knew it was the best thing for me, but it was not what I wanted. I never wanted to go back to the lower 48, and I mostly still do not want to be there. I have done well regardless, and am finally in a really good place in Denver after a pretty difficult transition. I have never struggled at all with change as most people do, but not one single molecule of me wanted to do what I did in 2022. It has truly been a process.

houseI had a beautiful but hard life up here; I spent many years contending with a lot of my past and figuring out how to create the kind of life, and the kind of person I wanted, and wanted to be. I spent time in every nook and cranny of this state: very few places did not make the long, long list of places I explored. I am often afraid my life will never be as good as it was here, and I will never be as happy, because I am so proud of this experience and what became of me. I remember walking into this house after I had signed all of the closing paperwork and realizing that this house was mine: that at 28 years old, I could see glaciers from my kitchen door and know I owned this tiny slice of somewhere I dreamt of for so long. I have loved few things in my life as much as I have loved this time in Alaska, and I feel bad for anyone who lives his or her life without the absolute awe I’ve felt up here.

And so, as I prepare to depart again, I at least can rest assured knowing I’ll be back in a few months. One of the longer term goals I had was to organize my life so that I could spend more time up here in the summer, and I’m surprised that I will accomplish that this year.

More on the rest of my life to come.


I’ve been thinking throughout the month that it’s taken me a long time to get here. I mean “here” in many ways. The only part of my life that is sub-optimal is the low morale at work, and despite that, everything apart from this one very broad issue is fine.

Everything is good. Really good. I am absorbing books and courses. This summer’s dinnerplate dahlias are sprouting outside. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with many of my friends lately, and I will see more of them very soon. I had a hard landing back here from Uzbekistan, to the news I am now the only not-new manager in my peer group and am back on double duty, but I’ve streamlined both teams and everyone is organized. I’ve burned off all of my stress and the marginal amount of resentment I had been feeling about the fact that no one in my group knows me well enough to know that one of them should have sent me a text, because blindsiding me never ends well.

I’ve been to Atlanta twice since I returned, the most recent being earlier this week. georgiaThe first trip down I linked up with Juan and we hit up the tiny German-themed town of Helen and hiked up Blood Mountain the weekend prior; he accepted one of the offers on his house at the top of the mountain, so that was pretty cool. Colorado is nice but I honestly prefer the landscape along the Eastern Seaboard; I miss the lush greenery and the leaves even if the mountains aren’t as dramatic. georgia2Alaska is also much more lush than here (and the most beautiful of them all).  Alaska has always felt wild to me instead of desolate; Colorado is desolate in its typical bleak way. It is brown as hell here, it gets old. We’ve had weeks of unprecedented rain in Denver these past few weeks, and now even the plains you fly over when you take off and land are green, which is pretty interesting. It won’t last… it’ll be 100 degrees every day soon enough, and the sun will feel like a nuclear blast.

Monthly trips to ATL are more logistically challenging than the ones to Texas due to the distance and timezones, but it will be fine. I will head back down there in a month. What motivates me at home is that my primary team is excellent and I genuinely like each person that reports to me; they are all doing well. We are still the best. I wish I heard more from my boss about what is going well within our group, but I shared that feedback this week and hope he can adjust. I shared last week within my manager group that I need everyone else to step up: I did not come here to be a slave and have such a heavy lift compared to the others: I came here so my life could improve holistically. That was a very hard conversation for me to have, but they were receptive and we have a plan.  This company used to be an awesome one to work for; there is a huge disconnect between the top and the rest of the company presently. Most people leaders are burned out. Virtually everyone across my org has expressed frustration, fatigue and disappointment. It pretty much sucks. I still want to get the fresh hell out of this division. Some days I want to run screaming into the woods and never return. Other days, I want to run straight into 6 lanes of I-25.

Continue reading