It’s hard to believe I’ve been “outside” (what Alaskans call anywhere but Alaska) for almost the same amount of time as I was there.
A lot of great things have happened since — wonderful goodbyes in Chicago, a road trip through Canada, quality grandma time in New Hampshire, and a return now to my roots in Massachusetts — but I find myself going to Alaska in my mind, and all it showed me, to reaffirm why I’m taking this time to live differently and inspire me on to the next adventure.
Here’s what I’m learning:
I love to try new things, especially those that push me further than I think I can go. (It’s good to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast, just ask the Mad Hatter.)
I love to get in shape, and there is no better way than outside, going up, and breaking through a ridge.
I love to meet new people; in the midst of so much turmoil in the world, turning a stranger into a friend feels like one small step for man.
I love community; however it is created (a place, a time, shared values) and however long it lasts (lifetime, four years, an hour), you know when you’ve found it and when you’ve found a good one.
I love to learn about others, how they make their life, what brings them joy, their hardships and struggles, their views of the world and all its cycles; whether alive or ancient, humans are fascinating and there is much that unites us across the centuries.
And I love our natural world, it’s infinite wisdom, it’s scale — it humbles me, puts my life in perspective, and brings out the fight in me for us to learn how to coexist in it, not continue to divide, deplete, and conquer .
As I write this, I’m sitting at the same old desk where I sat as a teenager, pouring over questions and answers of what do I love and what can I bring to this world. (Though I don’t think I had the self-awareness to see it like that back then.)
There’s a teaching in Judaism that talks about learning as a cycle, not an end. You never arrive, you always return — either to a question or to an answer. It is always continuous.
(Thanks to Vicki & Eddie for sharing this with me. Three weeks ago to the day, I spent a night at their home in Saugatuck, Michigan. I had just left Chicago with everything I own in my car. We sat on their wonderful screened porch, ate fresh cherries, and talked about life. It was the first deep breath I had taken since getting back from Alaska.)
I hope to always be returning — to be learning in a way that asks the questions that matter most and that doesn’t force an answer when I have none to give. And a challenge to myself going forward: to always seek out people and places, like in Alaska, that reawaken this desire to ask and answer in me.