19 January 2011

What It Is, Not What It Is Not

I went to Seattle. I took the GRE (the "official" purpose of the trip earns top billing). I saw friends. I saw my parents. I ate lots of spinach. I did not wear wool socks. I drank incredible amounts of coffee. I felt totally at home back in my old neighborhood, but also acutely aware of how in five months time, even Bethel's most extreme and unique features (climate, culture, lifestyle) had also become familiar. While I walked to Trader Joe's on dry sidewalks, I was thinking about my walks to work across the icy, frozen tundra. But when my days in Seattle came to a close, other than straining through a second round of goodbyes, I was genuinely ready to fly back to Bethel--back to my housemates, back to my little "nook" of a bedroom, back to school, back to ice-roads, back to canned vegetables, back to thermal layers, back to Folders coffee in the social hall on Sunday morning--back to it all.

After a few days back in Bethel, I was on the phone with a very insightful (and handsome) temporary-Californian, and he said it sounds like being away in Seattle for a bit allowed me to finally recognize and appreciate this place for "what it is, not what it is not." This does not mean that I will suddenly start to revel in every moment here. This place can still be harsh. It lacks the conveniences and luxuries that I enjoyed in Seattle. But this place feels full of opportunity, full of potential experiences, and full of wind and spirit.

With this in mind, as much as my walk to work this morning in -35 degree windchill (45 mph gusts) was, by most standards, totally miserable--I also felt affirmed and maybe even warmed by the sensation of belonging here. Probably, no, definitely not forever, but at least for now.


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