I Skipped a Year (Again).
A year ago, I moved to Alaska. I started grad school. I started teaching. I took seven antibiotics a day for Lyme disease, and often puked between my office hours and teaching, between tutorials in the Writing Center bathroom. Other side effects included severe muscle pain, excess sweating, loss of appetite, dizzy spells, neurosis, long days unable to eat. I was fine. I went on hikes. I read everything assigned. I moved to Alaska and I wrote and I met people and felt things and was challenged and exhausted and was it only a year ago?
I fell in love with Alaska. What happens below 0F–the trees shuddering still, frosted white on white on white. The cold. The bite of my first moment at -40 degrees, where celsius and fahrenheit merge. Outside of Alaska, via word of mouth and dramatized reality TV shows, it’s over-sensationalized. Alaska is horrifying and grand and extreme, but really, I wear what I wore in California, but with a layer underneath and some more layers on top. I slip more. I walk faster. Every step a crunch through hard snow.
I fell in love and in hate with the extremes of the light and dark. When I landed on the last day of December, December 2014, there were only about 4 hours of daylight. By February, light was creeping in fast. It’s alarming. The light. It’s happening now, mid-January, and yet still I sometimes don’t get outside soon enough to see the sun. And last year, my first semester of grad school, late March, the sunsetting near 9PM, I was manic and talking at high speed, high volume. I was walking into the woods that surround the campus with a box of wine and slipping on ice. I was scratching my skin and pacing between the campus pub and bus hut. There is so much I can say about the light in Fairbanks, Alaska. The lack of it. The disgusting, indulgent excess of it in the summer. Its rapid changing in November and April.
I moved to Alaska last December. I started teaching. Did I ever think I could love teaching so much? My worst days that semester were saved by my 90 minute class sessions. My students. My students telling me secrets. My students telling me they were no longer afraid of writing. My students confiding in me. My students saying thank you. I found solace in lesson planning and glee in winging it in the classroom. So, I started graduate school. MFA in Creative Writing–totally unnecessary and indulgent, but in Alaska and fully funded (see: teaching). I started being social again. I dived into a new relationship that first sparked when I visited Fairbanks the August before after my initial deferral. I was still sick with Lyme disease. I am still probably sick with Lyme disease.
I was newly agented with a 10 page editorial letter waiting for my attention. I had to defer my revision, just like I’d had to defer grad school in the fall. I was heart broken. My agent, Sarah Davies, was so patient. Wanted me to wait for me to be in a place where I could make the manuscript the best it could be. Understood the exhaustion of moving, of sickness, of Big Changes. But it took me ten years of active work to get an agent, and then I had to tell that agent, sorry, no, wait for the summer, I’m sick, I’m spoonless, I just moved to Alaska and my brain is confused. I never expected I would have to pause my dream once my dream finally kicked into gear. It was my first time not making writing my number one priority. I never expected it to hurt as much as it did.
I moved to Alaska over a year ago and I did the thing I’ve done periodically since I started blogging–the thing I do when I feel vulnerable, when I feel like the people near me might be watching. I shut it down. I stopped blogging when I now feel like I should have been blogging most. Instead, for a Forms course, I wrote non-fiction creative essays about cyclothymia and PTSD and Lyme Disease and Mormonism and my grandma dying that February. I wrote some forty pages of academic scholarship on Twilight and I read a lot of pedagogy. I finished the semester when I thought I wouldn’t finish the semester because, by April, the sun wouldn’t go away and my brain was a drum and it was all so new, too much, too much, but I finished the semester with As and a class that I wanted to hug, students I wanted to keep. And then summer came: giant mosquitos, and endless days, and spongy forest walks, so much more, an escape to California to meet my niece and embrace the costal nights and rock the aforementioned revision in a single month. And in August, a two-week roadtrip up the continent, a 4 day ferry included, back north, because Alaska Alaska Alaska, what is this place?
I am still here–calmer now (by some standards), my 3rd semester of teaching, teaching Academic Writing about Literature, titled Growing Up During the Apocalypse: Trauma and Resilience in Young Adult Literature. I’m head over heels shocked and honored that I’m teaching a college course I designed and proposed on my own. We had our first day on Thursday, and the classroom has expansive high windows that look out to Denali, the Alaskan range, the white and white and white and pastels and frost that will soon turn brown then green and bright. I get to teach books like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Courtney Summer’s This is Not a Test in this room, to students who seem to care, who try, who listen, who laugh when I knock my hip into a desk. I’m off the antibiotics because my body needed, needs, a break from supposed healing. And I feel so lucky. My manuscript is finally out on submission and it’s surreal. I am outrageously happy that I am so lucky. I worked so hard to be this far in the process. Even if every editor says no to BURN, I am a happy girl. I made it this far, so far. I’m doing what I love. I’m writing. My writing is being read. I’m teaching. I’m learning. I’m young.
So, I’m still in Alaska. For now, at least. And a dear, dear friend recently reminded me of my love for blogging and, you know, naturally, I realized how much I missed it. I missed having a place to go and ramble, let friends and strangers read if they so desire. I missed having a place to deposit frustrations and photographs and random thoughts. So much has happened this past year, too much for a single year, and I think I may want to interweave some of those memories into what I write here. But, for now, I’m going to try to at least post monthly with a something. A photo. A passage. A story. Fuck insecurities. Embrace vulnerability. I’ve been shedding my skin here since 2008, why stop now?
In reply to the entry I posted in December 2014, my last post before my disappearance, mere weeks before my move to where I am now: it’s everything and more and nothing like I expected it to be.
I have so much I need to say. I’m going to try not to go away again anytime soon.