A little bit richer

The writer is seen in this ridiculous photo posted immediately to her mother’s Facebook as she leaves for Alaska in February 2017 with only one coat, the army jacket she wears in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Sorensen)

The writer is seen in this ridiculous photo posted immediately to her mother’s Facebook as she leaves for Alaska in February 2017 with only one coat, the army jacket she wears in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Eileen Sorensen)

I woke up this morning a bit richer.

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend landed in Alaskans’ bank accounts sometime early Thursday and mine was among them for the first time.

When I moved to Alaska in February 2017, I was quickly schooled in all the things I did wrong. I should’ve brought more coats. I should’ve brought less T-shirts. I should’ve toughened up and driven from New Jersey, turns out the Subaru I left to my brother was the holy grail of cars in Alaska.

Most importantly, though, I should’ve arrived Jan. 1.

I had been offered a job at the Peninsula Clarion at the end of 2016, but my indecisive waffling and disdain for saying goodbye to family and friends kept me on the East Coast for two costly months, making me ineligible for a PFD until now, two and a half years after I landed in Anchorage with only one coat — the one I was wearing.

My first winter in Alaska, my misery waxed and waned with just a few peaks toward happiness. I was convinced, as breakup season took hold, that I would be saying goodbye to Alaska soon, never to see a PFD. How could I possibly survive another winter that cold and dark?

Then that weird breakup season smell disappeared and was replaced by the smell of wildflowers. I came to realize why people were drawn to Alaska. I found myself climbing up into peaks of happiness, and staying there.

As that first, breathtaking summer began to shift back to winter, I didn’t want to fall. The temperatures dropped and I found myself adding layer after layer, so I could still go outside, so I could bear to stay in Alaska.

Now, I’ve seen all the seasons change a few times each, and have started to look forward to the shifts. I can remember back to my first October and compare it to this one fondly because I’ve realized how important it is for me to be outside as much as possible, all seasons of the year.

I learned how to change the conversation I have with Alaska. Instead of dreading the long nights of winter, I’ve come to love the beauty that comes with a late sunrise by running along Resurrection Bay at 10 a.m., with only the sound of ice cleats hitting the ground as the sun rises and a small dusting of snow falls.

Instead of hoping against big dumpings of snow, I now wait patiently for them while I wax my skate skis.

I don’t dread those brisk fall days and what they lead to, instead I look forward to the chance to hike up to a summit and enjoy the fiery colors the change in season brings.

I love running along a trail, in the heat of the summer or dead of the winter, and recognizing that the quiet beauty of nature I live in is a luxury not everyone gets to experience, any season of the year.

And, so, today I woke up a bit richer than I was two and a half years ago.

There’s a world of possibilities outside of my doorstep, runs, hikes, adventures and more that I would never have imagined myself lacing my shoes up for back when I was mentally packing all my bags to get out of this state.

Now, I’m perusing new cross-country skis, getting excited for the next big change in weather.

I showed up two months late in 2017, but that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that I stayed.

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