I get the same response every time I tell someone where I’m from: “Oh my God! You’re from Alaska? How the hell did you end up here?”
It’s a very good question, and one I keep asking myself more and more as I begin to adjust to life in Kansas. Sometimes I look around and think I am on another planet. That doesn’t just apply to the landscape I’m used to, but the food, the weather, and of course, the people.
Growing up in Alaska, wonder and possibility are two feelings you do not have to look hard for. You could wake up out of bed, get in your car, drive 30 minutes in a certain direction and be somewhere completely remote. You could be isolated. For the longest time that intrigued me, as it does with everyone who has experienced the feeling of being in a remote environment. Alaska is a playground for the curious and for the people who find joy in getting lost and adventuring.
It was my privilege to call it home for 19 years.
Now, I wake up and look out my window, and instead of watching my sunrise over the mountains, I see the sun crest over Frasier Hall. That question keeps popping back into my head: “How the hell did you end up here?”
I could give you the technical reasons why I chose KU. How I have family in Overland Park I can go see when I need to escape from busy life and loud roommates. How the school mesmerized me on my first visit with the large and bustling college campus, and the intoxicating feeling of awe I felt when I walked into Allen Fieldhouse for the first time.
Those are technical and artistic examples. The real reason I chose to travel almost three thousand miles to a place I have never known to meet people I have never met was simply because I had to leave.
The adventure that is encapsulated around Alaska could put a spell on anyone, but after 19 years, the allure to the state became stale. My mom always told me that no matter what you want to do in life, leave home. When you leave home, you either realize how much you miss your home, or you leave and discover a whole new life that you love.
Transitioning has been different. Not only am I far away and in a place that is as familiar to me as the surface of the moon, but I am also making the leap that every student has feared. I find myself comfortable, though. There is a feeling of warmth the campus brings, and the community has accepted me with open arms. It is easy to meet people when you say you’re from Alaska; it’s like wearing a shirt that says, “I’m cool.”
I’m getting more used to the heat. My blood is still a little thick for the heat down here, but I’m getting better at adapting to it. I enjoy the cool early morning breeze and the rich smells filling my morning walk to campus.
I’m far from home and doing something I have never done before, but I am happy. I miss home and I always will, but it makes me feel better knowing I am branching out to unfamiliar experiences. It is all so exciting.