For the first time in my life I am the oldest person in my household. I am not that much older than my fellow KNOM volunteers but if you put into account that one volunteer year feels like five years worth of growth then by mathematical calculations I am now 30. 30! Holy cow. I’m glad we’re not counting in dog years.
I remember volunteering at the Nome REC center last fall for Halloween. While washing glitter, glue, and candy out of my hands in the bathroom sink, I looked up to the mirror and noticed a long, silver hair glistening by my left ear. I laughed uncontrollably for a few minutes and cried out “my first white hair! I have a white hair!! HA!” A child or two may or may not have witnessed this and scurried away. This was the first of many transformations—physical, emotional, and mental—to come over the course of a year. Time sure flies when you’re getting old. But age is relative and growing older is not a bad thing. It just gives you a different perspective.
I’ve enjoyed watching the new volunteers these past few weeks as they threw themselves into their jobs, the local culture, into Nome community living. It’s similar to what I went through last year but with variations. I’ve hiked that mountain. Explored that dredge. Traveled to that village (four times). I’ve learned to use that editing software and made that mistake on the air. And yet, their experiences are not carbon copies of mine. There is a distinct divide between us, and even though this dividing line is invisible it’s very clear that I cannot cross back to it.
Everything was once new and scary but also exciting and full of possibility. Now, it’s mostly just the later two. KNOM volunteers have the option to sign up for a year, two years, or even three years of service. I believe most volunteers choose to stay for two. As a second year volunteer my expectations and others’ expectations of me have changed. I have more responsibilities. On top of my regular duties as a producer and DJ, I have picked up a specialty project: creating a world music and contemporary native music catalog (to start playing on KNOM 2014!).
At home I find myself living a much simpler life. I don’t want to stay out too late. I can’t really do it, even if I wanted to. I have to be up at 5am for the Morning Show. I don’t care about what clothes are in fashion or whatever the deal with the new iPhone is. Most of the time I just want to read and drink tea, maybe fall asleep on our green couch while watching Game of Thrones.
The others can go tear up the town on weekends. I’ve outgrown that. Actually, it was never my thing. It’s taken me a few weeks, but I think I’m finally coming into acceptance with my new role.
I hope that my past experiences can help guide our new crop of volunteers but I still want them to go out, do their own thing, make their own mistakes, live their own Nome experience. As the designated old person in the house I’m here as a reference point for whatever they need.
We await the first snowfall this weekend. I can’t believe I’m doing this Alaskan-winter-thing again. Excited about it, even. I’m ready.
If I ever feel isolated by the age gap I just tell myself, self, don’t worry. Next year, they will be the new you.