So often in life words fall short, and as I prepare to leave Nome, it’s again one of those times. I’m not gone yet, but this will be my final blog, and changes are underway around and within me. New volunteers are arriving and current volunteers are starting to leave, the solstice approaches and the daylight is endless, and I’m beginning to think about saying goodbye. The time seems to slip away as quickly as the sea ice did, and I can’t imagine not being in Alaska a month from now.
And yet even as I struggle with words, there are some things that are easy to say. It’s easy for me to say that this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, that I have learned more than I ever could have imagined both inside and outside the station. It’s easy for me to say that I am not the same person that I was a year ago, and that the changes are for the better. It’s easy for me to say that I deeply love and respect our region and my fellow KNOM staff and volunteers.
But then there are the things that are harder to find the words for. It’s hard to imagine leaving this place and trying to fit the person I have become into a world that knew me before. It’s hard to express the intense combination of excitement and fear, of simultaneously being ready and not being ready, that grips the next stage of my life. It’s hard to tell my friends and family back home just how much their support has meant to me this year. But most of all, it’s hard to find the words for the listeners that I interact with every day. Whether people listen to Story49 or regularly tune in or call in to the Needle Drop or the Saturday Request Show, KNOM’s incredible listeners have made the biggest impact on my year here. I have loved every minute on the phone with you, every song request, every description of the weather in your village, and every moment in which you shared with me the hard and happy parts of your lives. I hope you listen to the link above.
On my first and last audioblog, I attempt to put some of these harder things into words as I join the class of 2015-2016 KNOM volunteers for an exit interview. When you make it past the few two minutes of us being awkward, you’ll get to enjoy me talking about how I’m not going to emote and then emoting, Laura and Mitch having their secrets revealed, Emily “the muscle” Russell making a lot of weird and wonderful sounds in the background (My favorite is at 11:51), and the four of us sharing a lot of laughs over past and future adventures. As promised, below is a gallery of photos from throughout the year. Some are embarrassing, some are fun, and some are just photos of important moments with important people.
In an interview I did for an episode of Story49, someone described a feeling to me that I wish had a name: it’s the feeling of looking forward, but not without loss. And that is how I leave this incredible place. I will leave with loss. The loss of this summer’s fishing season, of weekend bonfires with Nome friends, of the opportunity to hop on a plane to Shishmaref, of walks beside the Bering Sea, and of the chance to hear from listeners every day. But the hole that is cut into my heart is so much smaller than the flood of everything I’ve gained that overflows it. And so while I leave with some things lost, I leave with much more gained. I leave a more patient, kind, and resilient person. I leave with lifelong friends and unforgettable memories, and with the reassurance that people always seem to find their way back to Nome. I leave with a deeper understanding of our world and with the knowledge that I will never be able to express or repay all of the gifts that western Alaska has given me. Perhaps most importantly, I leave with a heart full of love.