One of the questions I get a lot, and I have been getting this question lately from people on the blog, is “How did you end up in Kotzebue???" I can understand why people would ask that. After all, Kotzebue is not exactly a place you just happen through. It’s not like driving down the highway, going through Pocatello Idaho and saying “Gee, what a nice place! I think I’ll stick around for a while”. If you’re in Kotzebue it’s because you meant to come here, you came on purpose. So it’s no surprise to me that people want to know how I went from this...
Kotzebue is predominantly an Alaska native community. Roughly 80% of the people who live here are some form of Alaska Native, mostly Inupiat Eskimo. The rest of us come from somewhere else. In my opinion (and remember opinions are like…well you know…) of the people from “Outside”, there are two kinds of people who come to Kotzebue….people looking for money, and people looking for adventure. Most of the people who come looking for money don’t stick around. They make their money and leave to spend it elsewhere. They can’t hack it. The people who come looking for adventure….many of them are still around.
I grew up in Peyton Place. No really, I did. I grew up in Gilmanton, a small town in central New Hampshire whose reluctant claim fame is being the hometown of Peyton Place Author Grace Metalious and the alleged source of material for her book. It’s a nice place as far as small towns go, lots of hills and trees, friendly neighbors, unlocked doors. Typical New England.
I had a relatively normal childhood. I wasn’t particularly fond of school. I usually found myself on the fringes. Not totally an outcast, but not “cool” either. High
school sucked. I hated that place. My graduating class had a 16th reunion last year (yeah weird time to have it). An old friend from high school was organizing it. She asked me if I was going to go and I think I said something like “No offense, but I would rather lick rusty razor blades than see those people again.” I can think of maybe 7 people I wouldn’t mind seeing out of a class of over 135 people.
So after high school I did pretty much nothing. I bummed around in odd jobs, did some college, had some bad relationships, wasted time. I can’t remember when I first started day dreaming about moving to Alaska, but I know I had been doing it for a long time. The idea of Alaska fascinated me. It seemed like such a big wild place, so different than anything I had ever known. I didn’t know much about Alaska, but I knew I wanted to live there. Fast forward to whenever, I happened to run into the sister of an old friend. We got to talking about what we had been doing and what we wanted to do in the future. I happened to mention that I had always wanted to move to Alaska. She said “Really? I have an old roommate that is from Alaska, I should give her your phone number”. I though sure, why not, I handed her my phone number and forgot all about it. A week later I got a phone call. “You should come to Kotzebue, we always like new people around here”. I said to them, “I don’t know if I would be able to find a Job. Where would I live?” They said “Don’t worry, we have a job for you and you could stay with us til you find your own place.” I left the next month with one way tickets.
10 years later I’m still here. This is my home now. I am tied to this land and these people. When I am gone from here it leaves an empty place in me. So while I love New England I don’t really miss it. I miss my family and it is nice to visit them when I can, but at the end of each visit I am relieved to return to Alaska. I like to say that Alaska isn’t just a place, it’s a state of mind.