Six years ago today I disembarked a plane after a milk-run from Seattle and an early morning departure from Portland, Ore., two weeks after graduating from Willamette University in Salem, Ore., and happy to be leaving my parents' house in Redmond, Ore. — we can get along for a maximum of two weeks. Fresh off the plane, my friend Lauren Brooks took me to the Mendenhall Glacier.
Lauren had been on a semester-long campaign to get college friends to move to Juneau for a summer, this included full on meetings at her little apartment to drink wine and discuss the possibility. There were a handful of us mulling the idea, but realistically, moving to Alaska seemed crazy. Roughly two weeks before graduation, I asked my mom if my graduation present could be money to help pay rent and buy food (and beer) for a month while I got a job in Salem, I was pretty sure I had housing lined up with some friends doing a master's program.
Things immediately fell apart. My mom said, "No, we're going to pay for you to have laser eye surgery!" And you may notice that I wear glasses. Every. Day. I think I finally convinced my mom that they should give up on the eye surgery and buy me a plane ticket someday, and not one home for a visit.
To set the scene, it was a sunny day in Salem and I was sitting on the lawn in front of my sorority house, now crying because I was certain I was destined to live at home with my parents after spending four years on my own, one of those years abroad in Germany.
Lauren happened to walk by and asked what was wrong and I detailed to her what was certainly the worst thing that could happen to a college graduate. Lauren, dear friend, didn't just comfort me, she offered me an opportunity.
"You could always come to Alaska," she said.
"But I don't have any money to even get there or survive on my own," I probably sobbed.
So, Lauren offered to buy me a plane ticket and said I could live with her and I could pay her back once I had a job.
We bought the plane ticket that afternoon and I called my mom and told her I was moving to Alaska.
I finished classes and had my graduation, went home for a couple weeks to consolidate my belongings and, six years ago to the day, I hopped on a plane out of Oregon and landed in Juneau.
It was supposed to be for a summer, I was supposed to get a tourist job and save up money and fly right back to Oregon or wherever else — maybe New York City!
But I stayed. I stayed through the winter and I stayed through another summer, and then I discovered this was home. I loved the people, I loved the place even though it rained a lot more than Lauren had suggested, why would I leave?
It's been an interesting adventure. I've worked many jobs, as a teller at a credit union, as a campaign staffer, as a bar tender and retail sales person, administrative work and finally, I've got a career. It's lucky I didn't leave two years ago when I knew I couldn't handle another campaign season, when I felt like there were no opportunities left, it's good I took the advice of a friend and mentor and applied for a job at the Empire and it's really lucky they took a chance on me.
I've made many friends and continue to meet wonderful people, some who have lived here their whole lives and others who have fallen in love with Juneau as I have.
I've been enamored with the arts community, the endless gallery walks and art shows, the theatre offerings and the musicians who I enjoy listening and dancing to, as much as I enjoy having a drink with and chatting.
I've grown a lot as a person and for as long as I live here and forever after, Juneau feels like home.
Happy sixth Juneau-versary to me.
Now I need to make a pilgrimage to the Glacier to commemorate this occasion.