Day 30 (6/12/2016)
You know what I like about my job this year? I’m learning skills I’d have never learned otherwise. Badass skills such as backing up large trucks with a large boat on a trailer attached to it.
I’ve been doing my job as Fish Bitch for a week now. In that week I’ve finally started mastering the art of backing up trailers, unihitching and rehitching trailers, and washing boats.
Today, I had unhitched a trailer with a boat on it from a van so I could fill the van up with gas without towing a boat behind me. After gassing it up, I repositioned it in front of the boat trailer, parked, and made my way to reattach it. I hadn’t even bent down to hoist the trailer up when a male guest walked by and asked, “Need help with that, miss?”
“…No, I don’t, thanks.”, I said sweetly, and then hoisted the boat up and back onto the van hitch with ease.
The man had stayed and watched me with his arms crossed across his chest as if to wait for me to fail and be proven right, and continued to watch from this smug position as I backed the trailer back and around a corner to park it in its parking spot between two other boats. I smiled and waved at him as I got out of the van and walked away.
Maybe you think I was being too sensitive about the matter, and maybe this nice man was just trying to help. But let me ask you this: would he have asked any of my male coworkers if they’d needed help in the same situation? I bet you not.
So yeah, today I fought stereotyping gender roles – one boat trailer at a time.
Day 34 (6/16/2016)
If I could be any bird, I’d be a swallow. They fly so effortlessly over the river, to catch bugs, yes. But they also look like they’re doing it for enjoyment. They fly straight up into the sky and then let themselves fall back down to the Earth, catching themselves just before hitting the water. They look so free and happy.
Day 44 (6/26/16)
And sometimes you sit on top of your car with new, close friends and watch the sun set as you talk about becoming comfortable with yourself and being intellectual vs. being informed and your preference to Narnia, the Shire, or Hogwarts and about how frustrating it is that everyone is afraid to break the status quo and about the best date ypu’ve ever been on and your most embarrassing moment and and beauty, in people and in nature. And suddenly it’s midnight and you don’t know when it became so late, but you don’t want to stop talking, so you keep talking on the way back to camp, and continue talking in the car when you’re parked in the parking lot.
Day 46 (6/28/16)
I used to look at mountains and see something out of my reach, something to be admired from afar. When I look at mountains now, I picture myself on top of the peak. I scan the ridges and trees and find the path I would take to make it to the top.
Maybe it’s because I’m a more experienced hiker and mountaineer. Or maybe it’s because I view life differently these days.
Day 50 (7/2/2016)
I don’t want you to think I live a fairytale life where I get to climb mountains by day and fish under the midnight sun by night because of the whimsical entries I write.
In fact there are many days when I don’t get to hike or fish or sit around a bonfire or swim in a lake at sunset or kayak. There are many days when all I do is wake up, eat, work, and sleep. There are days, like today, when I want to rip my hair out all day, when my body is so physically exhausted and my mind so emotionally exhausted that all I want to do is curl up into a ball and be left alone.
You might not be aware what I actually currently do for work. My day consists of a lot of cleaning: cleaning out the -2 degree freezer where we flash freeze our guest’s fish, cleaning out the fish shack where the fish guides hang out after their day of fishing (which usually consists of lots of beer cans and whiskey bottles, and I think to myself, “ah, another party I wasn’t invited to, and yet here I am cleaning it up!”), cleaning up fish camp and setting up with filet station for when the guides get back with fish that need to be filleted, cleaning the fish vans, cleaning every single boat that goes out each day. Whereas last year I wore makeup and dresses to work in the front office, this year I wear rain boots and t-shirts I don’t mind getting fish guts and blood on. My hands are usually covered in fish scales, guts, blood, or dirt, or all four.
Some days the day flies by, whereas others drag slowly on. But each day, no matter how fast or slow it went by, I’m exhausted and could easily go to bed at 7 pm. I was asked what my plans were tonight. My answer: “To try not to fall asleep before 10.” A valiant goal these days.
I don’t want you to think I always wake up with a smile on my face and float through my day and go to bed with a sigh of contentment. I have to pull myself from the comfort of my sleeping bag and 3 blankets to be greeted by the cold morning air every day. The only thing worse than doing so is putting on a cold bra. And (what seems like) most nights I’m so tired I can hardly manage to walk to .4 miles back to the employee camp let alone go for a post-dinner hike.
I deal with many of the same challenges I’ve always dealt with: trying to eat well and the impending body image struggles from not eating well, feeling resentment toward lazy coworkers, feeling left out by friends, missing my parents and home.
But guess what? It’s all worth it. I used to deal with all these same day-to-day struggles and challenges, but I was dealing with them while I was living a life I didn’t want to be living. It’s all worth it now because I’m living the life I want to live, a life that actually does make me wake up with a smile and go to bed with a sigh of contentment, a life that does allow me to hike by day and fish by night and swim at sunset and kayak. Not every day, but lots of days. And I work for a company that cares about me and my happiness. And most importantly I feel like I’m not living a lie just to appear successful, just to be acceptable in society’s eyes.
So, yeah. I’m currently laying in an unheated yukon tent, too tired to shower for the second night, probably covered in a thin layer of fish guts and grime, and so exhausted my eyes hurt because I’ve stayed up to type this, but I’m happy and it’s worth it.
Day 55 (7/7/2016)
Today I almost lost a boat down the river.
So, we have small, metal drift boats that go out on the river every day to fly fish for either salmon or trout. When they get back, I back the boats into the small driveway leading to our eddy (still water along the side of a river created by a curve in the shore), chock the boat trailer’s tires with wood so they don’t slide backward, unhook the boat from the van hitch, and prop it up on a metal pole so the water in the boat drains out the back.
Today when I went to do this, the metal pole was gone and I had to go looking for it, causing me to completely lose my train of thought. Once I found it, I came back and immediately unhooked the boat from the hitch to prop it up. Within a half second of doing so, I realized my mistake: I’d forgotten to chock the tires. “SHIT SHIT SHIT” is all I could say as I tried my hardest to hold the boat back from rolling into the river, to no avail of course. I was still under the impression I could somehow save the boat from crashing into the river when I realized my foot was tangled in the metal chains used to hook the trailer to the van. That’s when I started to yell, “HELPPPP!”. I was sure I was not only going to sink the boat, but also drown with it.
My foot came untangled just as the boat hit the water and all the fish guides came running up, one grabbing the boat from going too far into the river and another grabbing me from the ground.
John bent down to help me up and asked me if I was OK as he inspected me for wounds and all I could utter was, “Is the motor OK?”
It was and so was I. Just a scraped knee and a bruised ego, luckily. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking for an hour.
Lesson learned: always triple check you’ve chocked your tires!
Day 56 (7/8/16)
Sometimes the world just seems really heavy. And some days it feels like it’s all sitting on my chest. Maybe you feel the same.
Today felt that way. I woke up to more terrible news about people killing other people purely out of hate, as did you. And today it all just seemed like too much. Too much to process, too much to digest, too much to understand, too much to handle. But I still had to go to work and deal with silly things like washing boats and filleting fish (I say “silly” not because those that are silly, but because life sometimes seem silly when these tragedies are happening), and all the while the world was sitting on my chest making it hard to breathe, hard to move.
I needed to get away from the heaviness, from the raw and brutal reality of our world The minute all of my tasks were done, I packed myself some leftovers and an apple, grabbed my bag, got into my car and drove away. I ended up at the bottom of my favorite hike as I often do when I need time and space for myaelf.
And now, as I sit in the sun, eating quinoa and pita bread, looking over my favorite place in the entire world, finally able to breathe, I wonder: how are you dealing with everything? What do you do to make the world seem less heavy? Where do you go, not to forget, but to renew; to give you the strength and courage to go back out there in the world knowing you’ll likely wake up to another tragedy you’ll have to carry around with you?
I hope you’re giving yourself that kind of time and love, to digest and renew. I hope you’re you know that you’re not alone in feeling like you’re carrying the weight of this world. I hope you know we’re all in this together.
Read Alaska Diaries from the beginning: Week 1 and 2