The season is over and I’m home now… or what passes for home when what you have left of physical possessions is in boxes under a carport at your parents’ place, next to the half-finished shell of what will eventually be your tiny house. I’m overwhelmed with an exhaustion borne of 71 days of work in a row, 940 work hours, 50 million salmon, 30,000+ fish tickets and invoices, two plane rides, and caffeine withdrawal. And a sadness that isn’t so much loneliness as it is the sensation of having 7 limbs cut off at once and wondering how you are supposed to get by without them? Those 7 limbs being my coworkers/salmon family.
I feel like we lived through 2 entire separate seasons this summer. The first was relaxed and full of fun and easy-going work (even if that work was 80-112 hours a week) alongside a growing anxiety as the salmon didn’t come… and didn’t come… and didn’t come… until it was after 4th of July (the traditional peak of the season) and we started to prepare ourselves for a bust season. The second season started on July 11th, when I came to work after having been gone 8 hours to find that the fish had come in force, all at once, we were on limits, and everything was about to hit the fan. That second season involved a record-setting amount of fish tickets and invoices for us to process, the announcement of a price that was far lower than the fishermen had hoped for and some other company specific things that were devastating to the fleet, a lot of huffing and door slamming and yelling and tears, and the salmon a never-ending flood up the rivers until we were all begging for it to stop. And it didn’t. We were still getting huge deliveries a week after the season would normally have begun to wind down. We worked more consecutive 16-hour days this summer than I ever have before. There were a few days where I felt that I couldn’t take one more second of it. But I could. And I did.
But don’t let any of that make you think I didn’t have one of the best summers of my life. These yearly seasons of sleep deprivation and 24/7 companionship are my biggest teacher and I always come out of it changed. I flew home from Anchorage on August 14th, terrified out of my mind as I always am on long flights, and to soothe myself I stared out the window at the mountains and waterways of Alaska, turquoise green and midnight blue and icy white mountaintops, and I thought about relationships, and love, and how if I took away anything from this summer it’s that nothing is guaranteed to us in life, not safety or comfort or joy but neither is sadness or heartbreak. It all Is What It Is and all you can do is take each day as it comes, on it’s own terms, and live with it, and people too. They are here one moment and might be gone the next, whether by choice or circumstance, and the best you can do is take what is offered as it is and let it fill you up rather than holding off for something you think you want more. The love thrown my way this summer was enough to keep me going through the whole shitshow and probably the rest of the year, and I might have come home a broke-ass, 33 year old homeless unemployed high school drop-out divorcee but in life I count myself one seriously lucky woman.
Until next year, Alaska!