New Year’s Transitions

For me, 2018 was another bad year. Apart of me really hates to call a year “bad” — or any time period. We live and learn from any and all experiences, blah, blah. We call know that we can make the best of difficult situations, etc. A part of me gets it and understands that I can’t control the circumstances of my life and that in order to successfully navigate tough times, I ought to be mature and learn from shitty experiences, but some years are just harder than others. So, another part of me is fine with saying that 2018 sucked.

Things have sort of been difficult since the messy politics of 2016. Trump makes sense, everything that happened during that time makes sense: the Empire always strikes back. Privilege and power dies a hard death, slow and hard. America makes sense to me, at an intellectual level, with all of her prejudices and power hierarchies.

At the level of the head, it makes sense to me, and I can sort it all out, but at the level of the heart and gut, it was sort of a different story. It took a while to really come to grips, at a deeper level, just how entrenched Americans are in our long history of abuse and violence, of the anger and fear that motivate our politics.

It wasn’t easy to process the support that many in my own family gave to Trump and the MAGA mania, either by way of explicit support — some felt that Trump was God’s annointed leader — or simply by silent assent and an inability to muster the wisdom or courage to speak out against the revival and renaissance of the old American demons of division, based on race and class and gender/sexuality. Dealing with all of this took time, and I think it worked to highten my stress, at a level that was perhaps a bit too deep for me to notice, at least at first.

The Empire Strikes Back…The Empire always strikes back

It wasn’t just Trump, and it wasn’t just politics

But it wasn’t just Trump, and it wasn’t just politics. My nephew suffered a tragic and completely shocking turn of events that left him disabled and unable to walk. We’re just fortunate that he lived, because for a long time we had to live with the uncertainty of whether he would live or die. I’m close with the family — in the winter I rent a room in their house — so seeing the pain in their faces and watching their struggles as they dealt with something so inexplicable was excruciating.

What was more, I had taken the big step to relocate to Maine, to give an important relationship a chance — but that didn’t work out. I had moved out east in December but was back in California by the spring.

Good times — nothing is quite like a summer in McCarthy, Alaska

Then to top it off, last summer was my absolute worst Alaskan summer on record. The leadership team at our little Lodge fell apart, descending into chaotic infighting, and I was in the middle of it, which sent my stress levels through the roof, contributing to a mysterious stomach condition that worsened as the stress of the summer intensified. Something got really fucked up in my gut, and I found myself unable to eat. On a good day, I was eating half of my normal caloric intake. Some days I wasn’t eating at all, and my stomach only continued to get worse.

I think I’ve got my tummy troubles under control, but I still have no diagnosis for the core problem. I’ve been able to treat the symptoms, mostly by treating my condition as though it were IBS. It’s not likely that it’s IBS, at least not as most people experience it. Most people don’t all of sudden have IBS hit them when they turn 40, it’s usually a condition that kicks in earlier in life. But so far I’ve been able to stabilize my health by following the suggestions for treating IBS. I can eat again, and my energy levels are high enough for me to function.

I’ll need the energy because I’m starting a new job, and that’s the big transition for 2019. I resigned my position at the McCarthy Lodge, and I’ll now be working, once again, at a CPA firm. (My undergrad degree and professional experience is in accounting and business management.) So come tax season, I’ll be cranking out 1040s again, crunching numbers and working a ten-key like a boss.

Vintage Ten-Key

The job change is part of a bigger transition: instead of writing in the winters and working in the summers, I’ll be working winters in California and taking summers off to write. I’ll still be following the same nomadic trail, that by now is well-beaten: summers in McCarthy Alaska, winters with the Redwoods of coastal California. And I think my writing will be better off for it.

I’m also excited about my new job. I’ll be working with a small CPA firm that recently spun off from an established firm, and they seem to be buried in work and happy to have an extra hand, quick on the draw of a ten-key.

I’m also pretty stoked to spend a summer in Alaska without having a job. I’ve never done it. I’ve spent almost a decade working every summer in Alaska, which in itself has been amazing, but I’m ready to just sort of chill-ax, to write, and to connect more with folks in the community — and perhaps to travel and see more of Alaska. It’s an effing big state. It’s Texas times 2.5, so there’s a lot to explore.

By land mass, you can fit Texas into Alaska, and still have room to fit another Texas inside Alaska, and then still have yet more room to fit a half of a Texas into Alaska before running out of space

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

4 thoughts on “New Year’s Transitions”

  1. That was an intense 2018. Happy to read that 2019 looks promising, with a summer of writing and hopefully travel in beautiful Alaska. 🙂 After having seen your style with fiat-camper (<3), I look forward to more travel stories (plus it has to be amazing in Alaska)! All good wishes for 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

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