Resurrected In Alaska: Ruminating On Those Times In The Chugach National Forest

Intro: This piece offers some intimate insight regarding my mental health and how nature, specifically the Chugach National Forest (and Alaska’s surrounding forests), immensely enhanced my well being: emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I wrote this piece in partnership with the National Forest Foundation in honor of the It’s All Yours Campaign. This article was previously published and featured on The National Forest Foundation webpage which can be viewed here.

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I used to find it hard to remember those times:

My childhood times.

My wild, untamed and undaunted times.

My running around barefoot, playing in the grass times.

My trail-trekking, rock-skipping, pond-scooping, tree-hugging times.

You know…. those times.

For nearly 20 years, I was convinced that I had to forget those times, that I had to completely relinquish my sense of innocence, erase every trace of my child-like wonder and trade it all in for the less-fun “adulting” time.

Years stacked upon years, grief stacked upon grief as pieces and fragments of me wasted away. The older that I aged, it became further evident that a life outdoors was no longer deemed “lady like” nor “morally acceptable.”

So, I suppressed my passion for the wild outdoors and remained complacent, stuck in a confined cubicle. I worked and worked and worked while starring blankly through the glass windows, longing for a taste of those wild times, secretly nursing an ache too deep for words. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago, when I made the radical decision to fully re-live and re-commit to those times, to fully live out my passion.

April of 2018, I broke free from the identity that the world had assigned me. I fought like hell to radically divorce myself from our cultures norms and to separate myself from being so conditioned to living a life that craved the approval, applause and acceptance of others.

I went to Alaska to resurrect, to be reborn, to awaken. My first summer in Alaska, I immersed myself in nature which comforted me with the warm embrace of peace and tranquility. The Chugach National Forest served as my true home, as I spent a majority of my summer relishing in the sounds of the murmuring birds, swaying grass, and rustling trees. It was in the depths of the national forest, that I allowed time to drift past me like logs on a lazy river. It was there…. In that solitude, amongst the wild, that I acquired a quiet fierceness. I snatched back my childhood times and mixed it in with my womanhood, forming an intoxicating concoction of my newly defined sense of self and femininity.

The Chugach, with all its ineffable wonder, saved me; it held a scalpel to my soul and etched out the darkness. Like a bandage, nature soothed—and continues to soothe— the remnants of my bruised and battered heart, ultimately leading to a continual process towards deeper healing.

Now, I’m happy to say that I’m currently fixated in a child-like wonder: drinking in the sunshine, kissing the earth with my feet, weaving my fingers through the blades of grass, fully living out those times.

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Why I No Longer Care About Being Successful: Words From A Black Broke Blackpacker

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At the age of 18, I successfully graduated from high school and accepted a full athletic Track & Field scholarship to Radford University.  

At 19, as a freshman, I successfully placed as one of the top three finishers in my event at our women’s track and field conference. 

At 21, I graduated a year early with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. 

At 25, I graduated Cum Laude with a Master’s of Law in Human Rights and I accepted full-time employment with the City of Virginia Beach working for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Victim Witness Program. 

Sounds fancy, huh? 

But the reality is that despite how fancy my success may have looked it had brought me nothing but misery. 

Yes, you read that right…..

success has brought me nothing but

M-I-S-E-R-Y.

Because of success I was constantly ensnared in a state of depression. 

Why? Because being successful always required some form of expectation from me. Some level of performance.

Success always required me to do more…. and more….and more.

In the  darkest of nights as I lie awake, success would clutch at my bed sheets, lean into my ear, and subtly whisper,  You’re not doing enough. Those whispering words would formulate negative thoughts in my head and with a resounding thud fall right onto my heart. 

Success has always prevented me from being more “me.” 

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For 25 years, I was constantly A-L-W-A-Y-S on the go. Always striving for success. Always striving to be seen. Always striving for applause, a pat on the back, some form of validation and or confirmation from others that I was on the right track. Success ravaged my soul and gnawed on the bones of my very being; it shattered my hopes and dulled the light of my shimmering dreams. 

We live in this world, where being successful is constantly engrained in our core. Success makes up a huge percentage of: how we define ourselves; our worth; how others perceives us; and how society will treat us. So many of us continue to do mundane work and live a life that is menial and routine all because “success” brought us there. 

Go back to the very beginning of my writing, look above, notice how I left blank spaces after I very descriptively noted every accomplishment and every huge “successful” moment in my life. Now, I will fill in the blanks with how “success” brought me misery. 

At the age of 18, I successfully graduated from high school and accepted a full athletic Track & Field scholarship to Radford University.  

At the age of 18, I became an alcoholic. I was constantly under immense pressure because I was expected to perform well in college. I trained and trained and trained through blood, sweat, and tears. 

At 19, as a freshman, I successfully placed as one of the top three finishers in my event at our women’s track and field conference. 

At 19, I became depressed and although I wasn’t paying for college via money I was paying for it through my mental, physical, and emotional health. My Second year, I quit and transferred to another college where I could be a “normal” student. 

At 21, I graduated a year early with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. 

At 21, after college, I couldn’t find work for two years. I worked part-time in a crappy law office. I sat in a cubicle and filed papers and lived a very unfulfilling life for a while. 

At 25, I graduated Cum Laude with a Master’s of Law and I accepted full-time employment with the City of Virginia Beach working for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Victim Witness Program.
At 25, I experienced first-hand what it was like to work in a hostile work environment and l-i-t-e-r-a-l-l-y hate life. 

So, with all of that said, I stand firm when I proclaim that I no longer care about being successful.  Success has done nothing, but left a dull thud in my spirit. You know, the kind of thud from being let down. Like, success, isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Sure it looks glamorous on the outside, but all that glitters isn’t always gold and so often those who constantly broadcast their “success” would never reveal the in-between. 

I have now replaced success with perfecting my craft. I travel and get paid to do photography assignments. The money isn’t enough for me to take on full-time, but it is a start at doing something that lights the flame and ignites my soul. My craft is something that fulfills me in more ways than being “successful” ever has. 

Cheers, 

D