In Alaska, in the midst of winter, it is literally dark. I’m talking about days when there are only 4 to 5 hours of sunlight, and good luck to you if you work inside an office and don’t have windows. Going to work and driving home will happen in darkness, the kind that makes me believe it’s midnight at 5pm. Experts say it is important to take Vitamin D to make up for lack of sun exposure, and lots of people — myself included — have “happy lights” at their desks. I turn on my happy light right when I get to school every morning while I read email, and it shines on my face for 15 minutes and then shuts off. On top of that, January was the coldest month here on record in a long while, and somehow February has arrived warm as can be, groundhogs be damned. Everyone has noted that the days are already noticeably longer, and I actually drive directly west into the sun on my way home from school these days — it is glorious.
I think that living in the dark — whether physically or metaphorically — is beyond difficult. It is easy to start to believe that everything — job, relationship(s), mood, whatever — is part of that dark place. Of course, once we fall into that mindset, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and negativity reaches into every corner of our professional and personal lives.
Everyone told me when we moved that the first winter would be the hardest. That I needed to stay active, and then grin and bear it until the arrival of summer. Everyone worried about me, from family to friends to strangers: “Have you been up here in the winter time?” “Are you worried about getting depressed?” Um, yes, I was worried. I have island blood and brown skin, and this is the palest it has been in the entirety of my existence! But I am also an optimist and a firm believer in the idea that it is possible to “fake it ’til you make it.”
And I’ll be honest: it would be SO easy to be a whiner. To tell Husband that being here is ridiculous. To cry to my family and friends and tell them that I can’t take it. To tell myself that I am unhappy. To believe that the grass is greener in California or any other place that isn’t here. However, since I’m not a whiner and I hate whiners, I decided that I would focus on being me and doing things that I find enjoyable, and then just wait and see. So I’ve taken my job seriously (but not stressfully) and tried to shape it into something that fits my personality and my strengths. I’ve taken on a new sport, two nights a week, and tried to get good at it. I have stayed committed to exercising regularly and using my happy light religiously. I have been blogging for nearly a month. I am part of a book club for the first time. Lo and behold, the physical darkness has passed and I am still in one piece. A decently content piece at that. The light inside me has stayed turned on because I actively willed it, and that has allowed me to start to thrive here, not merely survive.
Similarly, my older sister told me on Friday that she has come across an ideal job opportunity, one that was inspiring just reading about it. I know that her own move and transition to a new city has not always been easy, and I could hear how excited and invigorated she was on the phone. Some daylight for her too, at last.
So I’ve decided that a little bit of darkness is welcome. Not so that we can wallow and pity ourselves, but so that we can really celebrate and appreciate when the light starts peeking out from behind the clouds and lingering a little longer. So that we keep our eyes wide open and let our pupils dilate in order to take in any and all available light, because it’s always there… it just comes in unexpected amounts and different forms sometimes. And to give us a chance to create and spread our own light, without having to wait for the days to catch up.