Initial Thoughts

Here I am, sitting in my cozy room a little over a month since I moved up to Wasilla, Alaska from my beloved state of Minnesota.

If you would have told me back in high school that I would be living in Alaska working as a youth director at a church, I would have likely scoffed and/or laughed at the idea. Come to think of it, if you would have told me that 3 months ago, I would have had the same reaction.

That being said, I am really glad I made the move. This is one of those opportunities that falls into a person’s life so rarely, and I would have most assuredly regretted not taking up the challenge.

The challenge I refer to isn’t just the physical act of moving here– it includes a certain element of “starting over” in some ways; establishing myself in a place where I knew nobody. The challenge includes working with young people who have a whole different set of issues, priorities and life views than I was previously aware of. The challenge includes building up trust with a whole new congregation- one which I didn’t grow up in. There’s the key difference between my previous job at my Minneapolis-based Westwood Lutheran Church and this one at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Wasilla.

It’s a challenge I am learning to love and embrace, even through the frustrations, hesitant push-backs and the sometimes difficult sets of discourse that have to happen when change comes rolling into your town.

And change has been rolling into this region in a big, big way.

Just to put things in perspective, I moved up to Wasilla almost exactly a year after the 2008 presidential election in which this town’s darling, Sarah Palin lost the Vice Presidential race. I moved up to Alaska during its 50th year of statehood. And I am working with a group of children and youth who are arguably the tail end of the first generation of born-and-bred Alaskan Americans. What I mean by that is most of their parents moved here from somewhere else– I have yet to meet any third-generation Alaskans who aren’t native in the American Indian sense. From a statehood culture standpoint, they are much like my great-grandparents who were a part of a young Minnesota, and it will be fascinating to see how that plays out in the next few decades as they grow into adulthood.

Minnesota celebrated its 50th birthday in 1908– 101 years ago. Long-distance radio messages were sent for the first time this year and Japanese immigration to the U.S. was forbidden. Frederick Cooke claims to have reached the North Pole in 1908. Ford’s Model T was first released, Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire, and the world welcomed baby Milton Berle while saying farewell to Butch Cassidy. All of this happened during Minnesota’s 50th year.

Alaska has been celebrating its 50-year anniversary while we have watched our first black president be inaugurated. We’re all participants in a fairly deregulated worldwide online community through social networking sites and cell phone technology. The Ottoman Empire is scantly taught in World War I history lessons, we are facing pressure to drive more innovative and efficient cars, and Milton Berle has been buried in Burbank for nearly a decade.

It’s fascinating to look at the world through the lens of 50 years of statehood.

I hesitate to continue writing in fear of being too windy. That being said, I’m really enjoying my job so far, I’ve met some really great people, and my living conditions are great– I have received a welcome that was much more benevolent than I could have imagined.

And, just to answer all the questions I’ve been getting daily from friends and family:

  1. No, I have not met or seen Sarah Palin yet.
  2. No, I cannot see Russia from my house, or anywhere in this city
  3. Yes, there are moose everywhere. And they’re monstrously huge.

Thanks for stopping by– check back often, as I intend on contributing thoughts from the Valley often.

Stay safe, and be good to each other.


23 thoughts on “Initial Thoughts

  1. THANK YOU, Ian! This is wonderful! I look forward to reading (and learning) more from as you move forward on this journey. Happy day to you. And, watch out for moose!

  2. I left a note earlier and it did not seem to post. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Please update often. Thank you’

  3. Elaine, I think that you are starting to repeat yourself. Ian, it’s great to hear more from you and I hope that you meet a great new circle of friends and contacts in Alaska. Do you think that it is as remote as Crosby?

    1. Bob, I would guess it’s about as remote as Crosby, but WAY more spread out. It’s a strange world indeed up here…!

  4. It’s awesome to hear what it’s like up there for you. Culture shocks are interesting, aren’t they? One wouldn’t think that things are so different there, but in reality when you go anywhere new there are different sets of cultural norms, beliefs, and people.

    oh, and 1908 was only 101 years ago. Sorry to point that out, but ya know… I kind of had to. =)

    Take care! Can’t wait for your next post!

    1. Ahh oh my gosh, good catch, I fat-fingered that one, apparently. Fixed 🙂

      There definitely are some culture shock moments happening… it’s been really interesting to see where the similarities and striking differences exist here. More to come!

  5. ian-
    whenever i hear interesting stories of people finding interesting jobs or whatever i am intensely curious…how did you find that job?
    i need ideas.

    thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Tracy!

      I knew that my previous job as a one-year interim, and I really enjoyed that youth directing gig, so I started throwing my resume around youth worker circles, and it found its way up to Alaska.

      Coincidentally, their youth group was going to be in New Orleans this past summer at the same time as the youth group I was working with, so while I was down there, I met with them and did a preliminary interview, did the official interview in September, and got an offer the last night up here during interviews…

      Boarded a plane on Oct 28th, and started work on Nov 1st. It really was one of those crazy opportunities that just falls into one’s lap, which was really encouraging after not finding a good fit– or any promising leads, for that matter.

      What are you looking to do next? I miss you!

      1. That’s cool! Sometimes you just have to be open to what the Universe presents to you.
        I do not know what I want to do next but I want to do something new, somewhere new! But i always find it helpful and inspiring to hear other’s stories.
        I miss you too! Hope you’re loving Alaska, sounds like you are. Somehow Minneapolis seems a bit more empty with you not in it.

  6. The thing that I’m really interested in is what program did you use to create your title banner?
    It’s exciting that Alaska and the people are treating you well so far! Enjoy the few hours of sunlight!!

    1. Hi Micaela! Great to hear from you. I actually used Adobe Photoshop CS to create the banner– WordPress is kind enough to give you the pixel dimensions to use, so I just created an image per their instruction.

      Photoshop is like crack for the visual arts enthusiast…!

  7. Ian this is so awesome!!! I’m so happy that your loving it up there 🙂

    You should probably take and post a picture of a moose…I’ve always wanted to see one of those buggers haha.

    1. Hi Emily!

      I just checked out your blog, and got the opportunity to re-peek at your art. Seriously, I love it. Sometime soon I’d like to potentially buy a piece– it would be solid to have a set of coffee mugs or something that I bought directly from the artist!

  8. …very impressive blog, you ARE quite a writer (I agree with your Dad)… My comments:

    1) I miss your smiling face around here, but I’m really happy for you that you were brave enough to take on this opportunity, and

    2) Alaska may have beautiful scenic vistas and plentiful moose, but can you find somewhere to practice the Hambo? Just askin’

  9. greetings and hallucinations:
    much happy to hear from the great north north west
    we’ve been hungry for your words
    your journey is young and you seem to have been having a good time and leading your young people on a happy journey. Couldn’t be happier for you.
    until next time …

    1. Hello, hello!

      Thanks for taking a moment to comment on here– I’ve been wondering the best way to inform everybody about what’s going on up here in a more mass-message kind of way without having to compose a laundry-list email to family and friends.

      Talk to you soon, and much love to you and Gramma!

    1. Indeed, it’s a fact I’ve become well acquainted with. In fact, every time I wear my UMD sweatshirt or U of M baseball cap around town, inevitably somebody will tell me about their connections to Minnesota, or at least Wisconsin or the Dakotas.

      Another interesting tidbit building upon that Kare 11 article– Palmer (which is right next door to Wasilla) is full of people with old farm money which belongs to those ex-Minnesotan farmers. I’ve been told you can identify the rich farm money families by the Carharts they wear out.

      When I heard that, I kind of had to laugh– the rich guys in Palmer choose to dress down to fit a certain persona. It’s like all the ex-suburbanite hipster folk who throw on skinny jeans, flannels and big sunglasses to go drink beer at the 331 in Uptown. Silly.

  10. Hey Ian,
    It’s always nice to find the outside perspective. I have to brag and say that I am a 3rd generation born and bread Alaskan. My Great-Grandfather on my Dad’s size came from Norway, but my Gramma and Great Uncle were born and raised in Anchorage. My Dad was technically born in California, but only because they were there at the time. He has spent his whole life in Alaska. His brother and two sisters were born and raised in Anchorage. And finally, my sister Kady and I were born in Anchorage and have spent our lives here. There aren’t too many of us, but we like to represent! 😉

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