By Starr Flavin
Oh boy, have I ever been continuously taken out of my comfort zone! Where I am today is where people who knew me growing up may have expected, but for myself, I continuously put on a face of confidence and of belonging.
First of all, I married a man who decided soon after dating that he was going to join the United States Navy (thank you for your service)! I was eager to leave Alaska at this point in my life. Evidently, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Growing up in a tiny village, then moving to California was not easy! I was not liking it the first couple of years there. I didn’t know how to drive on the highway with the thousands of other people! There were just people, people and more people. Eventually I got used to it, found a church and joined the family support group in my husband’s battalion. I also kept busy by taking college courses. The diversity of California soon grew on me. I eventually felt like I belonged, but it was time to move back home to Alaska.
Since 2008 my family and I have lived outside the small town of Palmer, about 40 miles north of metropolitan Anchorage. Population: about 6,000. Palmer is located in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Population: about 90,000. We love the small town feeling of quiet, calm and friendliness. We also love that it is on the road system so that we can leave if we want to. We even found a quaint little charter school for our girls to attend.
There are many attributes about this area of south central Alaska. There are glaciers, rivers and lakes to fish in, mountains to hike and pick berries on, and best of all, spectacular views that never get old. In the winter, skiing keeps us outdoors amidst the dark and cold. Otherwise, we could easily stay warm in the house and in my zone where I am most comfortable. Living in Palmer keeps us connected to like-minded (for the most part) people who have pretty much the same purpose and goals that we have for our children, where education is critical and knowledge is essential for success anywhere you live.
However, this is not what I would define as my comfort zone. I was finally given the opportunity to go back and visit my childhood home (thanks, Mom)! It’s a village called Koliganek located in southwest Alaska. Population: 200. I started kindergarten there and graduated high school there. I was and of course still am related to more than half the village. This is what I knew. Surrounded by elders who spoke the native yu’pik language. I was the “white kid” because I had blonde hair and light skin. That didn’t bother me one bit, because I was still one of them.
We traveled in the winter on the river or through the tundra via snow machines to neighboring villages for carnivals and sports. The Nushagak River is my back yard, and that’s where I spent many days ice fishing in the winter, swimming in the summer or on a boat going somewhere to pick berries and/or camp. Now this is comfort!
Now, back to putting on the face of confidence. As I begin the school year as a full-time college student determined to receive a degree in dental hygiene, there is so much to learn. Wanting to know more pushes me past my limit and diving into the world full throttle, with Jesus on my side. Yeah to stepping out of your comfort zone!!
Starr Flavin lives in Palmer, Alaska, with her husband, three children and their dog (chickens too!). Once finished with school, she plans on her family doing a lot of traveling.
Editor’s note: Starr is married to my nephew Austin, the only son of my younger sister Cathy. They are a wonderful young couple and I wish they lived a lot closer. But having seen the majesty of Alaska, I know what keeps them up there.
Tomorrow: “Baby shower” by Jennifer Brennock