Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Visiting prodigal son in Alaska eases motherly worries
Business Development Manager
As a parent, when children leave the nest, all one can do is hope the foundation they were raised on is solid enough for them to survive the wonder years.
On their side of the equation: “I wonder what I will be. I wonder where I will live. I wonder who I will meet. I wonder if there is more beer.”
On the parent side of the equation: “I wonder if they are eating. I wonder where they are sleeping. I wonder if they are happy. I wonder if there is too much beer.”
I have discovered the best way to stop wondering is to see firsthand.
My son, Trevor, graduated from Nevada Union High School in 2008 and from UC Santa Barbara in 2012.
Very shortly after graduation, he moved to New York City to try his hand at wherever the Big Apple might point him in the direction of making a living in fields related to theater.
His first apartment, which he shared with his best pal from high school, was a mind-blowing 64 square feet for a mere $1,000 per month.
It consisted of bunk beds, a mini-fridge and a hot plate. The bathroom was down the hall and shared by five other residents. I did not visit him there.
After a year, he moved to Brooklyn, where he shared part of a four-bedroom triplex with four roommates. He commuted into Manhatten by train and made a living as a barista in a swanky coffee house in Tribeca.
I did spend a week with him there and found comfort in seeing him navigate in his newly created world.
Most recently, he has been living in Juneau, Alaska, working as “whales and trails” guide for a local company specializing in cruise ship excursions during tourist season.
The short version of how he got there is, “He followed a girl.”
Juneau is about as far from Manhattan, both in actual miles and in lifestyle, as I could imagine.
All the “I wonders” resurfaced. I worried he was being thrown off his course, and I worried about his ability to survive.
While I thought I had some idea of what life in Alaska might be like, I did not.
I imagined a life of remote existence with limited electricity and running water. I imagined mountain men with pelt coats trading for whiskey at the local watering hole, checking their firearms at the door.
I think I might have gotten my ideas from a mix of the television series “Northern Exposure” and the movie “Jeremiah Johnson.”
I feared for my son’s warmth, safety and general well-being.
I just returned from visiting there and am again comforted by his ability to create a life for himself in a new land.
He lives in a simple home that sits on the channel leading into Juneau. While he works six days a week, there is still plenty of time to hone his craft (writing) and play and explore.
As part of the tour gig, he has learned about the history of the city, has learned to identify vast amounts of flora and fauna and seeks out humpback whales on a daily basis.
I was able to tag along one day and could not have been more proud or impressed with his ability to inform and charm all manner of tourists.
He taught us the names of five species of salmon and how to remember them. He then took us to areas where we could watch the migration firsthand.
We saw whales and their calves. We learned the nature of glacier activity and really, if you will excuse the pun, it was just the tip of the iceberg
He is as smart and as funny as I believed him to be, which other guests and new coworkers were quick to share. He is a loyal friend and trusted companion.
I am not saying life is not without challenges. He is navigating the compromises that come with sharing a life with another person while still exploring who he is and who he may become.
The decisions of where to go next (the gig is up at the end of September) and whether or not to return next season loom ahead. However, as a parent, I am confident in his ability to make good choices and excited for all that is possible.
All of the anxiety that comes with “I wonder” has dissipated. Now if I can just get to Australia; I have a daughter living in the outback and I wonder …
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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