End In Sight
Last we checked in, the station was awaiting the annual supply vessel. It arrived a day later than initially expected, on January 26th. Our crew of volunteer line-handlers showed up that evening and got the vessel attached to the ice pier in relatively short order (I'm told 4 hours is pretty good time). That meant it was time to start unloading the next morning, which ended up taking about 4 days of around the clock work.
Flatbed trucks delivered sea container after sea container to our team's staging area (one of two) where some of us emptied the containers into the lot and the rest of us delivered the contents around station. I was one of the latter, driving Kathy the IT-28 on just 7 deliveries the first day (sea containers didn't start showing up until late the first day), 31 deliveries the second day, 41 deliveries the third day and 57 deliveries the final day. The last day included 20 runs from our staging lot to the beverage warehouse, carrying the precious beer, wine and liquor supply for the next year. A spill would surely put me at the receiving end of a vicious hail of boos upon entering the galley, so Kathy and I stayed in first the whole way.
Then after the Waste department loaded the season's return cargo, the supply vessel left and the Maersk Peary fuel tanker arrived with its 45,000 cubic meter capacity. Mooring her was a bit of a task since the high winds forecasted meant a ton of lines needed to be tied. But they were a cinch to unmoor a few days later.
In the last week or so I played three shows. My friend Collin and I played a couple songs at the annual Carpstock, dance pop sensation Naked Party played what, in my humble estimation, was the show of the season (on a Tuesday night no less), and face-melting power trio Sex Bolt (name taken from an actual piece of carpentry hardware we have in stock) played its final show. I've played in front of a crowd six times this season and suffice to say I'm grateful for the number of musical opportunities here.
So now you're all caught up and here's the deal as of now: Friday is my scheduled departure date. Airfield conditions are preventing C-17 flights, so the smaller LC-130s are being employed. That means I may be delayed as smaller passenger capacities bump me back. But that depends on what part of this small town rumor mill you believe.
It's fair to say that after 130 days here, I'm rather ready to go. That's not to imply that I regret coming or I've had a bad time in the least. In keeping with the purpose of social media, this blog has selectively highlighted the genuinely exhilarating, touching, and momentous experiences I've been afforded here. I've done things I couldn't have done anywhere else, I've made friends for life, and I signed up to come back next year.
But there's something about living with roughly the same people in such a confined place that's bound to wear on me. We share workspace and living quarters, eat in the same galley two or three times a day, walk the same halls, go to the same three bars. And I'll happily come do it all again next year. But lately I feel like a high school senior waiting to leave their small hometown.
Maybe the restlessness is a feeling I probably need to embrace though, rather than trying to fight or run from it. I did the math (yes, in a spreadsheet, always in a spreadsheet) and figured out that I spent just over half of 2014 in Thailand and about a quarter each in the Midwest and traveling. In 2015, I traveled for 30% of the year, spent slightly more than 25% each in the Midwest and Antarctica, and a bit more than 15% in Thailand. And this year, I'm planning on half the year in Antarctica, 30% traveling and 20% in the Midwest.
As anybody who's lived this lifestyle longer than I have can attest: regularly moving and lacking a permanent home base can be exhausting. There are times when I'm not sure I want to keep moving. When I left Minnesota in September, it felt like I had just arrived and wasn't quite ready to go. But I supposed summer flies by no matter where you are and I'd be back soon enough. Part of my readiness to leave McMurdo points me back to home, but I'm already all the way over on this side of the globe (read: the bottom), so I might as well spend three months in Southeast Asia before heading back stateside, right?
The fear of missing out (FOMO, they call it) is something I've often wrestled. When I walked the path of home, career and marriage, no matter how successful those things felt at times I always wondered to some degree if I'd be happier doing something else, living some other life. And now that I'm living another life I've had a dozen or so moments of deep peace where my heart swells and I think "Yes! This is how I want to be spending my life."
But I still think about whether I should go back, plant roots and build a life in one place. I envy friends with children and marriages and contentment, not because they seem perfect but because their lives are built on a consistent foundation that grows over time. That's a beautiful thing. Mine, on the other hand, is built on continually building something new in new surroundings with new people. That's exhausting.
It occurs to me now that the reason I leapt into lifestyle upheaval was because the thing I most feared missing out on was *my* life. Not the life my friends enjoy and not the life so many other nomads would be more than happy to prattle on about (don't even get me started on some of those jabronis). It wasn't that 15 years in Minnesota wasn't my life, though. In fact, it's just as much my life as the last two years have been. And at this moment it's certainly more my life than whatever the future holds.
So I'm not ready to settle back down and live in one place yet, if ever. I can't wait to get back to Thailand and Vietnam. I can't wait to get back to the Midwest. Soon enough I won't be able to wait to get back to Antarctica. But I'm grateful for getting to come to this place I'm ready to leave. I'm excited for what's next. And come to think of it, when anxiety and self-doubt are stripped away, I wasn't missing out on anything before I left Minnesota. I was just living my life, same as I am now.