Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dignity Intact - Part 2

I'm going to try to let you leave Juneau with your dignity but I have to do my job.
Leave Juneau with your dignity.
Have to do my job.
Leave Juneau.
With your dignity.
Do my job.
I'm going to try.
My job.
With dignity.
Going to try.
That sentence and parts of that sentence bounced around against the walls of my brain unendingly like the 1970's Atari Pong game for months after I left Juneau.
It would sneak up on me when I least expected it.
Words and concepts and a sentence that continued to bounce off the walls inside my head.
I did not spend a lot of time evaluating or questioning or trying to make sense.
Bouncing words.  Bouncing thoughts.  Bouncing concepts.
And then one day I was walking on BLM land in Cody months after I had gotten on a ferry and sailed away from Alaska, and was not thinking about Juneau or the job or dignity at all.
I was just wandering in the high desert plains of BLM public land outside of town and thinking about cactus and antelope and sage brush and small and fragile wildflowers that were struggling mightily to grow in dusty and sandy soil.
And just like that the words stopped replaying in an endless loop in my head and I found myself walking and knowing why that one sentence had bothered me so much for so long................
After I crossed the two wooden planks (that substituted for a bridge) and made my way to the opposite side of the stream I looked up and to my left and saw a small set of steps that led directly up to a trail.
I could hear rushing water further downstream but the rocks obscured my view and I decided to first walk along the stream bed...............
The ground was very wet and in places very muddy, but what really caught my attention was the moss hanging low on the sides of each of the rock ledges.
Water was running gradually down and also through the rock walls that surrounded the stream high on both sides.
The vegetation was lush and still very green and was soaked with water...........
A rope swing hanging from a tree limb across the width of the stream.
I do not know if the water actually gets deep enough to swing on the rope but on this day the stream was fast moving and shallow..............
I gradually moved up from the stream bed and was now walking along a muddy and wet leaf filled ledge.
The stream was directly below me and all around me I was surrounded by layers and layers of rock..........
Looking inside and underneath a rock overhang..............
I learned a long time ago that there are no straight lines in nature.
But after looking closely at the rock formations around me I wondered if this place was an exception.
This rock platform looked almost as if it had been cut by man on purpose to provide for easier walking close to the stream.
But all of the rocks around me were incredibly geometrical and orderly looking.
I am not sure and did not inspect the platform closely enough to find the answer.
Either way, I found the rocks that surrounded me on both sides and also down beside the stream incredibly beautiful and interesting.................
A moss covered fallen tree stretching all the way down to the stream...............
After spending a lot of time taking photographs of the moss and waterfall and rock formations it was time to move on.
I climbed the steps and again picked up the trail.
Within just a minute I stopped, looked up the hill to my right and debated whether or not to bushwhack up or stay on the trail.
I was moving away from the water and did not want to move away from it.
What I was hoping was to hook up with a trail that would take me high onto the upper trails where I could look down on the stream and eventually Machine Falls.
The trail eventually worked its way uphill and 10 minutes onto this new trail, and as I was still gaining elevation, LC called me to tell me that his truck was ready.
I told him that I would be home within the hour.
I was a fair distance from the truck by that time and after getting off the phone debated whether to turn around and travel back the way I had come or continue ahead on the trail I was now following.
I assumed that the trail would eventually lead back down the water and hook up with still another trail that would take me back to the truck, so decided to continue moving forward............
I was hiking much faster at this point because someone was waiting for a drive to the garage and I had promised to get home.
And so I took very few pictures, was aware of the fact that I was moving away from the stream but did not take the time to dwell on that, and was really just hoping that I had not made a very bad decision by not turning back after LC's call................
Looking deep into the woods.
I am beginning to really love this place............
After walking on open trail, along narrow trail alongside a steep drop-off, unexpected trips down into a dry gorge and then back out of it, a sharp turn and change in direction of the trail, and an unexpected section of purely evergreens after seeing only hardwood trees for about 30 minutes I ended up here..............
I ended up exactly at the same point of the stream that I had left 30 minutes before.
And then suddenly I remembered something important.
The sign that I had seen when I first entered the trail did not only say Busby Falls - it said Busby Falls Loop.
I felt like a putz.
I would not have cared one way or another if I had simply been walking and wandering and photographing, because when I am doing that it is all about the journey.
But when I was trying to get out of the trails and meet up with my Mountain Boy I realized that I had just wasted a bunch of time.
No matter.
As soon as I saw the stream and the two-plank-bridge and the woods steps on the opposite side of the stream I knew exactly where I was and also knew that I would make it home within the promised hour............
The sentence had wormed its way into my brain and I couldn't shake it loose.
And then I realized some things about that sentence and how it specifically related to me and my employment experience in Juneau.
My new young manager, not long after he arrived in Juneau, made the observation that we (he and I) were being set up to fail.
I had had the same thought many many times but did not voice that to him at the time. 
Ultimately even though I was only there for 13 months I stayed in Juneau too long.
I stayed as other managers from other parts of the country came and went (through what effectively became a revolving door), some even during the time that I was there.
When you have given up your entire life to start a new one in Alaska, you do everything you possibly can to try and make that new life work.
And so I tried everything I possibly could.
Trying hard to change the narrative that ended with "being set up to fail".
I was treated very badly by many people while I was there and I didn't deserve to be treated that way.
I didn't respond in kind.
I didn't compromise either on my personal or professional integrity and didn't let the situations that I was put in force me to become less than I was.
Nobody can "let" you leave with dignity.
Nobody else has anything to do with personal dignity.
Dignity is intrinsic.
You either have dignity or you don't have dignity.
Your having or not having is based on your actions and your words, how you live your life, the decisions you make, how you treat others use a Southern expression...........whether or not you "have your heart right".
I left Juneau with dignity.
I owned it.
And nobody could take it away from me.
To quote again: 
I have preserved my identity, put its credibility to the test and defended my dignity. What good this will bring the world I don't know. But for me it is good.........Vaclav Havel

That and $3 will buy you a cup of coffee in Juneau..............

No comments:

Post a Comment