Alaska is right next to Hawaii


I used to travel for work. And during one of those trips I met KC – who made me think about how our realities are constructed in our own mind.

The conversation started out normal – until she said “For years I thought Alaska is right next to Hawaii.” Wait, what??

That is the sort of thing that gets me from “oh, that’s a nice person” to “I have to find out more. How is that possible?”

Turns out it’s possible – if you grow up in a religious cult (Little House in the Prairie clothing and all), not attend public school for fear they will draw you to the devil, and learn geography by looking at a US map that has Alaska and Hawaii down in the lower left corner in a box, without your teacher/mom explaining it further. Hence Alaska is near Hawaii.

That sentence started a conversation about that woman’s life. What’s it like to have a whole system actively working to govern and control your mind. What’s it like to truly accept another human as god’s messenger – not a biblical figure, but real flesh and blood contemporary messenger of god; and he alone has all the answers. To everything. What’s it like to have your parents and church members work together to construct a reality for you so vastly different than even your next door neighbors’ – who by the way you were not allowed to talk to.

How growing up like that can form a prison inside your own mind. How such a childhood can lead a woman to want to escape the only way she thought was possible – by marrying the first guy that liked her, no matter how wrong for her he was; and by eating until she got to be over 400lbs.

And yet the woman that stood before me was fit, smart, independent, not with the cult, not with the bad-for-her husband, with a great career, engaged to a good man, and with the most positive attitude one can imagine.

I simply couldn’t reconcile the two. Even now, after learning more about her, I still wonder how is it possible for a person to change to that extent. It was, and is, a long journey for her – one that can probably fill a book or two, and a Netflix original movie. But it’s her story to tell if she wants. What I take from it is the realization that we are, truly, masters of our own domain. That, with very few exceptions, our life is ours to shape, ours to build, ours to live. And nothing should stop us from living it how we freely choose to. Nothing, and no one.

So whenever I think my life is challenging, that something cannot be done, thinking of KC reminds me how it is up to me to make the changes I want to see. It is always, and only, me.

Thank you KC.

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