Growing up and living in Juneau all of my life, I’m often not aware of change until I revisit the places I’ve been before.
The other day, I decided to visit my old middle school. Although I live within a five-minute walk away from Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, it was the first time I visited the school in four years.
My first visit back didn’t disappoint. The first thing I heard once I made my way up the hill was: “GAHHHHHHH!”
In front of me, three children ran up and down the hill in front of the school, the one that slopes down from the entrance of the school to a parking lot below. They jumped around, flailing their arms and legs with excitement. Cute, right? The kids were sledding down the snowy hill as I walked up, heading toward the trail loop that opens into the woods and around the back of the school.
I like to go on morning runs, and that day I was feeling extra ambitious. Why not run up the hill of my old middle school and run the trail near there, I thought? Well, I can tell you why not — I might be one of those 6 a.m. runs people, but I am not a “let’s run up a steep hill for fun!” person. By the time I made it to the top of the hill and near the school, I had to stop and breathe before moving any farther.
The thought brought me to the group of kids slipping down the hill with their sleds. Did they know that Floyd Dryden Middle School has a much better, steeper slope behind their school? Have they ever been to Evergreen Cemetery on field trips? Were they ever able to sled down that large hill for gym class while attending Harborview Elementary School?
Once on the trail, though, I was ready to keep moving forward. I have memories of the trail being long and strenuous, and I distinctly remember when my middle school class was asked to run the trail for gym class. I fell behind and was one of the last ones to finish, and I keeled over about halfway through the route from exhaustion. That’s where I decided to start walking instead, which lengthened my mile race time and embarrassed me for months after. I still recoil thinking of myself moving slowly down the trail, short of breath and overwhelmed with the feeling of humiliation.
Today, though, I was able to drift through the trail with ease. Hitting the spot where I stopped my run back then, I wondered how I could ever have thought the trail was long. By the time I made it to the other side, where the trail opened up at the top of the hill behind the middle school, I was cruising along and the kids sledding were still running up and down with sleds in hand.
In that same month, I ran up Mount Roberts with a loaf of sourdough bread and goat cheese in my bag, without proper boots and cleats. When I was younger, I considered Mount Roberts a hard hike; now, as unprepared as I was, the hike was a lot easier than I remembered.
Maybe, too, the change has been in part due to the physical changes I’ve gone through — I’m years older, and my body and brain are better equipped to take on hikes and process memories. Part of me recognizes that without a willingness to revisit the past, however, I won’t be able to recognize the progress I’ve made in my life.
It took me four years to revisit a place I spent three years of my life, and why? Maybe it was never on my mind to go back, or maybe I wasn’t ready to. Either way, I’ve at least gotten better at running and have a few tips for anyone who wants to go sledding in Juneau.
• Tasha Elizarde is a recent high school graduate living in Juneau. Read her bimonthly column in the Neighbors section of the newspaper. Contact her at Tasha.firstname.lastname@example.org.