Kitty Sopow: The Wish

Imagine you’re a child sitting in a field of grass; you see a dandelion and your eyes perk up. As you pluck it from the base of the earth, you think of the one thing you wish for most in the world. What was that young you thinking of? What did you whisper to yourself as you blew the seeds into space to take on a new life? 

For Kitty Sopow it was always the dream of her parents getting back together.

This week we will be exploring the brave and honest story from my dear friend, Kitty.

I met Kitty in a Target in Anchorage, which is strange because neither of us lived in Anchorage and neither of us lived in a Target, although it sometimes feels like it. Kitty had known my then boyfriend through Skype calls as they worked together on a project. As we were strolling down the aisle I remember him squinting his eyes and saying to me ‘I think I know her’. Then he said it to her, “I think I know you”. I remember looking at Kitty and thinking ‘damn… she’s cool.’ She had punk rock hair, 70’s fashion glasses, with printed leggings and an oversized sweatshirt on. She had a huge grin on her face as she finally got to meet her friend outside of the screen. I lingered back from the conversation, as shy people often do, trying to not embarrass myself in front of the cool kid.

“Kitty, what were your first impressions of me?”

“I could tell.. you were like ‘something is wrong with this bitch!’”

“HA All I kept thinking is… this girl is a badass!”

“WHAT?!?”

This is where I like to begin because this is where Kitty and I began. And, as I’ve learned many times in my life, first impressions are often *pardon my language* total shit. She said she thought I didn’t like her. She thought I was assessing her, trying to figure out if she was into my boyfriend or not. She shared that when she first moved to the island in Alaska for the summer, which is how we became closer than a Target meet and greet, she thought I was a “wet blanket”. RUDE. To be fair, she only knew me for five seconds and thought I was scared she was into my boyfriend- I can’t hold that against her. We all do it. Another commonality among the human race. And so, this was where our story began: Through thoughts not discussed, but impacting the relationship regardless.

As we continued on the with the interview, agreeing that we were closer friends by overcoming our preconceived ideas, I started to find a common theme- often the things we don’t talk about are creating the biggest impact in our relationships.

“Why do you want to tell your story? 

“Well, ya know, I want to support you. And I’m always the one recording stories, so [I thought] it would be kinda nice to reverse the rolls…”

Kitty just graduated with a Masters of Science in Applied Anthropology in August of 2019. This degree is what brought her to Klawock, Alaska and into my life. For her thesis she wrote about subsistence on Prince of Wales. She interviewed people about the role subsistence plays in their lives. I spent many nights with Kitty hearing her talk about her interviews and would see the way she lit up when she became a part of someones story. In a way, I think she influenced me to start this project of telling other peoples stories. Seeing the way she became so involved and immeshed in each persons way of life was intoxicating.

“What do you like about your role as the interviewer?” I asked. 

“You know, you just sit in silence and people just tell you what’s important to them and I think that’s really cool.” 

Kitty, still airing that ‘cool girl’ vibe even today, is sitting on her bed, morning hair falling every which way, as she paints her toenails a merlot red. Oversized boxer shorts and a fitted tank top sets the tone for an ‘I woke up like this’ conversation.

“So [Kitty] the other part of today, obviously, is talking about a story that you have that you feel like might connect with other people… Do you have a story in mind?”

This is where I started to see a different side of Kitty. Her words became a little more rushed than normal and I could feel her energy shift from confident to unsure. The cool-girl vibe still lingered but mixed with a story that she has been holding in for some time. 

“Can I cry while I tell you.. I think I know a story I want to tell…” 

Her eyes were watering and her voice began to shake. She took a deep breath in.

“When I was a kid, there were dandelions all over the place, obviously in the spring. And uh, and my Aunt told me if I picked one up and blew, when all the whispers went away in one blow your dream/wish would come true. And they would always say that stupid wish would come true, like, if you wish on the first star that you saw or, or like, *sniffles* you blew all your birthday cake candles out in one blow your wish would come true, but I never could… and for years all I did was wish my parents would get back together. And yeah… sometimes I sit here and I forget that for years I would just oh, I would wish so hard every night when I’d see a star, every year on my birthday, or every f****ing single breath in the spring I would wish that. And they never got back together and so… I would go from like being at my dads house with my step-mom who hated me, to going to my moms house with my step-dad who we hated.”

I could tell this was something she didn’t talk about often. This was a story that came through with most of her relationships, both platonic and not, but was never said out loud. It felt as though Baby Kitty was sitting across from me, still just wishing on her flowers, candles, stars and now blog posts for the miracle of a family that didn’t know the word ‘divorce’. I know she isn’t alone. I’ve sat with friends, clients, partners, you name it, who all dreamed of different family dynamics. My parents never got divorced, but I remember when things would get bad, using some of my own wishes on a desire to feel like the Brady Bunch. I didn’t talk about it for a long time though. Blood is thicker than water, therefore, it is easier to drown in. As Kitty took her deep breaths between sentences, it felt like she was working her way up to the surface. With each word that left her lips, the heaviness seemed to start lifting. She was no longer holding in the story that held her under for so long.

Kitty was coming up for air in front of my eyes. 

Kitty went on with how this whole situation impacted her choices moving forward. She, like a lot of kids that have difficult relationships with their families, learned to be independent. She knew as soon as she could leave their care she would; her ambitions fueled by the desire to be done with needing her family. That mentality, however, started to feel a bit bit blurry when she got the news that takes over much of the space in her mind today. 

“I was just like thinking you know, wow, like I spent years just thinking about that one wish, ya know? Now it’s just weird because well my moms got breast cancer… and I had to call my dad and tell him. And it was like, I’ve know for a long time that my moms had cancer like at first she had skin cancer, then had cervical cancer, and now its in her breasts and lymph nodes and my dad didn’t know any of this… and he was like ‘Oh, thanks for telling me.’ And I just thought that was, like, just weird. It’s so weird. What’s really weird, okay, is so my dad’s mom also has cancer. Everyone else knew that my mom had cancer but my dad didn’t and it was just weird. ‘Oh yeah dad, sorry, you’re the last one to know my moms had cancer for like a year… And its like, you know, I know my dad at one point had to have feelings for my mom… so, like, I wonder what he is thinking?… his mom has cancer, his ex wife now has cancer, I wonder if he’s thinking ‘oh my daughter is going to get cancer.’

As she said this sentence I could feel my body start to heat up, because all I could hear in that sentence was ‘oh, is my friend going to get cancer?’ My friend, that was so rawly telling me about the difficult childhood she had and her family’s battle with cancer, and the person that was there for me in some of my darkest times, would I see the day that she get’s sick? I tried to let the thought pass through, not letting it derail the conversation. 

She continued on about this strange dynamic that now existed and then it hit me, was my friend sitting there also wondering if she was going to get cancer? 

“You know [Kitty] you mentioned your dad wondering if you were going to get cancer, but is that something you’re thinking about?”

“I think so. I always thought I was going to die from suicide or cancer,” she shared as she was laughing through her nose.

Kitty uses laughter as a way to cope with the dark things in her life. It is something that I love the most about her. She continued to make jokes throughout the interview, saying things like “my mom is the one-percenter of breast cancer, so bow down, she is a one-percenter.” When I lived with Kitty we would spend hours laughing at everything we could. We would talk about our suicidal ideations like it was going to be the kickstart for our stand-up shows. No matter the topic we find a way to laugh together. But the good thing about knowing Kitty, even more after this interview, is that I know that between the laughs there are deep, deep pains that spill out with hard crying. This interview was no different, oscillating between laughter and tears. I could feel her pain and I could feel her trying to cope with that pain. 

She went on to talk about her two siblings who have gone through the same events, but how they handled it much differently. 

Kitty talks about her family through a lens of empathy, wanting to have a deeper understanding of the choices that were made as to lessen the pain and the way it impacts her daily life. She told me about her brothers and how much it affects them. She recalled the disconnect from her older brother as he pushed away from any sort of connection, which they have now started to rebuild. Then to her younger brother, who is still working on finding himself. As she then laughs and throws in “So, yes I am the middle, obviously.” Needing to interject some more comedy to help protect herself. 

All of this disconnect and hurt with her family kept her on the move. She winded up in Alaska in August of 2012. If there is one thing that Kitty has always made clear to me, it’s that Alaska held one of the most special places in her heart. 

“And so, do you think you’ll be in Alaska forever?”

“You know, I used to think that, until my mom got sick again. I’m gonna go home for a little bit. It’s not healthy for me to be there for a long time. I haven’t been home for more than 5 days in like 7 years. Yeah, I was thinking about going home for a month.” She was quick to note that she wouldn’t be staying at her families homes, she would be renting a place, still finding ways to keep herself safe. 

It felt as though Kitty was letting go of something as the interview came to an end. She was recognizing that as we get older we can take our history and rather than let it define us we can let it inform us. Kitty still cares deeply for her family, regardless of the unfulfilled wishes from her childhood. She is there for her mom and they are all working together to get through all the ways cancer derails their lives. Her wish now transforming into one of keeping her mother alive, healthy, and married to anyone, so long as she can stick around.

Kitty, who I see as a strong, bad-ass, presented me with very real vulnerability. I felt so connected to someone I already call a close friend. Hearing her story, I was humbled by the ways I didn’t know this part of my friend. It reminded me that whether you are sitting with a complete stranger or your best friend, there are always new stories to discover, so long as you leave space for people to tell you what’s important to them.

“Okay last question for you, Kitty. Is there anything you want to recommend to people hearing your story and have experienced or are experiencing the things you have experienced?”

“Uhm, probably just self-care and mindfulness and sometimes self-care isn’t a bubble bath it’s actually getting a f****ing therapist and talking about some shit. In order to have productive self-care I think you need to know a lot about yourself… Self-care doesn’t necessarily feel good. It can honestly be the most painful thing you ever do.”

Blunt enters the screen, another coping skill she has acquired over time.  

She continues, as she exhales from a deep drag, “my mom consumes every thought of mine right now. I’ve been crying a lot lately… Here I go crying again.”

“I wish I could hug you.”

Through the tears, “I just want to say that if my mom were here she would say ‘google how to do your own breast exam. And don’t forget to get your mammogram at dat 40’ and then she would cross her arms and give you the look.” 

Sound advice, I would say.

And I would like to add, never stop wishing on anything you can. As Kitty so perfectly demonstrated, sometimes hope is all that we have to get us through a difficult time.

A[wo]men & Kitty Sopow

* Featured image gathered from story-teller (From left bottom to right bottom: Joe, Terry-mom, Kitty, Pearce-dad, Bobby)

Vows, schmows. I don’t care.

Is it hereditary?

I really don’t know.

-Divorce by Kitty Sopow

If you or someone you know is interested in having their story told please fill out the contact form located on this website.

***For more information on the story-teller, follow her on instagram @sopowart

Alaska, My Love

Woah, y’all. Life has been crazy. I am talking “can you believe?” crazy! The kind of crazy that makes you want to dance and smile and be all kinds of happy. The thing I find most interesting about this happy dance time of mine is that I find it more difficult to write when I am feeling good. I believe it is similar to the idea that ‘therapy is only necessary when you aren’t feeling good’. It is supposed to fix the problems and there can’t possibly be problems when you are happy, right? *Momentary pause as I try to control my laughter* So, my life is the good kind of crazy right now, complete with all emotions coursing through my body, but joy is leading the way. This shift in emotional leaders all started when I got to leave the island.

I am sure you all would like to hear a little bit more about my trip to Anchorage because I really left y’all hanging. IT WAS MAGICAL. Anchorage is absolutely beautiful. It is the type of city that is surrounded by mountains and water and so. many. stars. Which reminds me, I had my first Northern Lights spotting. I would like to beg anyone to go see the Northern Lights and then try to argue with me about how life isn’t just a big magic show. THEY ARE LIGHTS THAT DANCE ACROSS THE SKY. Need I say more? On top of that, there is food that is to die for, hiking that is out of this world, a mall with an ice skating rink and a bowling alley… and my favorite part, Target. Yes, I am basic and yes, I did go to Target twice in the five days I was there. Not sorry.

As always on my trips I got to meet some wonderful people. That is always my favorite part of traveling. I am revived by the stories l hear from the people I will probably never see again and they still manage leave this impression on me that lasts forever. In case you forgot from my previous post, I was in Anchorage for a work training. It really sets the tone for meeting a lot of people doing some pretty bad-ass work in Alaska. I met a woman from Wisconsin *represent* who vacationed in Alaska and her vacations would get longer and longer until she just decided to stay. Since moving here she has been dedicated to building strong families across Alaska. We also talked about the Packers making it to the Super Bowl this year and her desire to never birth her own children. She was fantastic. I also met a woman from the FBI who works on fighting sex-trafficking and we talked about what self-care looks like for her in her line of work. In case you are wondering, it involves a lot of talking. There was also our fantastic bartender at the hotel who whipped out a knife to demonstrate that ‘Lucy can take care of herself!’ Oh, and the ice cream shop owners that were both packing heat as we ate our ice cream. Plus, out of all these great people, I also got to know my coworkers better! Couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

However, the most interesting aspect of leaving was missing my small town of Craig. If you go and read some of my previous posts, never did I ever think I would say those words. I really did though. I missed not having so many options. I oddly enjoy knowing I have basically one store to get my groceries. I also enjoy not having a Dave and Busters because that really messed with my head. I will never re-enter that hell pit again. I missed no traffic. I missed the air in Craig. Anchorage is exceptionally dry. (That tundra life tho.) I missed my friends and my job and my views and my car. It has been a little less than 5 months since I have moved here and I finally feel like I am starting to put down some roots and this odd little island is starting to feel more and more like home.

The thing I truly love about Prince of Wales Island, is the rich history that seeps into the way of life here. I spent yesterday out in Kasaan which is the Tlingit word translating to beautiful town. Kasaan 100% lives up to it’s name. It was flush with deep green trees and water that extended out to kiss the base of mountains. I have a jacket pocket filled deep with seashells and stones. I helped harvest devils club which could potentially be one of my cool, new hobbies? Though jam making is still a top contender. I felt extremely calm as I peeled the bright green root from the branch which helped make devils club tea. In that moment I understood why people come to vacation here and sometimes never leave. This island can transport you to a different time. I got chills as I sat in the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House after just listening to the history and recent restoration of the ‘house with no nails’. MAGIC. I learned so much yesterday that I feel like I could write a whole book. As a person that loves school it was my favorite thing to be able to sit quietly and inhale all the knowledge that people on this island not only know, but live and breath by.

As is evident by my previous blog posts, I have bad days… sometimes bad weeks. Heck, high school was like four bad years. Yet, the more I am here the less I find myself trapped in that negative space. As I referenced in the beginning I feel happy and it is not because I don’t feel those other emotions, but because those other emotions pale in comparison to a clear sky in Alaska. I talk to families day in and day out about trauma and when I come home I take just a moment to look up. It makes the pain and heartache feel manageable. Witnessing nature is the best medicine I have found thus far and Alaska is abundant in it. Alaska, slowly, but surely, I am falling for you.

*Featured image was taken yesterday from the Kasaan beach. For more pictures from my Alaskan adventures follow me on Instagram: sarahlorrainerobinson *

Committing to Adventure

Alright folks, today is a big day. It may not seem like a big day you to you mainlanders, but to me it is huge! I am leaving the island for the first time in four months. ANCHORAGE HERE I COME. This has been the biggest struggle for me living here… knowing I can’t just get away. This I think is good for me in a lot of ways. I am a runner in all senses of the word. I like to physically run and I really enjoy mentally running. Dear future husband, Runaway Bride is a severe possibility. Here is your warning. I say that it is good for me though because it is teaching me to accept a lot of things about myself. Many of those things are the things I keep running from.

For instance, I have to accept this very fact I am writing about… Commitment. *shudders* Commitment is super scary to me. I don’t like feeling stuck and committing to something really feels like it means I am stuck. There are really beautiful things about being stuck though. Like maybe you are stuck because you are in a crowd in a concert that you love and their music is gracing your ear holes. Or maybe you are stuck because the person you love has glued you to their side and you are with that person for life and you know no matter how smelly your poop is they will still love you. And just perhaps you are stuck on a magical little island in Alaska figuring out that being stuck isn’t always a bad thing. No matter how much I am forced to look at the beauty of being stuck though, every part of my body will always yearn for travel. That bug will never die. I suppose you could say I am stuck with it…

So, the thing I really want to focus on today is why I love traveling so much. Because I really love traveling. ‘Can you believe?’ I mean I love all parts of traveling. That’s right, folks, I love being stinky and sitting next to weird strangers and having to continually lug around my bags around an airport and getting groped by TSA. There is something so incredibly intoxicating about an airport. Honestly, airplanes in general are pure magic and will never make sense to me. Little buses for the sky that just commute people at 500 mph. Now, that I really can’t believe. THE FUTURE IS NOW.

I think what I love so much about the adventure is the unpredictability. I am a very scheduled person. I get up, I make my breakfast, I go to work, I go for a run, I watch friends on M,W,F and Rise on Tuesday and Jersey Shore and my missed episode of Riverdale on Thursdays. On the weekends I am a little more flexible, but it’s generally the same. Of course, big things happen in between, but for my own anxiety levels it helps to have a general routine. When I am traveling though, some other Sarah takes over. All of the sudden my mindset of what I need goes out of the window. There are strangers to meet and new places to explore. “Did I just see a sign for the world’s best cup of coffee, I better check that out! Oh, according to yelp, the world’s largest shoe lives here. Oh Em Gee, Kesha has stood in this exact spot I am standing on. This pool is nice. I am never leaving this pool.” DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? I just become this cool, calm, collected go with the flow type. I am not that type. I’m the type A, all dishes must be moved from the sink and all laundry folded immediately. You tell me I am on vacation though and all of the sudden something clicks in my brain. It’s fascinating really.

My favorite part though, is the feeling of freedom I get from jumping town to town, state to state, and country to country. I know I have an exorbitant amount of privilege for being able to do so. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such privilege and I wholeheartedly wish I could share it with everyone. That is why I love that I travel and have a blog (and an Instagram), I can share things with those that can’t necessarily get there. Even though I can’t go buying people plane, train, and automobile passes, I can take your imaginations and possibly give you an idea for your own adventures.

Which reminds me, that if you can’t travel there is always unpredictability outside of your door. Just because we have lived somewhere for some time, doesn’t mean there isn’t something new to discover. Each day is an adventure… that could lead to a magic bus in the sky.

Send me your new discoveries! I would love to get a glimpse of your adventures. & if you would like to see my travel to Anchorage this week follow me on Insta: sarahlorrainerobinson

PS: I am going for work, so it’s not exactly a vacation, but if a magic sky bus is involved that’s all my brain needs to make the switch to ‘go with the flow’ Sarah.