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  • Ken Ilgunas

Goodbye, dear friend

And so my first semester comes to end. Looking back, I’m quite pleased with my decision to return to school. My brain, for the first time since I graduated from my undergraduate college, feels sharp and exercised.

Because of my spartan lifestyle, I was able to make my tuition payments, pay for car insurance, gas, a cell phone, and food, while working less than twenty hours a week. These were the “necessaries” of my life, and I found that I could easily attain them with little money and without having to work long hours.

I must say that I lived in relative comfort. And each tribulation was greeted as a noble challenge, never as unwanted adversity.

I also thrived on the novelty and audacity of radical living. The risk I was taking, at first, was huge: I could have been kicked out my parking lot and off campus within a week if campus security wished it so. I suppose I’m quite proud of my courage to so openly expose myself to failure in hopes of achieving success.

There were drawbacks, however. If I had to identify three they might be:

1. Getting out of my sleeping bag on mornings when it was below 20 degrees.

2. Not having a couple of conveniences like an ironing board, or a readily available shower.

3. The loneliness of living in a van in a new town.

I’m not sure if my experience has taught me anything, but I can say it has reaffirmed what I’ve known all along: We need very little to be happy.

Now that the semester’s over, I’m moving back to Alaska for the summer to work as a backcountry ranger.

I decided that the best way to deal with the van was to find someone to take care of it while I’m gone. I’ve learned that you can find anybody to do almost anything you want on craigslist. I ended up paying someone in the country $200 to watch it for four months. A bit pricey, I know, but it was cheaper than having an actual storage company look over it.

Pictures of my cleaned-out van:

I’m currently in my hometown of Wheatfield, NY. Coming home after a long stretch of time is nothing new for me, so all these sensations have been experienced several times over. There’s always a mix of nostalgia, excitement, and slight depression. More than anything, I always end up suffering from desuetude, when suddenly the functioning of my body and brain are no longer necessary. My mother feeds me copious amounts of food, I end up watching movies and playing videogames until four in the morning, and I slowly undergo a metamorphosis, reverting back to myself of years ago, when--as a highschool student--I cared for nothing more than the success of the Sabres season and playing street hockey.

But this is just a temporary respite before I head to Alaska and greet a new set of adventures.


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