Have you ever been somewhere other than your home and felt an overwhelming sense of home and community?
That’s the way I feel about Hawaii and it explains why I describe myself as a Hawaii-minded girl living on the Jersey shore. I’ve been privileged enough to visit the islands 5 times – twice to Maui, and once each to the Big Island, Kauai, and Oahu – and each time I became more and more reluctant to board the departing flight.
There’s something about the beautiful landscape that speaks to me, envelops me in its beauty, and makes me feel right at home. I vividly remember how this moment struck me when I was last in the islands (January of 2012 for the Hawaiian International Conference on the Arts and Humanities): standing on the balcony of my hotel room above downtown Waikiki, gazing at the ocean beyond the busy street with Diamond Head in the distance, and thinking this is where I belong.
I’ve had these unique experiences during each visit but the most intense time, the one that still pulls at me internally, was on Maui. I’m not sure why Maui does it to me, but when I close my eyes, that’s where my mind goes.
During a walk to black rock one afternoon, I stopped to talk to an artist selling her paintings on the beach. She told me she also hailed from the east coast but after multiple visits, her last plane ticket was for one-way only. She told me it was her dream to paint the beautiful landscape of Maui because nothing else in life had moved her as much as that island. It was so beautiful to hear her say those words because they resonated within me so strongly that I vowed to do the same one day. And I still do. I will live there one day, even if it’s in 50 years from now and my body will only allow me to sit and admire the land.
But here I am today, more than a year gone since my feet last touched Hawaiian soil and I yearn to return. After I finished my master’s degree in May of last year I was determined to send off my application to the University of Hawaii to pursue my PhD in Hawaiian Literature and I couldn’t have been more excited. Of course it would have rocked my reality completely, straining my familial and personal relationships, but I was willing to see where the trade winds would take me once I was there.
But there was a moment where all of that changed. I drove halfway across the country with my mother in June of 2012 to visit my extended family. One night as my mother and I got ready for bed, I started playing IZ on my iPad and she broke down crying. She asked me to please turn him off because she couldn’t handle it right now. What I failed to understand was how hurtful his soothing Hawaiian melodies were to her, resurfacing the possibility that I may move thousands and thousands of miles away from her to pursue my dream.
After that experience I took some time to internalize my choices and how they would affect not only me, but everyone around me. While some may think me weak for changing my mind, I assure you I took a lot of time to consider how I want to live my life. Obviously, because I am writing from New Jersey, my choice is clear.
The reason I write about this today is not only because I wanted to make things personal, but because I think others have been faced with similar choices where dreams may have been pushed to the side for things that are more important.
I may be an only child, but I have a large and extremely close-knit extended family. I couldn’t imagine missing an important birthday, not being there for a terrible hospital visit, or not seeing my mother at least once a week. What would happen after marriage and children? I would hate for my kids to grow up without the amazing support system that we already have here.
I know making these choices are easier for others, like my cousins who grew up as traveling air force kids who now live across the country from their families, and in some way I envy them for having the courage to go out on their own. I’ll be the first person to do adventurous and thrill-seeking activities (like diving in an aquarium shark tank, which I plan to do in the coming weeks), but nothing scares me more than being alone, away from my family.
So in closing, I don’t want you to think that I’ve completely given up my dreams out of fear. My dreams have just changed a little.
Until next time, live Aloha!