It’s strange – today was my last full day living in Hawaii. It’s been five years since I arrived. I’ve thought about what to write tonight but I keep coming up short. There isn’t a way to capture this much of my life in an eloquent post. I’ll write what I can.
When I arrived, I had just turned 21. I had come out of a complicated on-and-off again relationship in Charleston. I worked on the flight line and lived in a dormitory. My room faced the Ko’olau mountain range and each morning, the clouds would turn into cotton candy pinks.
My life was relatively uncomplicated. I was heartbroken but, after a few months, I made a friend named Luke, who shook me out of my shell. We started hiking and he showed me the best restaurants on the island. I remember one day he asked me to teach him how to meditate. On the way to my room, he picked up food for me. It was strange to have a friend again. It felt effortless.
In those days, I didn’t own a car. I would ride the bus to Ala Moana and spend hours in Barnes & Noble. The bus ride was long and I remember learning how to pronounce the Hawaiian street names by listening to the announcer. “Please kokua (assist others)”, I remember it saying.
After six months, I bought a cheap car. That week a coworker introduced me to a girl who would become my best friend. I call her Sarah-san (Ms. Sarah). We met on her birthday weekend, which happened to be a long weekend, and it was also her first day on island. Immediately we hit it off. We spent every moment of that weekend together.
Sarah and I worked nights. After our shift finished, we would head to Waikiki. Even though it didn’t make sense, we would wander the town after midnight. Most nights, we would end up at Wailana Coffee House.
A few months later, a guy I was interested in from Charleston moved to the island. Within a week of his arrival, we started a relationship. I moved out of the dorms and we found a place in Kane’ohe together.
I had never felt so in love in my life. It was as though fate had given us a second chance. The first year was lost in a sort of daze. It wasn’t always easy but my life was marked with love. I started a garden on our lanai (patio); “…and for three year we had roses, and I apologized to no one.”
The second year he flew home and met my family. His eyes were wide with how my family accepted him. I remember how baffled he was laying on my lap at my grandparents house. I don’t think he had ever felt that kind of acceptance.
A few months later, he came out to his family and we vacationed on Maui with them. I think that was the highest I’d ever felt in love. After the vacation, we flew to his parent’s home in California and spent a few days with them.
After we came back, everything fell apart. No matter what I tried to do to help, our relationship melted. I learned quickly how impermanent and unfair life can feel. My lover fell into a depression that I couldn’t pull him from. After another six months, we decided to split.
While it was always in the background, my friendship with Sarah had dwindled. She left the island shortly after my relationship ended. My time was almost up too.
Although my ex and I split, we remained close friends. He sunk further into depression and I applied to stay another year in Hawaii to make sure he was alright. It was accepted and shortly after, he stopped talking to me.
I spent a lot of time alone after that. It was a weird depression. I stopped doing the things I loved. I stopped hiking. I stopped trying new places. Instead, I sat on my couch and waited for the world to become appealing again.
In the middle of that fog, I met another friend. In many ways, each of the friends I made in Hawaii were like angels. He showed up in my life and suddenly I’d receive texts in the middle of the day “hey! want to go snorkeling on North Shore after work?”. We started doing midnight runs for cheesecake. We’d sit on the beach and each 1400 calories in 4 or 5 bites.
For the first time since arriving in Hawaii, I started to have a group of friends to hang out with. We’d go out drinking together, spend time at the beach, hike, everything. I spent most of my time with the guy. I worked through a lot of my problems drinking beer on the beach with him.
While this was going on, my ex started a new relationship and got married. It hit me hard because there were so many unanswered questions. It had only been a few months since we had split. I was so fortunate to have the friends that I did at that time.
Those six months were another fog of drinking, watching sunsets at the beach, and I felt… like myself again.
With my time coming to a close, I pulled away from the friends group and started spending a lot of time by myself. This time it was a healthy solitude. I spent a lot of time hiking through mountains. There were a few weeks where I spent everyday in the mountains.
It’s been five years. Years of complex relationships. Years of heartbreak and friendship that arrived just when it needed to. Midnight conversations and crazy stories I can’t share. I haven’t loved every minute of it but I know that I will miss it.
I know that I’ll long for endless midnight walks in Waikiki with Sarah and cheesecake on the beach. I’ll miss the long bus rides to Ala Moana and getting lost in the car with Luke. I’ll miss the clumsy meditation and being in love. I’ll miss that boy that used to giggle when he kissed me goodnight.
I’ll miss the feeling of catching my first wave last year. It was unexpected and I didn’t know what it would be like. I caught it backwards as I paddled out. My friend, who was waiting for me in deeper water, laughed as the wave pushed me all the way back to shore. (To this day, it may still be the longest wave I’ve caught)
To be honest, that wave never stopped. It pushed me all the way back to myself.
As I look back over these last few years, I can’t help but feel gratitude and love. I look forward to Florida. Although the beaches will never be the same, I have faith that where ever I go, I’ll be in the right place and surrounded by good people.