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The Question

I’m writing this now. Before I have birthday dinner after birthday dinner after birthday dinner. Before I hop on a plane and fly home. Before the tears start flowing and the answer becomes less clear. I’m writing this now.

Typically when I write it comes from a place of questioning, reflecting, and then having lived through the experience enough to know what to say. I always write after. After the sadness, after the confusion, after the thing that hurts me isn’t really hurting me so much. But this time I have to write now. Because I’m afraid of what the answer will be if I write later.

So this isn’t a reflection. This is quite literally a pros and cons list. Here is me weighing out my options to the question I’ve already received twice and will probably hear a handful more times before flying back to Hawaii.

“When are you moving back home?”

To which I normally answer with a shrug and a “I don’t know.” Or if I’m feeling sassy it’s a lift of the eyebrow, a pursing of the lips, and a “Not anytime soon.”

But if I was being really honest, I would say, “What are you talking about. I am home.”

Because California will always be home. I will be a 650 girl until the day my mom kicks me off her phone plan. But the truth is I haven’t lived in the Bay Area- like truly lived and not just a two-week vacation- since I was 18. It takes me a minute to remember 280 from 101, and don’t even bother asking me to drive because I don’t know where to go let alone feel comfortable enough to push it to 80 mph on the freeway. Deep down inside of me there will always be a California girl, but this California girl has been out of state for quite some time.

So con #1 Bay Area, I don’t know anything anymore. And I can relearn! I’m truly not opposed to learning how to separate compost from recycling from trash. But I just don’t know the new things about this way of life. I’ve been so far detached that I’ve forgotten what it looks like to live in a big city. I didn’t learn along the way as the changes were occurring.

But pro #1 Bay Area, this will always be familiar so long as my friends and family are here. Nothing can replace the memories and history I have in the Bay Area. Eating Skyflakes and condensed milk after school because Inang didn’t mess around with those American snacks. Or going to the Pacific Super across the street and stealing ice cream pints and running back to Andrea’s house. Or young little Adam and his many hats carrying a tray of chocolate chip cookies his mom made for us (God bless Weekend mom). Yes, these are memories; they’re in the past. But the people I’ve made these memories with were and still are a huge part of my life, and they’re in California.

And that’s what is going to make hopping on a plane to Hawaii this Sunday real difficult. Because when I look out the window and watch the plane separate from the land and drift into the air, I know I’m also separating myself from the people I love and putting an ocean sized distance in between us.

It would be easier if I knew I was flying back to a family. Flying back to people who knew me before I became this young professional with a job and a rent payment and a car loan. Because I’ve always believed Hawaii gets a different part of me. It gets the part that is put together and on track and independent. California gets the part of me that is a kid- no responsibilities, free to do what I please, and joyfully untamed.

But that contrast is why Hawaii gets pro #1. My career is there. Even before I started working full-time, my professional life was built in Hawaii. Internships- years and years of internships- all in Hawaii. The retirement plan I’m banking on is from the job I’m at in Hawaii. The salary I get that beats out most other preschool teacher salaries is from my job in Hawaii. The children’s center that I love working at is in Hawaii. My 8 to 5, my 40 hours a week, my work is in Hawaii.

And yes, jobs are replaceable and I can find something in California, but it’s more than just my career. I learned how to be independent in Hawaii. How to clean a bathroom. How to transfer the electric bill to be under my name. How to vote. How to cook! My goodness if it weren’t for living on my own in Hawaii I would have never been forced to learn how to chop an onion.

I am on my own in Hawaii, and I enjoy that. So maybe it’s worth a pro #2 but also that’s a con #1, because on my own I cannot afford the life I live. On my own I pay for my own groceries, my own rent, my own car. I pay for everything you would never think of paying for until you live on your own. Toilet paper? Yeah that’ll cost you $20 in Hawaii. You want bread? That’s another $6 or $7. Spam for breakfast? You would think that would be cheap, but no it’s $2.50 a can. I don’t know how much longer I can afford to live in paradise.

But it truly is paradise. Pro #3: it’s beautiful there. The ocean is where my soul finds rest and meets peace. Lanikai beach holds a countless amount of my tears and prayers. The Ko’olaus can steal my gaze for hours. It’s warm, it’s sunny, there are rainbows. Smog isn’t filling the sky. I don’t have to worry about a fog layer rolling in and needing a jacket. The water temperature is always warm and I can go to the beach in the middle of December. I love the paradise I live in. I do not, at all, not one bit, miss living in a hustle, bustle city.  

So what’s the tally now? I think Hawaii still wins.

It’s going to take a whole lot for me to leave the life I’ve cultivated in Hawaii. Surprisingly enough, not even a pandemic made me second guess my decision to live in Hawaii. The world came to a halt, disease struck the nation, Meg became more dramatic than she already is, and yet I still had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to- needed to- continue living in Hawaii.

Sabrina and I had this conversation once before. We talked about how life would move on if I left. I would be ok, and I would learn how to rebuild. But in the deepest parts of our gut we knew that I’d be off track. That God has me in Hawaii in this time in my life for a reason. That reason? Still working on figuring that one out.

But that’s the one thing that would get me to get up and leave- a big, blaring, “right now is the time” from God. He’s the only one that will get me to budge. He’s the only one that gets to make that call.

And until that time, it’s Hawaii for me.

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