Six months already?

Three months later: in a new apartment, got rid of my new job, got my old job back, still single.  I’m going on 6 months here yet I still feel like a stranger.  What goes through my mind often is, “When will I feel at home?” or, “What do I need to do to feel at home?”.  I mostly draw a blank.  I am not sure there is much I can do except let things fall into place.  Moving has definitely tested my patience and I am having a hard time understanding why it’s taken (and taking) me so long to settle in.  And then I remember how hard it was when I did it before and that it will take time.  There’s not much I can do about it.

I changed the “theme” and name of my blog.  I don’t really like it, but it’ll do for now.

 

Transitions.

So I did it: I picked up my life and moved to the Bay Area, got a new job within 2 months, bought a car, and am on my way to finding an apartment.  Why don’t I feel as great as I thought I would?  I didn’t expect it to be this hard, but I suppose if I knew, I would have never made such a drastic change.  My memory is lost on whether I had such a hard time adjusting to Hawaii – I’m trying to find a frame of reference for how I’m feeling.  DC…definitely even worse since I knew almost no one and it was COLD.

I miss Hawaii horribly: often, when I close my eyes, I see the gorgeous blue water, clean waves, sunshine and see me laughing with my people.  My people.  It’s something I don’t quite have yet here and can’t expect to yet.  I have childhood and college friends here, along with other Hawaii transplants, but they don’t feel like “my people”.  I question if I ever will have the friendships I did in Hawaii.  I recognize the luxury of time, access to recreation and the culture of Ohana (family/friends) coming before work, is not the norm here on the mainland – or at least for the East Bay. I knew this moving here.  I knew all of this was true. Yet the sadness of letting go is no less of a shock to my core.

What I may find is a good group of friends and colleagues who are close but our time together is penciled into our planners (more like iPhones).  We will go to dinner or a bar instead of hanging out at the beach.  I do know I can find friends who surf and enjoy a similar lifestyle that I’m used to.  This I do believe, despite feeling discouraged and cynical right now.  Though instead of this being the norm it will be an exception to the rule.  But I’ve never been one to follow the societal rules to begin with.

What I do hold on to is the understanding that my experience in Hawaii and the memories I created are still mine to keep.  They have not gone away but live within me and always will.  I can carry those memories and experiences with me every day and let them shape who I am today and forever.

I question why I’m here almost every day, sometimes several times a day.  Is the lifestyle change, traffic, fast-paced life and high cost of living worth it?  I can’t answer this question yet, though I wish I could.  I want to say, “yes”, but I fear my answer will be “no”.  I strongly feel I am meant to be here – I feel it in my soul – but for how long, I am not sure.  So I need to take each day, each moment, as it comes and remember this to shall pass, I’ll find a home wherever I go (and within myself) and the answer to my question will eventually reveal itself.

 

 

My new reality, yet to set in.

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I moved and I’m dealing with a lot of grief.  I would say I’m in the denial stage at the moment, but slowly coming out of it.  The fun and excitement of something new has been interweaved with the realities of getting settled, feeling homeless, carless, jobless…and often feeling alone.  I’ve done this before and I know it will pass, but what seems most challenging is adjusting to a new reality.  My life at the moment does not include daily surf sessions, gorgeous weather every day and a life full with amazing friendships.  I am in the middle of a city, feeling slightly trapped and lost.  How I spend my days will differ for now.  What I value is being outside, nature and friends  – I know that awaits me, perhaps just not at the moment.  I can and will find that again it may just look different.

I try to tell myself this is part of the transition process and to take it day by day.  I am not where I want to be and I’m not sure when I will be but I got to have faith.  I came here to find love and career inspiration – when I remember this it brings me comfort and reminds me of why I made such an abrupt move.  All this takes courage and strength and a willing to take risks.  I trust my desires will be honored and come to fruition.

I know Hawaii waits for me, as I wait for it.  The sacrifices I’ve made seem overwhelming right now but I trust this is exactly where I’m supposed to be, without a doubt.  I take it day by day, trusting in myself and the process of letting go and being open to new experiences.

 

San Francisco here I come.

Whew! What a whirlwind.  It’s been less than a week and so much has happened.  I was in LA for less than 24 hours and flew up to San Francisco for an interview in Mountain View.  Not a big fan of the burbs, but doesn’t mean I have to live here.  I am exhausted but excited for the opportunities ahead.  I guess I’ll just stay up here for now and cruise around!  I can’t wait to get in the water and surf again.  First step: get a wetsuit.

Back in Cali: Day 1

So here I’ve landed, in North Hollywood for the evening where my brother and his wife live.  The name is deceiving: one would think it’s exciting but the city is actually in the Valley which is far from interesting.  In fact, I haven’t left the apartment all day.  So being cooped up in an apartment with no car is not what I was dreaming my first day back in California would be like.  But so it is…

My first goal (and I’m trying to break them down into bite-size pieces) is to buy a car.  I’m going to focus solely on this otherwise I fear I will continue to overwhelm myself which I’ve already managed to do so this evening.

I don’t like feeling homeless, I suppose no one does.  My plans seem to change day by day which is maddening but part of the process of moving.  I miss my friends, I miss the warm balmy weather, I miss familiarity.  I feel a heaviness in the pit of my stomach and a deep sadness for what I’ve left behind.  I wait it out, as I know from experience this is how grief works.

I missed not surfing today as I’d gotten into the routine of going every day.  I’m excited to check out the surf breaks in northern California, but it may be a while until I get a wetsuit and new board.  My old one should be arriving in a month or so.

I’m sure this is the beginning of what will be a long process of letting go.  Though I’m open to the possibility of it being easy and not long.  I have to remember I’m resilient, I’ve done this before, and I know how it works here: it’s where I’m from.  Whether I like it or not, it is a part of who I am.

What I do know for sure is I had an amazing time in Hawaii and I’ll never forget it.  It feels strange to refer to my time in Hawaii in past-tense.   I still ponder about how a place so seemingly perfect couldn’t be what I need right now.  Though I’m already mentally planning my visit back.

 

 

Aloha isn’t just a cliche, it’s the real deal.

I think the idea (and reality) of me leaving has hit.  I had my last day in the office Thursday to distract me, then my going away BBQ yesterday.  Now it’s just me and half-filled boxes spread around the apartment, waiting to be packed and sealed.  I feel overwhelmed which is expected though I was hoping to stay zen until I stepped on the plane (and hopefully after).  I don’t feel ready for this.  So I’ll go through the motions as I need to and slowly get there, though I don’t have much time.  Worst case scenario, I leave it all behind.

I’m getting somewhat exhausted at saying goodbye.  I feel appreciated and loved, but in some ways I just want to leave already and get it over with.  It’s a little bit like a bandaid slowly getting pulled off.  Then I feel awkward about it all: the attention, the sadness, the guilt over leaving, the “nice to know you’s”, “we’ll be in touch”, “let me know how you’re doing”, and so on.  Simultaneously I’m trying to process and navigate through the feelings I’m experiencing, as they fluctuate from moment to moment.  And where is there space for grief?  I am no stranger to grief and the pit in my stomach, heaviness and a deep sense of sadness is all there, waiting to have the attention it needs.

How do I leave behind all the memories here?  So much has happened, so much has changed.  Will I be the same person when I leave?  I am not the same person who came here over 5 years ago.  I’ve learned to slow down and really enjoy life in a way I never knew how. I’ve learned to value quality of life over career and status and to see people for who they are versus what they do.  I have shed some of the seriousness I have carried with me my entire life and learned to laugh unabashedly.  I found and lost love, became motherless, and experienced one of the greater losses in my life.  I’m older and wiser, and have weathered storms I could’ve never imagined to have rained down on me.

Yet I move on, trying to be brave as I start over in a place I call home, even though it’s been 15 years since I’ve lived there.  Will it still feel like home?  I don’t know.   I don’t know what is ahead of me and I’m scared but thrilled about the opportunities that have already arisen.  

So much of me wishes I didn’t have to go, but everything within me knows it’s time.  I will back, even if just as a visitor.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned while here is that “aloha” is not only real, it’s a state of mind.  Hawaii will always have a place in my  heart.  It always has.

 

 

momentary revolutions

At this moment, in two weeks, I’ll be departing to California.  I can’t figure out if it’s because I’m leaving or if I’ve just learned to be a happier person, but these past few weeks have been amazing.  Shortly after I decided to move, I made the conscious decision to live in the moment and enjoy myself as much as possible until I leave.  I understand that it may be a while until I return to Hawaii and I may never have the chance to live here again; I want to spend my time relishing my Hawaii ohana and the immense beauty that surrounds me.  Outside of work, I’ve been mostly surfing, spending time with friends, gardening, hiking, etc. Of course I’ve spent time packing and taking care of the particulars of moving, but I’ve been able to simplify the process due to choices I’ve made.

Making this choice to live in the moment has been revolutionary for me.  I normally would be suffering from crippling anxiety and instead I’ve decided not to worry about my future until I have to.  I’m going to let life unfold in California when I get there.  And I’m not afraid.  I feel like this is how I’m supposed to live – moment by moment, trusting myself – and I have somehow now just learned this at 39.

A word that has come to mind lately is “liberated”.  I’m okay with not knowing the future.  I’m okay not knowing if things will work out or not when I move.  I’m okay with trusting things WILL work out…whether it’s in California or elsewhere.

The bigger question is…what will I call my blog???

 

 

Leaving Aloha? Nah, I take it with me.

I started this blog exactly five years ago, five months after I moved to Hawaii from Washington, DC.  Strange how I felt the need to write something here after 1.5 years of nothing.  Though maybe it’s not that strange considering I’ve recently decided to move back to the mainland in March and one of the drivers behind starting this blog was my move here.  I suppose you can say it’s been a long time coming, but to many it has been a bit of a surprise.  I still haven’t completely come out of the closet about it, as it increases my anxiety levels and can send me spinning.  What I don’t want to hear is: why are you leaving? why would you leave? do you have a job? don’t leave! (and so on).  I have no idea how to answer these questions and when I do I feel at a loss for words.  Conflicted captures how I feel quite well.

Yet, the excitement of starting over somewhere new (yet familiar) has taken ahold of me.  After 15 years away from California, I’m ready to go back to the place I consider home.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get to know my family as an adult and to be close to friends I’ve been apart from for years.

Hawaii has been exactly what I needed these past 5.5 years and most definitely what I needed after 10 years in DC.  I can truly say it’s been nothing short of amazing.  I’ve experienced much loss and heartache, but being surrounded by such beauty and amazing people has transformed me into what I like to think is a better person.  Of course I could have had similar transformations elsewhere, but Hawaii does have a magical way about it.

Sadness comes over me as I think of leaving all this behind, but it’s time.  And there’s no saying I won’t be back, there’s always that possibility, though my entire being knows it’s time to go.  I wonder if I’ve always known this as I’ve never truly let myself settle in here and I’ve lived my life as if I’m passing through.  On many levels I wish I could have made it work for me, but I realize I want something different, at least for now.

Oh Hawaii, you will always have a place in my heart.  When I close my eyes I’ll see the crystal blue water, sunshine reflecting off the surf and green mountains in the distance.  I’ll imagine myself on a beautiful sunny day, paddling for a wave, popping up and gliding down the face, hearing the powerful rush of the wave breaking behind me.  I’ll see my friends sitting on their boards next to me as we wait for a set to come in, laughing and smiling.  I’ll never forget you Hawaii and all the joy and laughter you’ve brought into my life.  Mahalo!

 

IMG_0320

One of my favorite spots on the island: Diamond Head Lookout.  Oh how I’ll miss you…

 

Resurrection from the dead

Amazingly, a plant I thought was long dead reemerged from the potting soil.  About 2 months ago, I turned the soil and planted a single basil seed.  The basil never seeded, but I was delighted to see the plant had come back.  For me, if a plant dies, I feel like I’ve failed.  So this was good news.  It was like an old friend I thought I’d never see again.  I know it’s just a plant, but the idea of rebirth and resurrection is meaningful to me, more than ever.

Plant, take 2

Plant, take 2

 

 

 

 

 

Community

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community. What does that mean to me? How do I find it here in Hawaii? Graduating from grad school left behind a sense of emptiness in its wake. I received an advanced degree, but I lost a community. I recognize several people are still in Hawaii and I consider them close friends (though my closest friends have left) but what brought us together is no longer there. And it’s not like I want to go back; I don’t. But I have yet to see what will fill that space. It’s been over a year since I graduated but I still feel empty at times.  

In an effort to meet more people, I tried paddling. Paddling in Hawaii is fascinating. It can be fiercely competitive and your team is your tribe. At the regatta’s, each team fly’s a flag with their team name and huddles together under their pop-up tents. Matching team shirts, shorts, hats, stickers, towels…you name it. I tried the top women’s team, then ended up with a significantly less competitive, and slightly disorganized team. It was a good fit. Interestingly, it the season came to a halt due to internal politics (or paddle-tics) and I’m ready to move on.

What I’ve been sitting on for actually years now is a spiritual community.  Over the past few months, I’ve been attending a service at the Unitarian church on and off.  And it feels like home.  It’s not so much the message or sermon, but the desire for community as a congregation.  At one service during the opening words, a man mentioned something along the lines of, “We are here for the same purpose: a people hungry for community”.  And that stuck with me.  Where in our daily lives do people speak like this?  I am not sure where this path will lead me but I’m thankful it exists.  I am willing to begin the journey for now.  I sometimes grieve the person of faith I used to be years ago; I’m hoping now I can at least believe in community.

Aside

Overworked in Paradise

Looking at the date of my last post I realize just how much my life has changed.  I didn’t realize how much working full-time again would change me and how I experience the world.  My job has proven to be challenging and exciting, but not without it’s drawbacks.  For several months now, I feel like I’ve lost sight of why I moved to Hawaii.  Too many hours in the office to the point where I’m starting to learn the cleaning staff that come in at 6:30PM on a first-name basis: it’s not healthy.  I didn’t expect to get consumed by work, not here in Hawaii.  Somehow I thought now that I was in Hawaii, where people value quality of life over work, I’d be immune to pushing myself to the point of exhaustion.  Once again, I’ve learned that wherever you go, you bring yourself with you.  Interestingly, my amount of responsibility is higher than any position I had in Washington, DC so I’m working even harder then ever.

I almost hit my tipping point last week: that point where you are burnt out and there’s no turning back.  I’m trying not to beat myself up for letting it get to that. I know I need to be gentle toward myself. I’m passionate and committed to my work to a fault.

I took Friday off and took off in a boat and went fishing.  It was one of the better decisions I’ve made in months.  I can almost say it saved me, at least for this week.  Something about being out in the middle of nowhere deep blue ocean fishing with whales gracefully gliding by you, spinner dolphins racing your boat and no one in sight.  This is why I moved here and this is what I need to continue to live for.

So I’ve taken a look at where I’m at and what needs to change.  I have always prided myself in working hard and having a high level of productivity.  I can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.  But it’s dawned on me it’s not always a good thing: operating at full speed 100% of the time can only lead to burnout.  So I need to become less productive.  Not lazy or unmotivated but learn to pace myself.  If I don’t get something done today, it will get done tomorrow.  And the world will not end if I don’t check off everything on my daily planner list. I need to let go, surrender to my limitations and trust everything will work out just fine.  I don’t want to be that person who is a control freak and consumed by work.  And that is exactly the way I’ve been operating.  When I look in the mirror I want to like what looks back at me.

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m going to practice slowing down. I’m going to practice being less productive so I can continue to be productive in the future.  And I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

 

Growing up, Take 2

My last blog entry was shortly after I graduated from graduate school.  Three to four months later I have found myself with a job in my field of interest.  I feel like I should be happier than I am but the reality of joining the working world also weighs on me.

It’s strange to be in an office again.  The rhythm of office life: you wake up, get to work, work, head home, home.  Maybe you stop somewhere, go to yoga, hang out with a friend.  The predictability is comforting but stifling at times.  For now I need the consistency and stability of a paycheck. And as much as it sounds great to have all the free time in the world, even that gets old.  I do believe we were meant to productive as humans and feel like we’ve accomplished something with our days.  Whether we are too productive or not enough, both can cause problems.

So here my journey begins of being a “professional” in Hawaii.  Graduate school was exactly what I needed and I had a blast but it feels like it’s time to grow up (again).   I’m nervous I will lose sight of why I came here but it’s hard to forget with the spectacular view of the ocean from your office.

The view of Honolulu, Diamond Head and the ocean from the office

The view of Honolulu, Diamond Head and the ocean from the office

I miss…something. Not sure what.

It’s been over a month since I’ve graduated and I don’t feel like I’ve moved much.  Physically, yes, but mentally I’m not so sure.  Not working has been great but the nagging feeling that I should be looking for a job weighs on me.  And I have been looking, though not all that different from graduate school, it never ends and it’s completely self-motivated.  Motivation is the key word here.

Part of my hesitation of investing more time into a job search is: a)  I am ambivalent about being a professional again (think: game face all the time); b)  I know once I start working full-time I’ll wish I had more time off; and c) I am not quite certain there are a lot of available jobs in my field in Hawaii and I’m scared to find out.

Strange being in what feels like the no-mans-land of life.  No job, no school, just sort of floating around.  Yet it’s very freeing to be in this place and still be okay with it all.  A few years ago I would have been ridden with anxiety.  I do wonder what will come my way, wondering if anything will come my way, but trusting in the journey is all I can really do.

Off to Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco this week.  I’m looking at it as my last hurrah before my paid vacations will be 2-weeks… if I’m lucky.

 

 

Where have I landed?

Since I’ve graduated I feel:

1.  Elated

2.  Terrified

and

3.  Excited

Elated because I’m free to live my life with out meaningless course work and grad school deadlines.

Terrified because I have no idea what’s next.

Excited because the new life I was looking for when I moved here is graduating (excuse the pun) to a new level.

I came here to start a new life that felt more authentic.  Graduate school was the avenue I chose to get here and now that I’m finished, there’s time to see where I’ve landed.  So here I am, looking around in a bit of a stupor.  My place in Hawaii has shifted from student to…. I don’t know.

For now I’m going to sit in the afterglow of graduating and enjoy the stillness.

 

Graduate in less than 20 pages

I‘m 20 pages and 2 passing grades away from graduating.  It feels great! It is indeed anticlimactic so far.  Once I graduate,  I am expecting someone to jump out of the bushes and enthusiastically announce , “YOU DID IT”.  Or a parade down Kalakaua would suffice: me riding on a float of flowers, waving my hand like Miss America.  For now there’s not much celebration but it has begun to quiet down, mostly in my head.

So in three years I quit my job, moved to Hawaii, managed to pass all my classes (so far), lost a parent (that’s a whammy), started a committed relationship and finished my final research project.  Most importantly, I’ve acquired three NREM t-shirts.  I have spent hours agonizing how long it’s taken me, but now I see it’s amazing I’ve accomplished such greatness in only three years.  

And today was probably my last bike ride from campus, around Diamond Head, Kalakua to Waikiki and back home.  I’m ok with that, there are many new bike routes ahead of me.  Though I do feel sad as things slowly come to an end.  I haven’t graduated yet so I won’t linger long on the changes to come.

What is it like to be you?

Been flirting with meditation lately.  I’ve never been able to fully appreciate meditation despite several recommendations from friends over the years.  Sitting in silence and trying to empty my mind has ended in frustration; my mind refuses to stop.   Though it’s gotten easier as I’ve allowed my mind to say/feel what it needs to (see previous post).

Part of meditation is experiencing the moment, even down to the second within when you take a breath.  I felt the sensation of breath going in and out my nose and began to understand what it mean to be alive.  It’s that simple.

What came to mind today was the question of, “What is it like to be me?”.  And the only answer I could think of, was you had to be me to understand.  You had to sit within the body I was experiencing at that very moment: my own. But it inspired me to think about connecting with others and asking, “What is it like to be you?”.  We are so often caught up in our own lives to even consider a different reality.  I am not sure I could answer the question myself but I have always hoped to understand others more fully.  What does it mean to live inside someone else’s skin?  Who are you?

Befriending a tiger

Sitting on the cliffs at Portlock Point never fails to bring inspiration.  It’s difficult not to be inspired; you’re staring at an endless sea in one direction and town and Diamond Head in the other.  The swell was big and unruly today.  Feeling the ocean spray hit my skin cooled me off as I did yoga on the cliffs.  I felt like I was in a yoga DVD.

I sat on the cliffs and took some time to listen.  Not to the waves, but my mind.

Today I heard a buzzing chatter in the back of my head.  It’s a symphony of thoughts, feelings, anxiety,  fear, sadness, anger, anticipation and who knows what else, that has become unconscious background noise.  When I took a moment to notice, is when I finally heard silence.  What then?  Do I listen?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

So why don’t I listen?  Am I afraid of what I might find?  Sometimes I bubble over in joy (I like those days).  But in my experience, more often than not, it can be painful to peer inside.  What we hide are the things we don’t like to feel; the things we don’t like to believe we are capable of feeling.  Often loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame.  What some would refer to as their “dark side”.  We all have one.  But not listening does not make these things go away.  It’s like a tiger that lurks inside.  You can befriend it and accept your co-existence or you can pretend it doesn’t exist.  What is scarier is not knowing it exists at all.

The tiger feeds on lack of awareness. When you don’t take time to acknowledge what is going on, it will manifest itself in one way or another; usually unconsciously.    It may strike out when you least expect it; sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle.  Whether it injures others or only yourself, you are trapped in its cage, subject to its whims.  I’ve learned this the hard way and continue to do so, and will for the rest of my life.

It sounds so cliche, but I can’t help but think of the novel, ‘Life of Pi’.  I read it a few years ago and recently saw it on a flight from LA.  As I read the last chapter my heart fell as the real scenario of his 200+ days at sea was revealed. What? I was shocked and felt misled.   Pi wasn’t stranded on a boat with a tiger, he was the tiger.  The dreadful loss of his mother, the murder of the sailor and the eventual death of the cook … was the entire story an elaborate tale he made up?  A better question to ask is, did it matter?  Maybe not.

The truth of Pi’s story is not explicit, but how I’ve personally interpreted it is that he experienced the trauma of losing everything, just a teenager, and had murdered the cook for survival – and he had to come to terms with it.   The murder was completely justified and necessary to survive, but its hard to believe we have it in us to kill someone.  At least physically.  And the grief of loss; the kind that changes you forever. The enthralling story he told is his way of befriending his tiger.  And the line about, “what story do you want to believe?” rings true.  The truth of who we are, what we’ve experienced  and what we’ve done sometimes deserves a new story.  A fantastical, brave story of heroism.  Because befriending your tiger and accepting who you are is just that.

Ramblings of a bike commuter

Every time I ride home from campus I think of putting a note on this one car that blocks the sidewalk ramp in front of their house that leads to the H1 overpass.  I have to sometimes get off my bike to walk it around which is extremely annoying.  I’ve imagined writing, “I’m a disabled person in a wheelchair that cannot access the over-ramp because of your car”.  Though I am averse to lying.  But today I actually saw an elderly man with a cane that had to go around the car, up and down the sidewalk curb; not easy for an older man!  So on my way home I thought, well now I can leave a note, but on his behalf.  So I plan to bring a note soon saying:

“Please do not block the sidewalk.  An elderly uncle with a cane was trying to reach the overpass and had to go around your car.”

Will I actually do it?  I don’t know.  But I like to think I of myself as the advocate of keeping sidewalks clear for pedestrians and cyclists to get over the bridge.  Probably only 2 people ever use the bridge (me and the old man), but that it beside the point.   Continue reading