I believe in Hawaii.
This sounds like an odd statement. But for the longest time, I didn’t and couldn’t feel this way about the place I call home. It was only after leaving that this little rock floating aimlessly in the Pacific Ocean had begun to mean something to me.
For the better part of the past 21 years, Hawaii has been this irritable and indelible scab. I’ve always felt that growing up there had sheltered me from the great beyond. Oahu’s long sprawling coast of sandy shores merely symbolized an entrapment from the rest of this vast and exciting world I saw on television and read about in books. The sub-tropical weather was always too muggy and hot, the pace of life, a little too slow. We don’t even dream of having a white Christmas or watching the leaves turn red. And people don’t exactly speak proper English. It’s more of a hodgepodge of broken syllables, reconstructed syntax, and “ey! Sup brah?!”
When it came time for college applications, every school I applied for ending up being the farthest possible distance from Hawaii—without me hightailing it to another continent. Instead of opting for the typical choices that most Hawaii graduates take—schools on the West coast with close access to warm weather and the beach—I came to Syracuse, hoping to satiate my fascination and wonderment for a completely new, exciting culture. I was ready to become a brand new person!
Now, as a senior, I can tell you this never happened. Yes, I have become a different person since coming here. But this change did not happen instantaneously or the way I expected it to.
Instead, I’ve learned how to love Hawaii as I’ve grown into my own here in New York.
Unexpectedly and without warning, being in Syracuse gives me these sporadic cravings for all that I’ve left. I miss the 15-minute drive to the beach where they sell plate lunches on the side of the road and ukulele players strum Jawaiian and Raggae. I miss dripping sunsets of pinks and oranges, the feeling of kona winds grazing sweaty palms, lomi-lomi salmon and pork luau, Portuguese sausage and rice. I miss the way we say “slippahs” instead of sandals, and when it’s fifteen below zero and my hands feel like they’re about to fall right off my body, I miss that muggy, subtropical heat.
I believe we should all be proud of where we are from, no matter how monotonous, slow, or boring you feel home might be. The grass is always greener on the other side, even when it isn’t. It took me four years, 5,000 miles, and the painful sensation of frozen fingers to realize this, but I can finally say, proudly, that I am from Hawaii.