As Huffington Post prepares for their Hawaii launch, they asked a simple question on Twitter that really got me thinking…
What does Hawaii mean to you?
Many who will read this already know that I’m from Hawaii. Some have had the pleasure of visiting or even living there themselves (perhaps even WITH me). I don’t really talk about it much in detail though, so I wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about what it was like growing up in Hawaii. To use a Hawaiian phrase, let's talk story.
I was born and raised in Hawaii, on the island of O'ahu. Being immersed in the culture my entire life, it took me leaving to fully realize just how different the lifestyle and even location really is. I left for college in 2000, and every trip I’ve taken home since then has opened my eyes a little more to the difference between the mainland and Hawaii—and to the difference within me. Being back with my family where I grew up magnifies each change in me. The contrast between what was and what is now gets amplified.
I've lived in DC for almost 9 years now. I would say that I've assimilated and that it's changed me some. I walk with much more purpose and hurry than I used to. I pay more attention to politics and world events. I haven't completely lost the island girl, but she is getting tougher and tougher to find, I think. Sometimes I think back on my childhood and can’t really believe that was my life. From living in the mountains on a ranch without steady electricity (true story, and a long one for another day perhaps) to school field trips to the beach park, THAT was my life. And now, I’m thousands of miles away but with my family all still there.
Hawaii has a rich heritage and culture. Often I think the true depth of Hawaii’s history is lost in the onslaught of cheesy music, fake leis and obsession with luaus. Hawaii draws people from all over with its extraordinary beauty, but the warmth of the people is what's truly striking to me—the aloha spirit, we call it. The land and the people are so beautiful to me, so real.
So what does Hawaii mean to me?
Roots. Heritage. Family. Beauty. Identity. Hawaii is all of this and even more to me.