I moved to Hawaii a long time ago. I did not really want to move here. I did not have visions of palm trees swaying. I thought that the Big Island was Oahu. I did not know what hula really looked like. Or that men danced it. Or that “grass” skirts are dreadful representations of the real thing. I moved here because my ex wanted to move here. He was stationed here and loved it. I just came along.
When I first came here, I just needed a job. I did things like working for the census bureau, temping at a (now) rival health insurer and Borders Book Store. I met people at Borders that I still see quite frequently and celebrate major holidays with. I found my hairdresser while working there (she cut my hair last Friday). I had a degree in Marine Biology but not a great track record in the field and no local connections. A friend suggested that I apply as session staff at the Hawaii State Legislature. She said that I would really like it. I was not convinced. I knew nothing about the legislative process. And then, I was there and I loved it. And it is really what I still do. I think about that. I would have never even thought about applying at the Capitol. Government was always physically distant for me. But it is so close here. People knocking on your door. Signwaving on corners. And on the advice from a friend, I ended up there. And I kind of found myself. How many people can say that?
And I was at the Capitol and learned so much. I remember lurking just off the Senate floor, stalking a Chair to get a Committee Report signed. I remember watching the Merrie Monarch festival for the first time in a fellow Representative’s office. I tired squid luau for at my boss’ fundraiser and loved it. I learned how the legislative process worked. I learned about deadlines. I learned about politics. I learned about policy. And I was hooked.
I moved to the private sector and went to an association that dealt with the City Council. We hosted events for our members. Had them meet Council members and issued endorsements. I learned how to deal with a demanding constituency. And many, many members. My boss there was difficult. And that served me well. He was completely atypical Hawaii. But I learned how to decipher the best way to deal with him. I learned how to do a good job and identify my tough boss’ pain points.
My boss sent my resume to his dad for a job that I was not looking for which is how I ended up where I am today. I was hired on a trial basis in the government relations department at the state’s largest health insurer. I fell into a love hate relationship with the state legislature. I remember having a safe haven office to let down the meet and greet façade of talking to legislators constantly. I learned how to work under pressure. I learned how to be discrete. To give and take. To negotiate. I honed my ability to write. Mostly testimony. I was given opportunities that I would not have had. I got in on the ground floor of the Affordable Care Act.
And at some point, Hawaii gave me the courage to write. To write from my heart. To start my blog. To not be afraid. That may be the best gift of all. Because that freedom let me find myself. It let me be myself. It let me be fearless to post myself. And it led to my current organization embracing that writing. To publishing it in their quarterly magazine. And while that did not lead to minor celebrity status for me, it still made me feel like a real writer. How many people can say that? I am hopeful that the ability to have that feeling, will carry me further, in this journey. I learned how to be real and not be afraid
Finally, I work in the Legal department, which is just weird to me. And working in Legal, well, it has taught me that, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Attorneys feel vulnerable and indecisive even if they are uber intelligent. They are giving. They are just the best (and not just the attorneys, the paralegals as well). I learned to be more open. And the irony that it was the legal department that taught me to love does not escape me. That they taught me that letting people into your heart is not sign of weakness. It is difficult but what Hawaii taught me is that it is the people. The people are what matter.
And honestly, this may be the thing that I learned that taught me that I need to go back to NY. To be closer to my mom. To understand that life really is short. It is not a platitude. And I could talk about my church and how much I love it there. Or I could talk about my Doctor Who group. Or my book club. But it is the family. The ones you choose. The ones that you accidentally become part of. The ones who embrace you like their own. And that is how I feel about Hawaii. Embraced. Loved. Part of a family. And always feeling the aloha.