“I have this really weird love and hate for [this new town]
Relative to so many other cities, it mostly sucks
but there are really cool parts of it and some awesome shops, and having a massive park through the center of the whole city is pretty wild.
But then ninety percent of the people are just awful.
It's so strange,
but I'm starting to feel like a part of it”
My newly married best friend messaged these words to me shortly after he moved to a new city and started a new job.
I resonated with his oddly romantic sentiment. Change isn’t hard. Change is formidable. The process of starting over, building a new community, finding new spots to frequent, and learning a place and a people is challenging. The feeling of un-belonging persists despite the excitement in the steady acquainting oneself with an environment and culture. And yet, despite the exhausting process, a deep appreciation is found in befriending people and exploring a place in order to build familiarity.
A couple of months ago, I moved to the North Shore of Oahu from Portland, OR. I moved here for the summer for no reason other than to engage with the unfamiliar, to live in a place that I knew nothing about . My first week, I stayed in a hostel. Each morning I woke to the squawking of geckos and early morning ruffling of fellow twenty-somethings in the beds around me. Did you know that geckos squawk? I didn’t. I also didn’t know how simultaneously terrifying and awe-striking waves were, how prevalent my initial loneliness would be, that the cost of food would be so high, and that ants and cockroaches were everywhere. I admit, there have been aspects of my time here that have plain-old sucked. And yet, just like my friend in his new town, I am starting to feel part of this place.
I consistently wake up before 8 am now. The sun filters golden light through my blinds each morning. I wake in the sleeping bag that my dad gave me for Christmas a few years ago when I first decided to live out my dreams of backpacking and traveling. I considered myself a “real adult” once I bought an air mattress to replace the cot I had been sleeping on. That’s a defining moment in “adulting” right?
As I sat on the beach watching the sunset, avoiding the crabs that scurry with a sideways slant across the sand, I discovered that my favorite color is the rich grey-blue of the ocean. By snorkeling and taking sandy walks, I learned that sea turtles don’t actually say “fin, noggin, duuuude,” they mostly just sit still or embody the krill’s mentality of “swim away.” I have developed friendships with a traveler whom I met through a fellow hostel-mate, a student at BYU whom I will travel with later this year in India, a barista at a local coffee shop, and attendees of churches and the non-profit Surfing the Nations. I am honored by those who have welcomed me into their lives, with texts, FaceTime sessions, and phone calls from previously developed friendships.
I have become part of this place by feeling the mud squish between my toes on countless hikes to arches and waterfalls and ridgelines, by visiting as many beaches as possible, and by working at overcoming my fear of heights and waves by cliff jumping and swimming with the encouragement of those braver than myself. I can't go anywhere without shakas from friends and acquaintances, or without sweat dripping from parts of my body I didn’t know could sweat. By embracing the difficulties and the beauties in exploring this place, and in turn being embraced, I am home. This sense of belonging is Aloha, and Aloha can be found and taken anywhere.