‘Float On’: Meditations on “Home,” Day 2

I ran my mouth off a bit too much, oh what did I say?
Well you just laughed it off it was all OK.
And we’ll all float on OK.
And we’ll all float on any way.
– Float On, Ben Lee

I’ve been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out when I felt like O‘ahu became home. I was tempted to write about my students, who certainly feel like home, but I’ve done that before, multiple times

And it’s true– my school is the place that has felt most like home the past few years. 

Still, I had a life before teaching, and I have a life outside of it. I’m different than the girl I was when I moved here (which, consequently, I’ve written about as well). I have well-worn places on island that I love, and when I am away I crave seeing the green that I think only exists in Hawai‘i. There are restaurants, beaches, and parks that I’ve experienced on my own and with people. When those people have left my life, I’ve had to learn to reclaim them for myself.

And I thought about writing about that: what it means to re-learn a place after you’ve separated from the person who brought you there.

Then, I realized that those experiences were not “home” at all. Those people were not home either. I’ve known what home was all along, and that made me realize what I had done to find that on O‘ahu.


I wonder what happens if I turn left… here. I thought to myself as my feet pounded the trail. It was a sunny January morning, and I was enjoying a Monday off from school. On a whim, I decided to run to Mānoa falls, a common tourist hike due to its easy trail and pay off of a lovely waterfall at the end.

I’ve done the hike multiple times, and now occasionally run it when I’m looking to change up my training. After passing tourists (upon tourists upon tourists), I reached the falls and taken a long deep breath. I was about to turn around and head back when I saw a trailhead to the left of the falls that I’d never noticed before.

I was about to shrug it off and keep moving, but my heart tugged in the direction of the trail. I had no plans that day– nowhere to be and no obligations– and I figured I might as well spend the time moving.

I turned up onto the trail, and was immediately surprised at how much more calm and serene it was compared to the bustling falls below. A few feet more revealed a bamboo forest.

After snapping a quick shot, I began moving. The trail was nearly empty and it was silent as I walked.

If you read this blog often enough, you know that I’m a distance runner in normal practice. I often spend large swaths of time on my own, running, often silently. I have written that I find this meditative, that it is often a practice that helps return me to myself.

This exploration, though, is a different kind of meditation. Yes, when I run alone I can work through problems. I can walk and go within myself, trying to move towards a greater understanding of something.

On a hike, especially a hike I’ve never done before, it is difficult to zone out in that way. For one thing, it’s not safe. It’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and footsteps, lest you fall down a mountain or something equally dangerous.

You would also, however, miss out on some truly beautiful things.

There is a different sort of meditative nature that takes over when I hike. I think of it as a form of “hyperawareness.” It’s something hunters and foragers talk about when they are “in the zone.” When I enter a new space, particularly in nature, I notice the colors more deeply or am more attentive to the sounds around me– partially out of safety, and partially because I am eager to appreciate the new surroundings.

When I first moved to the island, I was terrified to go hiking on my own. After literally falling off a cliff about one month into living here, I was certain that death awaited me on O‘ahu’s trails.

It took a few months, but eventually my desire to run and explore won out. I found myself waking up early mornings to race up the steps of Koko Head or enjoy Kuliouou on my own. I’d go on Yelp and search “running trail” and choose a new place to go and explore.

I see now that, beyond being new ways to check out the island, it was these solo ventures that made me come to see the island as a place where I felt safe enough to explore it on my own. Frankly, a number of my experiences of O‘ahu — restaurants and concert venues– been colored by the people who brought me there. They were, at the time, a gift shared, an experience to enjoy with someone else.

Of course, I can reclaim a place if that person has left my life, or enjoy it again with the friends that haven’t. I normally do, but while these experiences have provided me with knowledge, they don’t always allow me agency.

When I am hiking or trail running on my own, I don’t need someone to guide me or hold my hand. I didn’t need to be shown somewhere. The only permission I need is the openness of my own heart. The only guide to follow is my instinct and the trail marker. If I feel like I’ve made a wrong turn, I just stop, take a breath, look for the next sign or simply turn around.

There is something ultimately encouraging about that: Yes, the trail is often muddy. Sometimes the path is unclear, but attempting to navigate them on my own has taught me an invaluable lesson: maybe you just need to push forward. You simply have to keep floating on and hoping that the most lovely vistas lay ahead of you, if you only keep moving.

Escape: Meditations on “Home,” Day 1

“Last time it snowed, you were one person. Now, you’re another.”

– The Paris Letter, Jon Robin Baitz

The last time I was in this house, it was nearly two months ago to the day.

I’d try and recount the weekend in detail to you, but I’d be lying if I said I could. Here is what I remember about booking the trip, and the first twenty-four hours.

1.

I booked the flight to leave O‘ahu for the weekend with one word on mind: escape. I had stopped and taken a good, long look at the life I created for myself. I spread it out on the table, nodding slowly while surveying the contents. It was lies and taboo laughter. It was reckless leaps and bad choices. It was too much red wine, gulped down alone in my apartment while waiting.

I looked at that life and said, “NOPE.”

So, I shamelessly decided to run.

I needed to be “away” in every sense possible. Not turn-off-my-phone away. Not go-on-a-solo-run away. But hop-on-a-plane-and-have-an-ocean-in-between-me-and-my-life kind of away. So, on April 30th I booked a flight to spend a few days in Kona two weeks later. Alone, in what I saw as “my parent’s house,” as I had never grown up there, I wanted silence. I wanted a blank canvas. I wanted to live a life that wasn’t mine.

2.

I got on the plane to Kona feeling jumpy and distracted. I had created a web of emotional turmoil that I had no clue how to see myself out of.  Somehow in the thirteen days since booking the damn flight, my life was more complicated.

Still, a part of me had been tempted to call off my trip. Was I running from my problems? Was I just shirking off responsibility? Should I stay? I had a million questions running through my head and coming from all sides.

“How did you get here?”
“What comes next?”
“Do you know what you want?”
“What are you going to do?”

The small, quiet voice lingered: escape.

I took a breath, turned away from my ride, and walked into the airport.

3.

My arrival in Kona is… disorienting, to say the least. Normally, Kona’s airport is a precursor for the kind of weather I will face: sun. Always gorgeous, occasionally brutal and unrelenting, the landscape is usually black rock and bright light, with little-to-no shade to protect you from it.

This time, the plane landed just as the sun was setting, and Kona is all dark blue sea and black jagged edges. Stormy palette, I think to myself, the sixteen-year-old-girl in me amused at the clichéd connection between the colors outside and ~my heart~.

I have visited the island multiple times, but rarely on my own. I normally arrived for work events that I needed to get to immediately, or with another person, or to run into the eager arms of my family.

“What time will you get here?”
“Did you land yet?”
“Do you need anything?”
“Where are you?”

As the sun sets to dusk on a mid-May evening, I got off the plane and onto the street. I looked around and realized that, for the first time in a while, I was truly obligated to no one but myself.

In an amusing twist of fate, I ended up in a silver, souped-up Mustang. It has an engine I will be unable to use to full capacity and a sound system that I don’t know what to do with.

It was absolutely perfect.

4.

I bought wine. And beer. And Goldfish and ice cream and junky dinners and girly magazines and I think nail polish?

IMG_7827.jpg

Oh, cereal. It seems I also bought cereal.

I took the above photo and sent it as a signal to some folks that I was a) alive and b) clearly on a path to try and find Jesus or myself at the bottom of a tub of Rocky Road or swirling somewhere in the Apothic Dark. After sending the picture, I looked at it and shook my head.

“Is this going to help?”
“Will this make you feel better?”
“What do you need?”
“What do you want?”

I uncorked the wine.

5. 

Text messages. There were lots of text messages. There was more wine.

6.

I took the hammock my mother bought and keeps, strangely, indoors, and turned it facing the TV. I painted my toenails alternating colors, like when I was thirteen.

I started swinging myself back and forth, trying to find a rhythm while trashy TV plays in the background. Oddly, a line from Hamilton: The Musical wormed its way into my head.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…”

I laughed long and hard as I sang it to myself. My phone pinged with a new message, and I was equal parts terrified and eager to see it. That night, my phone had hosted fireworks and firestorms, and I wasn’t sure which I would get when the screen lit up.

“When are you coming back?”
“What does this mean?”
“What do you want?”
“Where do you go from here?”

I closed my eyes and took a breath.

“Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now…”

7. 

An hour later, I went into my room to get something (A magazine? A blanket? I cannot remember), and end up sobbing on the cold tile at the foot of my bed. My head is buried in the covers.

How did I get here?
What was I going to do?
What comes next?
How could this happen? 

The ticker-tape ran behind my eyes as I tried to wash the questions away.

8.

I woke up the next morning, head throbbing, face puffy, sprawled on my parent’s bed.

The sun shone through the large, sliding door that leads to our backyard. The image was almost too-perfect: the sky bright blue, the grass so green it was Crayola-esque; it’s as though the saturation of this moment has been doubled.

“Look around, look around…”

I picked my head up off the pillow and look around.

“What are you doing?”
“What should I say?”
“Should I say anything at all?”

I dragged myself off the bed and into the living room.

9.

The hammock was at an odd, 45-degree angle to the couch. My towel is on the floor beneath it. There was a half-empty bottle of wine, uncorked, on the counter. There was an open box of cereal next to it.

“What happened here?”

I closed my eyes.

10.

When I opened them, I started laughing. Hard.

This wasn’t the bitter cackle of the night before, though. It was cleansing. It was open and cathartic. It was the laughter of someone who had fallen down the cliff, tumbled over the waterfall, crashed their car and rolled it, and still managed to get up, look down at their body, and say, “Holy shit, am I alive?! I am alive!”

I laughed more and shook my head for a moment, then I looked around the living room. This wasn’t the sterile, cold, silent retreat of “my parent’s house,” where I could pretend like my mess wasn’t real or my own. This wasn’t a question I needed to escape either. This was the home I needed to clean.

“Well, I guess it’s time to get to work.”

A Letter to My Wayward Self.

Over the past few months, I’ve been having my students write papers about love. In doing so, it made me both read and reflect on my own experiences with love and growing up– especially in my early twenties. This is where that led me.


A letter to my wayward self.

My dear girl,

I have no idea where you are running to, but I promise you none of the directions you are heading towards are “home.”

I know: you are horrible at the long game. There is no patience in your bloodstream, no chill hidden anywhere in your bones. You are all chicken skin and red hot veins. Your muscles are overrun with fast-twitch fibers. You go far beyond “starry-eyed”— your pupils dilate again and again as your mind wanders in explosive bursts with fury, unprepared for what happens in the moments after when the star has burned out and things are dark again.

You are spontaneous decisions and seeking the next high. Yours is a rabbit-heart that beats furiously, always asking questions: when? who? why how what where where where where? always searching. You race—no, bounce and sometimes tumble— down trails, so assured that the next turn will lead you to find home. You are certain that this rock or that tree is a sign, that the next moment will finally find the thing you want most: an anchor, a resting place, a haven that just might soothe the pitter-patter that runs from your heart, through your veins and into every other part of you.

The problem is, “home” is a vague X on a map without a key. There is no description or clue as to what it is. So you keep thinking you’ve found it: in the hands of one boy, in the furtive glances of a different man, the fervor of a blurred dance floor, the bottom of an empty wine glass. You hop from all these things, assured that each sip or kiss or beat is a sign that you are almost where you need to be.

It’s a confusing concept, but I promise you none of these things are where “home” is. Don’t confuse the feeling you get when you catch his eyes meeting yours with the experience of being appreciated fully in the gaze of someone who loves you. Don’t mistake a flurry of kisses for a downpour of actual caring. Don’t assume the pain-numbing warmth at the end of a long sip is the same as the soothing release of healing when you actually take care of yourself.

“Home” is not found in the temporary bliss of mind-numbingly good kisses. Don’t get me wrong— you can still have mind-numbingly good kisses, but they are merely decoration on the outside. “Home” is built by weathered boards that have been worked on and sanded. They are stained with difficult decisions and tears. Their nails are the choices you make, hammered in with mutual respect. They are painted with the laughter of jokes built over years of shared comfort. Home will wrap you in its arms when you walk into it looking like something the cat dragged in. Home will stay standing when you tear the furniture apart in rage. Home will still protect you when you can do nothing but sit there in silence.

I wish I could tell you things turn out okay.

The problem is, it’s hard to know when you have found a forever-home. Sometimes we outgrow a place, decide we need to do what’s best, move on. Or we realize the foundation isn’t solid. Or we take a job in Hawai‘i and move thousands of miles away.

Here’s the thing you will need to learn: home can never be some summit that you have to venture to. Home should never be a place that can only be entered when terms and conditions apply. Home can never truly be yours if it only exists within the happiness of another’s.

The only place you will truly find it is when you stop, close your eyes, and breathe. You will feel the ground beneath your feet, the beat of your heart in your own ears, the muscles behind your eyes relax. Then, you will realize that home was never some external site to begin with. You will realize the only real home is the quiet, still place where you both know and love yourself, exactly as you are.

And in that moment, you will finally be found.IMG_8512.JPG