One week from today, I'll be home for a two-week visit. And I know I talked about this the last time I went back in February too, but it still stings to have to say that I'm "visiting" this place that, despite spending the majority of the last five years elsewhere, I call "home." Because, to be honest, I don't think I'll ever be able to say that of anywhere but Hawaii. Sure, I'll refer to wherever my current residence is as my home, but no other place will ever fill my heart the way that Hawaii does.
For the first 18 years of my life, I dreamed of "getting off the rock." Hawaii was too small, everybody knew each other, and there were no opportunities for a gifted young woman with a bright future such as myself. I needed more. So in high school I decided that I'd go to college somewhere completely different. Simply leaving the islands wasn't enough. A lot of people did that. I needed to go somewhere not just physically different, but also where I wouldn't run into the same kinds of people I grew up with either. Which is how I found myself at the University of Chicago (full disclosure: I'm pretty sure I was only accepted so that they could say they had students from every state). And it was everything that I wanted. Or at least what I thought I did. It was different in every way you could imagine, and yet a lot of times (not all, but a lot) instead of applauding and embracing these differences the way I thought I would, I found myself unimpressed and yearning for home where things were, in my opinion, better.
I missed the warmth, the familiarity, the food, the aloha, the fact that I could do all of my favorite things on any day of the year. Before each term was half way over, I'd be counting down the days until I'd get to go back to the islands, making sure to post a gratuitous #tbt every week. And I never found myself antsy to return to school at the end of our excessively long four-month summers the way some of my friends were. When I was home, my soul was at ease. I thought, "Man, high school Jackie sure was wrong. She just didn't see what she had right in front of her."
But in the end, high school Jackie was right. I really did - and still do - need to get away from Hawaii. Because I love it so much. Because I know that if I were to decide to move back, I would be so content and wouldn't be able to leave again - at least not for an extended period. And that's the exact opposite of what I want.
I've come to realize that the best things in life don't come from being content. When you're content, you don't want to do more. Because why bother? You're comfortable. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But you don't learn anything by doing things the same way. You can't grow when you're in stasis. You won't recognize the highest highs if you haven't experienced the lowest lows. If you want to see the world in all of its colors, you need to take off those rose-tinted glasses.
Living in Chicago forced me to grow immensely. Not only did I learn skills like coping with sub-zero weather (sub-minus-20 for you Celsius heathens), but I was also exposed to a number of different points of view and ideologies that I maybe would have never come across in the islands, which have helped me to develop my ways of thinking and shape who I am today. And I really do believe that I'm a much better person for it.
Even living in Japan, someplace I thought I already knew after visiting multiple times and studying abroad here for eight months, has forced me outside of my comfort zone on a fairly regular basis. I can drive in snow now. I can do bills and make appointments in Japanese. And though it's something that I'm still working on, I've definitely become a lot more patient since arriving here (Japanese bureaucracy is no joke, man).
And if I could get this much from just these two places, why stop there?
So for now, even if it does hurt a bit, I'm okay with my occasional one or two-week long visits. I'm okay watching my friends on social media living lives I know I would love to have. I'm okay knowing that the longer I'm away, the more things will change without me, and the more disconnected I'll become. I can handle it. Because as much as I love Hawaii, it'll always be there. But I'm only going to be this young, this free to come and go as I please for a finite amount of time, and if I settle and go back to what's comfortable simply because it's comfortable and cheat myself of all the potential the world has to offer, I know I'm going to regret it. And that I don't think I can handle.