Dear Soon to Be High School Graduate

Dear Soon to Be High School Graduate

You've come a long way, friend.

So it approaches. The day you've been waiting for since your senior year began, maybe even before that. The moment when you will be given a diploma and sent off to college or even straight into the real world. You were probably ready to be done with high school months ago, but as graduation approaches, I'm sure you're a little uncertain of what the future might hold.

First and foremost, college is exponentially better than high school. It is full of new people, new things, and new experiences that will knock you off your feet. Everything about college is fresh and exciting. You're able to discover yourself and define who you are. The path ahead may be unpredictable, but there are a thousand doors that have yet to be opened. You will change your mind about what you're going to do for a living and who you're going to be countless times, but that is OK. College is meant to be a time for experimentation and no one expects you to have your life planned out before you're even truly an adult.

You're independent, but you're never alone. Your family and your friends from high school are always a phone call, FaceTime, or text away. Don't be fooled, some of your friendships will fade with time, but that's just life! The friends who are truly your "people" will remain close to you regardless of distance. You'll get homesick, but you're not alone in that either. I implore you to not be that kid who goes home every weekend. If you do, you'll miss out on so many things. Most importantly, you'll miss out on meeting some of the incredible people around you. Sometimes, your best friends are the ones in one of your classes or across the hall and you'll never know it if you don't open yourself up. Embrace the welcome week activities and don't waste a minute of your freshman year. As a college freshman who's year is almost over, I can tell you it goes by too fast.

Now that you're excited for September, rewind to right now. You have a month or so left of your high school career. I can't stress enough how important it is to make the most of these last days. Even though college is incredible, I'd be lying if I told you that most college freshmen didn't miss high school every once in a while. You had teachers that knew you by name, a lunch table to gossip at each day, organized school events to look forward to, and hallways full of people you loved. You will look back and wonder if you made the most of your time there. So make sure you rid yourself of stressors and worries and enjoy your last days as a senior. Do you have a chance to be in the final school play or join a club? Do it. That person from your science class you've had a crush on since sophomore year? Talk to them. Don't have regrets. If you live your life that way, you're going to go far. Understand that you have the potential to be someone extraordinary. Be yourself and smile often because the world can be wonderful if you allow it to be!

You've got one life to live, so live it beautifully.

Cover Image Credit: Getty Images

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Just Because I'm From Hawaii, Does Not Mean I'm Hawaiian

My residency is not my race.

Let me start off with a few things about myself. I am a first generation American who is primarily Filipino, Spanish and Hungarian. With that said, I am a woman of color, who frankly, looks all white. I was born and raised on the North Shore of O'ahu, but currently live in the mainland.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Hawai'i, because I'm sure you don't know much about it since it's only given like, a paragraph of recognition in our history books. The Ancient Hawaiians traveled by canoe for thousands of miles using only the stars to navigate and found themselves in the Hawaiian Islands. They settled and their culture spread throughout the mountains and shores.
In 1778, Captain Cook "discovered" the islands, despite the thriving population residing there (he can be compared to Christopher Columbus). In the 1830s, the Sugar Industry was introduced, bringing a diverse range of immigrants from China, the Philippines, Japan and many other countries to work on the plantations, creating the diverse and ethnic population that makes up the islands today. In the 1890s, Queen Lili'uokalani (lily-oo-oh-kah-lah-nee) was imprisoned in an upstairs bedroom of her palace and soon after, the monarchy was overthrown. Hawai'i became a state in the 1950s.

With all of that said, we can now discuss an issue that I have realized needs to be addressed.

Since I moved to the mainland, I have had many encounters where people assure me that I am Hawaiian, despite my rebuttals that I am definitely not. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Them: "So you're from Hawaii, are you Native Hawaiian?"

Me: "Oh no, I'm Filipino, Hungarian and Spanish."

Them: "No, I mean, were you born and raised there?"

Me: "Yeah, but I'm not Hawaiian."

Them: "Yeah you are. It's the same thing."

No, it is most definitely not the same thing. If you were in Japan and saw a white person or any person not of Japanese descent, would you ask if they were Japanese simply because they lived there?
No, you wouldn't because you should know that residency does not equate descent. Sure, you might be curious and ask, but if they told you they weren't Japanese, you wouldn't try to convince them that they are. As I mentioned, Hawaii's population is made up of a ton of immigrants, and just because someone's family may have been there for generations, they are still not Hawaiian unless they actually have Hawaiian blood.

Not only do people assume that I am Hawaiian simply because I am from there, but they will continuously say that I look Hawaiian even if they have no idea what someone of Hawaiian descent looks like. Hawaiians are people of color, as are many of those who reside in the islands. However, as I previously mentioned, I do not look like a person of color even though I am, so why would you associate me, a seemingly full white person, to be Hawaiian? It makes no sense.

There are many things wrong with choosing to misidentify an individual or a group of people.
One, is that by you convincing yourself that I am something that I am not, you are diminishing who I am, and how I identify myself.
Second, you are creating an illusion based upon your own desires of who Hawaiians as a people are.
Third, by using me specifically, you are whitewashing the image of an entire race. I could go on, but there is not enough time in the world to name them all.

Their culture has been reduced to leis, aloha shirts, surfing, and tiki torches. Aloha has become a household word used by people who have no understanding of what Aloha truly means. Girls go as hula dancers in an effort to show skin on Halloween without any second thought. Please stop. We cannot continue to misidentify, appropriate and basically erase Hawaiian culture, just as has been done to the Native Americans.

Hawaiians have already been stripped of their land. I will not allow them to be stripped of their identity as well.

Cover Image Credit: TourMaui

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I Ended Up In A Family Group Chat...With All Of My Roommates

It was probably one of the most unexpected things that happened to me.


I know, unbelievable, but hear me out. I didn't expect it at all either. I came to college feeling very reserved and sheltered in. I met my roommates, one who had a boyfriend. They were very very lovey-dovey to the point where it felt like witnessing a drama every passing moment. It was very cute.

Even though I wasn't very expressive myself, my roommates made sure to show me lots of love and give me support and comfort. Slowly, I warmed up to the others and before long we were having face mask nights, Uno challenges, reading and watching creepy trends, truth or dare, ramen nights, scary stories, and so much more. It felt like a family.

One day, when my roommate was being lovey-dovey with her boyfriend, I joked that they were like parents already. That joke then extended on to me and the other roommate being their children and our neighbors to being the grandma and aunt. It was a spontaneous sort of naming system but it came together really well and slowly, everything fell into place. Suddenly it became so established; we developed a family group chat and would occasionally address each other by our family titles. We even started playing into our roles more.

My roommate and her boyfriend started becoming more parental and taking care of my other roommate and I. I started becoming more carefree around my roommates and we would all stay in contact via our Snapchat group named "G.N.O.A.T" at first (greatest neighborhoods of all time) but changed to "family."

It was probably one of the most unexpected things that happened to me at the beginning of my college career but I'm also very grateful that it happened. Because of that, I was able to open up with my roommates and neighbors. I was able to be more honest and slowly feel a deeper kinship with everyone. Before I came to college, I didn't even know if I was going to have good terms with my neighbors but after this experience, I never expected my neighbors and roommates to label me as family, even if it's only a facetious name for now.

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