I lived in Hawaii for a long period of my life.
Sad to admit, but I was "flown" and not "grown" there. However, I lived in that paradise for the largest portion of my human life, from ages 10 to 18. I moved there with my family at the pivotal time of pre-adolescence. It's the time when you're trying to make friends, shedding baby fat, dealing with your awkward growth spurt, trying to act older than you really are and balancing your life between being ridiculously angry and ridiculously happy.
As I grew older and settled into the next period of human metamorphosis, I began to soak up the culture of Hawaii like a sponge. We lived in the Puna district on Hawai'i Island, which is famous for its agricultural history, the volcano Kilauea and variety in many things. However, Puna also has its infamous parts, like hippie cults and easy access to many drugs.
Hawaii is unlike any place I'd ever lived in or traveled to. Hawaii is part of the U.S., but there's a different feel, or "vibe," and it's very difficult to detach yourself from the balmy, sunny, plumeria-scented universe that is Puna and also Hawai'i. Almost every time, without fail, I cry once we reach Hilo airport and it's time for me to say goodbye. I cry because it's saying goodbye to more than just a place and its people. It feels like I'm saying goodbye to a whole culture that contributed to shaping me as a human being.
When traveling, or while I'm at school in the Midwest, and I mention where I hailed from, everyone asks me why I would ever leave paradise. The second question is always whether I plan to go back to Puna after I graduate from school. And although there's no place that I've discovered yet that is more genuine or organic, I always have to say, "No, not yet," in a sad, sing-song note that's almost apologetic.
Bluntly said, Hawaii was just not a very good place for me to find my ambition as a young adult. Hawaii is a state of islands with a very limited amount of job openings or opportunities for career advancement. From my experience and observation, I've seen that Hawaii is a great place for childhood, and also a great place for the elderly. However, in the presumably career-based, fastest period of human growth, post-adolescence, Hawaii doesn't leave a lot of room or bounty.
I will always have respect and love for Hawaii, Hawai'i, and Puna. I've been away in the mainland (the continental U.S.) for almost two years now, and every time I have a short break at home for about two to three weeks, I almost never want to leave. If I moved back right after I graduated, I know I would be stuck forever. I'd be stuck in a paradise, yes, surrounded by sun and rain-ripened life. However, I'm not ready to be stuck yet. I'm not at the age to be consumed by a routine that makes me so satisfied that I'll never want to grow. I love Hawaii, and I will go back, but it's just not my time, and it won't be for a while.