By, Sarah Amano
There was a time when I thought I knew exactly what I wanted in life. When you’re young, you think you know but really you don’t. You don’t know what’s going to happen in five years or even a day from now. I was born and raised on O’ahu, Hawai’i and planned to stay there for the rest of my life. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else than my little island. But in the summer of 2015, that completely changed. Everything changed. I visited Seattle, a wonderful melting pot of rain, culture, and coffee. From then on my heart was only in Seattle. It happened within a day, a minute, even a second. That’s how fast change can happen. I began to realize how much I had been limiting myself and all the opportunity that was waiting for me. Is this what I had been missing all along? But one year later, somehow, I got my dream and ended up leaving O’ahu, the only place I had ever known with my family in tow. No more li hing mui powder over fruits, haupia pies from Ted’s Bakery, plate lunches, tan lines, and countless hours spent in the water without being on the verge of hypothermia. But it didn’t matter what I would miss or no longer have. Seattle was calling. Going through this experience of moving and adjusting allowed me to experience so many new opportunities and taught me about self-confidence.
The first thing I should say is that mainland life is very different and buzzes with opportunity. I could feel it the second I stepped off the plane. The crisp, cool air so different from the heat and humidity of my tropical island home. It’s funny, but a lot of people don’t believe that I’ve moved here by choice. I’ve heard everything from “wow, I’m so sorry you have to be here” to “you might become depressed in winter.” People don’t seem to realize how much I love Seattle. I was incredibly fortunate to grow up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but Hawai’i was suffocating, and it became too small for my dreams and goals. I was sick of my repetitive life and the longer I lived there the more I craved the bigger world waiting across the ocean. My heart had already gone there a long time ago.
Really the magic was in adjusting to the small differences like experiencing actual seasons and the changing of leaves from rich greens to warm reds, oranges, and yellows. It was even in the signs on the side of the road that tell you what types of food or gas stations are ahead. It’s strange, I know, but it’s just so “mainland-ish” and oddly enchanted me. But then comes the greatest, most unimaginable gift from God to this world: SQUIRRELS! Such creatures do not exist in Hawai’i. Although the obsession has died down a bit, their existence has completely changed my life. Throughout my time here I was able to observe other things and I’ll just kindly leave them here. First, the use of the word “flip-flops.” Does such a peculiar word exist? In Hawai’i, we call your version of flip-flops “slippers.” And no that’s not referring to house or bath shoes. Next, there were the roads. Speed limits over fifty-five actually exist! But drivers need to calm down and STOP honking their horns. Not a day went by where we were either too slow when the light turned green or got flipped off by an old guy racing down the highway. If these people went to Hawai’i they’d go absolutely crazy. There’s also the silly little things I noticed like how everyone says “yoo-koo-lay-lee when it’s oo-koo-le-le” or the famous question I’d always get: “Why aren’t you Hawaiian?” Well, there are hardly any full-blooded Hawaiians. The main ethnicity is Japanese.
However, there’s always a downside to things and this had to do with my self-confidence. For the first time in my life, I was a minority. I’ve never been asked so many times before about where I’m from or what language I speak immediately being assumed to not be American. I began to compare myself to the other girls at my high school or even people I saw on the street. Why couldn’t I have blonde hair? Why couldn’t I have cool colored eyes? Why couldn’t I be as pretty as them? The comparing led to resenting who I was and although I had always dealt with self-image, it was the lowest I had ever felt about myself because of the lies I believed. I tricked myself into thinking that I was always being judged, always being talked about, always less than everyone else. Making friends had never been a difficult task before, but I let my self-consciousness rule. Especially coming as a sophomore to a private high school, there weren’t many other new students that I could bond over these fears with. That was the hardest thing. I looked around and saw the cliques, friend groups, heard the laughter in the halls and started to wonder where I belonged in all of it. Being the “new kid” started all over again and I worried over other’s opinions and wasn’t completely myself. Because of this, I shied away from putting myself out there and my life that once buzzed with social activity quickly came to a halt. I remember watching my friends, whether it was on Snapchat or Instagram living their lives without me and having fun. I began to miss beach days in Kailua, sleepovers, and dinners in Waikiki. Whatever the reason that God led me to Seattle couldn’t have been right. Maybe I was here just to learn to appreciate Hawai’i. Maybe this place wasn’t meant for me like I thought.
But of course, this season of difficulty didn’t last forever and the main factor was time. If good things came quickly and easily, what type of character would that build? As I grew more and more comfortable with my surroundings, I opened up and attracted new friends into my life and began to feel more confident in myself. I realized that I’d never be able to change who I was and that I no longer wanted to. I was so consumed by my own problems that I didn’t even stop to think about all the good things and opportunities that I experienced. In the past year, I got my first job, went on a mission trip to Cuba with my classmates, and saw things like the falling of leaves and snow for the first time. I drove to places I’ve never been before like Canada, Oregon, and Idaho. I began Running Start, which schools in Hawai’i have never offered, and I even learned what daylight savings is.
Differences, difficulties, and everything in between I love Seattle. The eccentricity of this city and its gray skies paired all too well with coffee will always enchant me. Yes, I miss diving into the sparkling blue water, being tan, and rainbows never being a rare site but there is no place I would rather be. Through this experience, I learned that it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Things take time, and although you’re in the midst of a storm, you’re going to come out a wiser, stronger, and more confident you.