I live in freakin' Hawai'i.
I may have mentioned that once or twice or WAY TOO MANY times here. If you're sick of hearing about it, I honestly do apologize, but the truth is, it's been almost two years and I'm still at odds with "The Jewel of the Pacific." Saying that now, I feel like kind of an asshole.
One of my first posts on xoJane was about how bad I am at living here, and though I've gotten over a lot of the culture shock, much of the isolation I felt upon first moving here still remains. You can take the girl out of Los Angeles, but you can't make the girl stop missing the glorious weirdo-town that is LA.
But I'm not in LA, and I'm not going to be there for at least another year. And in the spirit of trying to be actually grateful for the the good things in my life instead of bitching and moaning about, well, EVERYTHING, I'm trying to see and experience the Hawai'i that unleashes the squeals of jealousy when I tell people where I live.
Like I said, I live in FREAKIN' HAWAI'I, and if I could just get over myself for one minute, I could open myself up to the amaze-balls-ness that surrounds me.
Yes, paradise isn't always paradise when you have to pay rent, but anywhere can suck if you commit to that decision in your little pea brain. And by "your little pea brain" I mean MY little pea brain.
The reality of the situation is that yes, Hawai'i, specifically O'ahu, the island I reside on, is a pretty beautiful place. You know those postcards people send you of what sand, blue water, cocktail colored sunsets and lush green mountains rising out of the Pacific? Yeah, it's real, and the postcards don't do it justice.
But beyond the postcard, O'ahu has given me some perspective on myself that I'm just now beginning to appreciate. Being here, so far away from the distractions of my previous life, has made me face a lot of my neuroses head on. Much of it has been documented here, on xoJane, and so I thank you for indulging me.
Anyway, here are some of the great things about living in Hawai'i. The stuff that they don't tell you about in the guide books (or maybe they do, I haven't read a guide book about Hawai'i in recent memory) and the stuff that upon closer inspection has been pretty good to me.
Here goes practicing a little gratitude.
1. The Food.
The first thing I realized I loved about living here was the food.
I have Celiac and eating gluten free, though becoming easier, is not always the simplest thing to do. But here, with all the Asian and Asian-inspired food, I can eat out almost anywhere. Asian food is so present in most aspects of eating life here, that a rice option is available at almost any meal.
Mochi (pounded sticky rice) has reinvented desert for me. You haven't lived until you've tried butter mochi.
Plus, I really like local food! Poke, taro, rice porridge, mango or tofu everything -- it all reminds me so much of the comfort food I ate as a kid.
I've never lived anywhere where I can eat as freely as I can in Hawai'i and honestly, when I think about leaving, it's one of the first things I mourn.
2. I live a 15-minute walk from a rainforest.
How often in life can you say that?
I liked hiking before I moved here, but it wasn't until I went wandering around my neighborhood one day and found the Makiki Valley Loop Trail that I really learned to love it.
For someone who needs escaping as much as I do, nothing is as peaceful as disappearing into that silent forest and feeling like I'm the only one on the island. And it's all closer to me than my commute to work. I'm still amazed by that.
I've always considered myself a rather "moderate" nature person, but living here, surrounded by tropical creatures, waterfalls, and foliage, has made me a straight up nature lover.
3. Duh…the beaches.
Yes, lots of places have beaches, but the beaches in Hawai'i are not only like none other, but they are everywhere.
I can go to the beach 12 months out of the year, the water is clear and warm, while swimming laps at the 24-Hour Fitness on Sunset Blvd was okay, swimming laps at my local beach park is way better.
Amazing snorkeling is just a short drive away and if I feel like dipping my toes into the ocean while I read my book, it ain't no big thing.
This is vacation stuff that I get to do whenever the mood strikes. I'm so lucky.
There are chickens everywhere.
Get on the road headed to the Windward Side of the island or simply drive up one of the mountains and you'll start seeing what I call "road chickens." When I'm walking up to my rain forest trail, I always see a few of them clucking around the trail head. Bonus if you see baby chicks with their mother hen!
Once my husband and I encountered three parking attendants attempting to catch a rogue chicken in a Wal-Mart parking lot (I'm not a big fan of shopping at Wal-Mart, but they are they only place that sells the roach traps that actually WORK). It was almost as if the Benny Hill song was playing in the background as the day-glo orange clad attendants scrambled under parked cars and over medians to catch the grumpy bird. Upon finally catching the chicken it was promptly released back to its home in the park across the street.
I'm not sure if the chickens I see belong to somebody or if they are simply free-range city chickens, but they are sooooo pretty. Red, black, green, yellow -- as a city girl I had honestly rarely seen live chickens before moving to Hawai'i and had definitely never seen chickens this colorful and healthy looking.
Something about seeing these chickens is just so cool to me. It's like two ways of life, city and country, colliding.
I am grateful for the chickens.
5. Everyone here is so nice.
I'm not going to lie, when I first got here, it freaked me out. I'm embarrassed to say I was suspicious of how forgiving and mellow everyone is.
If nothing else, Hawai'i has taught me to chill out, or at least try. With a little goodwill and kindness on your part, I find so many of the people here are willing to embrace you (literally) and invest a significant level of care in your well-being. I've seen this quality in such people as my boss to new friends to the cashier at my favorite coffee shop.
I admit I had some trouble assimilating to this way of thinking, but I do think slowing down and accepting kindness from people has in turn made me a less judgmental person.
So I'm whiny and I complain a lot, but I'm trying really hard to appreciate the good things in my life, and for better or for worse Hawai'i is one of those things.
Yeah, it's not perfect. There are days I'd sell you my toenails if it meant you'd set me up in my old LA life again. But as nostalgic and homesick as I get, I can't go back. I can only move forward.
So I'm moving forward. It just takes too much energy and anxiety to wish I was somewhere else. I can't do that to myself anymore. It's time I committed to really giving life here a chance.
Alright Hawai'i, let's see what this "paradise" thing is all about.
Tell me: What exactly are you grateful for about where you live?