Sunday, September 6, 2009

Identity Crisis

Reading this Honolulu Advertiser Island Commentary and browsing my journal entries from college have inspired me to update this blog for the first time in months.

Advanced apology: I've mulled over these thoughts so many times that they are stamped on my mind like the rainbow dots my favorite kid-time sprinkle cookies left behind on my fingers. (And yes, that came to me as I was munching on them just now.)

Very yummy cookies

I have an identity crisis I like to term "white girl in Hawaii" syndrome. To understand this, you need to know a little about my background. My Mainland heritage comes from my mother, who is Minnesota-bred, and my paternal grandfather, who was from Wisconsin. Both ended up in Hawaii, my mom after she'd met my dad at a teacher's workshop in Pennsylvania and dated him long-distance for two years, my grandfather while he was stationed here in the Army and met my then high school-aged grandmother after seeing her hula dancing in Waikiki.

My Hawaii roots: My maternal grandmother's ancestors arrived in Hawaii in the 1880s with the first influx of Portuguese immigrants who came to work on the island plantations. My grandmother allegedly has a certificate showing that it was her ancestor who was among the first to bring the ukulele to Hawaii. She also remembers Pearl Harbor and the family legend of her uncle unknowingly shielding himself under a gas truck at the base during the attack. My dad's birth certificate shows he was born in the Territory of Hawaii. And I was born and raised here on Oahu.

What's the identity crisis? I'd say that 95 percent of people from Hawaii and the Mainland don't think I'm from here. I'm a pale Caucasian with a slight Midwest accent thanks to going to college in Illinois. Having returned here after school, it feels more than ever that I'm a stranger in my own home state.

And before this turns into a whiny diatribe, I'll let one of my whiny, rambling college journal entries say it for me:

12/11/02 10:45 a.m. Northwest flight heading towards Pacific & LA:

Heading home is always such a great feeling. You've said goodbye to fall quarter syllabuses and books, bad late night coffee and cold Midwest weather. And you're headed to your beautiful birthplace where shorts may be worn again and the mountains are far from Illinois molehills. Christmas preparations are ahead and the faces of your parents and silly younger brother at the airport are a welcome sight after four airports and no sleep the night before flying. But maybe you don't feel like you belong either there or in the Midwest anymore. Maybe it's like being stuck between two places and neither your dorm room or your worn-in bed at "home" feels just right. You ask yourself why you aren't more thrilled than you are to be going to Hawaii for three weeks -- a wonderful vacation in the eyes of mainland residents and their persistent "Why'd you come here (to Chicago) for college?" queries. There is some attraction to things mainland-ish, like first snow and mittens, creaky radiators and bare trees, mainland clothes, acceptance of pale skin like mine, beautiful pink and blue sunsets inhabited by telephone pole crows and dipping temperatures, the change in seasons, the Chicago accent, the potato-based meals. You like it, sure, and even more than you did last year -- maybe -- and you just might end up living here someday. And when people in Hawaii AND people on the mainland [inadvertently] make you feel like you have no right or reason to be from Hawaii -- born and raised -- my goodness, just look at you -- where do you go? Where do you belong? Anywhere? But heading home is always such a great feeling. Right?!

Yah, little bit of conflicted internal monologue going on there. And I still, seven years later, don't know where I belong.