It happens to me at least two times a week, sometimes more. At some point in my day, whether it be prompted by the scenery, interactions with locals, or in simply seeing a map, I find myself wondering, “How did I get here?”
Even after a year and a half, there is still a strange feeling of disbelief that lingers. I can’t seem to fully wrap my head around the fact that I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I clearly recall when I put out the news that we were moving to Oahu, most people’s first reaction was to exclaim, “OH MY GOSH, you are so lucky!” Though when I first heard the news, I must say “lucky” was not my first thought. My first thoughts revolved around the fact that I would have to get on an airplane and fly across an ocean. Cue: Stress Level 1. My next thoughts concerned my dog, who does not even like to get in a crate, much less stay in one for 12 hours in a small space with a lot of luggage. Cue: Stress Level 2. Nope. None of this sounded “lucky” to me.
But, as it turns out, it is hard to find any sympathy from others when you have an all-expenses paid move to a tropical island. I gave up on trying to find someone to support my way of thinking and gave in to the inevitable. I was going to have to move and to get to my new home, a journey of 13 hours – approximately 6 of which would be over the water – was a non-negotiable.
Valium securely in my purse, I boarded our first flight from Florida to Arizona. When you are taking a leap of faith such as this, your mind cannot even begin to know what to expect. I knew we had to leave the dog behind for 3 months to complete his quarantine period. I knew we would be living in a hotel for several months, and I knew we would not have a car for a few weeks. But beyond that, much of how my life would look was a mystery to me.
I tried not to look out the window as the second flight of the day began, which would include the very long trip over the ocean. A second dose of Valium and I felt like I could get through the rest of the trip. As we approached our final destination, a feeling of great accomplishment fell over me. We had made it – alive! THANK GOD! (Although I am quite convinced my husband and son knew we would all along.) I found the courage to look out the window and as we landed, I tried to survey the landscape and imagine what life would be like here.
Once on the ground, we were greeted by a familiar face – a fellow rock dweller that I had met when our husbands were stationed together in Colorado. It was a welcome breath of fresh air when I saw her smiling face and she placed the ceremonial lei around my neck to welcome us.
That’s when it began. I must have said it a million times in the first few weeks: “How did I get here?”
At times, it seemed unfair, and other times it seemed to be the biggest blessing one could ask for. The nuances of island life would stop me in my tracks. A store would run out of staple items during a busy time… how did I get here? Something basic or important wouldn’t happen as quickly as I’d expect… how did I get here? The weather seemingly never changed, every morning as bright and sunny as the day before… how did I get here?
Over the past year, I have settled into living on a rock and fewer things catch me off guard. I still ask myself that question from time to time, but more often than not, it’s inspired by something that takes my breath away – when I am gazing into the sunset over the most spectacular blue ocean, or when I am standing on a favorite beach watching the whales breaching.
And yes, there are times when the statement is said more in frustration than appreciation. But in those times, often all it takes to right my perspective is a gentle reminder in the form of a tourist marveling over how fortunate I am to call this island home.
I once had a tourist tell me that she thought Hawaii was the most beautiful place in the world. In response, I asked her where she lived, thinking she would say Detroit or Iceland or somewhere else that people usually consider less desirable. But she shocked me by responding with Switzerland! I wondered, how could this little island possibly be deemed more gorgeous than the mountains and castles of Switzerland?
True, this is simply a matter of perspective, but it’s in these moments when people from all over the world share their admiration for my home and how much they wish that they, too, could live here, that I deeply realize how very LUCKY I am.
So in answer the question, “How did I get here?” – I got here via a big scary airplane and a whole lot of luck. I am also certain that for as long as we live on this little rock, I will always be in some small state of disbelief. And for that, I am grateful – grateful to live in a place so beautiful that it never fails to take my breath away and leave me in wonder.
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Does living on your island still feel surreal to you at times?