Before You Move: Research!!!

Working on the beautiful Garden Isle of Kauai was such a wonderful blessing for me. The people I had the privilege of working with, the folks we served, the volunteers and board members who helped us accomplish our work: fabulous!

One of our biggest challenges: folks who hopped on a plane and moved to Hawaii,  certain they could succeed anywhere. Many brought their Mainland values and attitude, thinking they arrived knowing, if not everything, a lot.

These folks, some single, some with families, often struggled and many started (and ended) their time in Hawaii houseless/homeless. Their days involved seeking basics we often take for granted: food, shelter, bathrooms, companions. Some paid for their homelessness with their lives. Others struggled every day, even after they found work, to make ends meet.

Here’s what folks need to realize:

You cannot move to a new place (like Hawaii) and become a local/find immediate acceptance. At best you can become a resident (kamaaina) and grow to admire the local culture that is a mashup of several cultures.

The cost of living in Hawaii is much higher than average (count on things like food and utilities costing 150% of Mainland prices and rent costing 200% of Mainland averages). The wages, however, are equivalent. In other words, unlike some metro areas where wages are higher to meet the higher costs, in Hawaii wages are NOT higher but living costs are MUCH higher.

Paying to have your car shipped may be a good investment since vehicles are expensive. However, paying to have your household goods shipped isn’t a great idea. First, it’s unlikely you’ll find an affordable spacious rental in advance (or quickly), and finding a storage unit will be difficult and expensive. For some folks, the cost of storage eats away so much of their budget that they cannot ever afford housing. A lot of folks come and go, so it can be easier to sell your items on the Mainland or give them to family to store. When you arrive, chances are you can find a furnished unit and pick up any other items you need at yard sales or online.

PLEASE don’t take any job offer that doesn’t include something in writing. Many folks arrive certain they have jobs that, it turns out, don’t exist. Also understand that Hawaii is an at-will state for employment, so you can arrive Tuesday and be told your job has ended on Thursday. It happens. If you’re not wealthy, you may be stuck with no employment options and 2200 miles of ocean between you and your family/friends.

The ocean is beautiful, but it’s dangerous as well. Do your research, speak with lifeguards at any beach before you go in the water, and watch for emergencies like tsunami, floods, and storms.

Many areas have no mail delivery, particularly with less-expensive rentals. There’s typically a waiting list for post office boxes, so have a contingency plan for getting mail since it may present challenges.

The weather can get very hot and storms come/go, including hurricanes. Hurricane season starts June 1st and ends in November, but can happen any time. Plan and prepare!

Almost everyone I knew had multiple wage earners in the household and most folks have multiple jobs. If you’re imagining a laid-back lifestyle, think again. The local folks I had the privilege of getting to know worked harder than any folks I’ve ever met. Not a slacker among them. When I returned to the Mainland on vacation, folks would ask me why I wasn’t tan. REALLY?! I worked 10 to 12 hours a day, like most folks, and often weekends, to afford the privilege of living in Paradise.

So, first, do your research. Understand the cost of living. Consider how many jobs or how many roommates you’re willing to juggle in order to survive.

Many newcomers never feel they fit in because there’s no dominant culture. Whining about it – particularly if you’re a white male who recognizes the loss of privileges you may have enjoyed elsewhere – will not gain you any sympathy.

Long before I moved, a friend who grew up on the island of Niihau told me this: Wait until a clear opportunity to work and live is offered to you. Before you go, be sure you can go with the spirit of a student, open to learning the new culture. Treat everyone with respect. Treat the culture with respect. Find a church or ethnic club you can join to get to know people. And when a time comes when you find the islands aren’t welcoming you, it’s time to leave and return to your people.

She was a gentle soul, but she was spot-on with her advice.

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First things first

First things first

An hour ago, inspired by recent life events and the realization that most of us (I’m hoping anyway) encounter more surprises along our way than we had anticipated, the incredibly original idea popped into mind to initiate a blog. An hour ago, inspired, I pulled up a “blog” document on my word processing software/app and it took me down a rabbit hole. Site host. Logo. Edits. Uploads.

Really?

I just wanted to write. About how life isn’t always the way we imagined. About how it turns out. About how things can go seriously off the rails and work out. About how things can seem as if Life is Grand and then something beautiful and sunshiny becomes blinding. About the growing-old thing that sneaks up on us, I think, because when you’re busy and not glued to your imagine in a mirror, one day someone calls you “ma’am” or “Auntie” or “grandma” or “Tutu” and all the things not-done suddenly become more important than anything accomplished.

About how the best preparation for this inconsistency is to learn resilience. Or maybe there isn’t any preparation. I remember a meltdown in my early 40s when a teenager (who shall remain nameless) had the heat on in a pool-side Southern California apartment so that a bikini felt comfy indoors. Mired in worries about electric bills and a rumored down-sizing at work, playing it cool didn’t happen for me. Within a few moments I found myself locked in my bathroom, sitting on the floor, sobbing and repeatedly muttering “My life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.”

Lacking the kind of no-nonsense elders who would come along, bang on the door, and shout, “Suck it up, Buttercup. You can be better than this sniveling crybaby,” I nevertheless muddled through.

Recently a corporate executive commented to me, a wise old baby boomer, “getting old is horrible.” She added, “How can anybody ever prepare for that?” I don’t think she wanted a response. I neither slapped her nor called her Buttercup.

Near the same time, a group of coworkers who are in their late-20s were whining about the approach of 30 and the way horrible old folks cling to their jobs when they should do something (I’m assuming they meant ride ice floes into the warming Arctic or retire to a life of poverty) to make room for younger workers. Then they bitched for a few minutes about “having to” invite me to lunch. (I declined the invitation, though if I possessed sufficient grit, I could have made it fun. For me.)

To be clear, there are many issues, but when it comes to aging, I think the best preparation for this wild-ride is to learn resilience and gratitude. To have as much fun as possible. To remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. And probably not to put up with a lot of bullshit.

But that’s just my opinion.

The world may suck, but growing old is a privilege. Studies show people are happiest from age 65 through 80. And I’ve met a few over-80-somethings who are still annoyingly happy. Some are vegan, so I think they’ve earned it somehow. Still, growing old is a privilege. That’s my story, and I’m clinging to it.

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