Things I’m Grateful For – Maui Edition

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Eleventh months ago, I left a place that gave me much to be grateful for.  I hadn’t the slightest as to what I should expect upon transplanting myself into a new home lacking a single familiar soul within 2,500 miles.

Nearly a year later, I look around, and find a great many new “things to be grateful for”.

1. Those Maui Sunsets

….And not just for posting on Instagram.  As I like to say, every damn day, a new setting sun graces us with it’s charm.  Wherever I may find myself at the time, whether it be crawling out of my office for a few quick minutes, pulling to the side of the Lower Road, or strolling across the street to the beach, I always take a moment to stop and revel in the allure of that painted sky.

2. Living Kauai

Never in my life did I suppose I’d live on a tropical island, let alone, two of them.  With not much more than a moment’s notice, I was asked to spend some time on the island of Kauai.  Although the purpose of this trip was for work, I still found time for exploring the beauty that is the “garden isle”.  The vast taro fields, the north shore breaking waves and the exquisite Waimea Canyon; these picturesque landscapes will forever be pasted in my mind.  Sightseeing aside, I was fortunate to be absorbed by countless individuals who shared their lives with me, and took to seeing that I was cared for.

3. Discovering New Outlets for Inspiration

Fresh out of an arena where my direct supervisors most definitely served as my greatest supports and sources for inspiration, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to fill that mentorship void here on Maui in the most unlikely places, from individuals whom I least expected.  Although many of them may have but only served a brief physical presence over the past eleven months, their words and actions have left lasting marks.

4. The Absence of Traffic

Although it took nearly six months to adapt to the fact that most Maui folk drive no faster than 30 miles per hour; I was delighted to trade my forty-minutes, each way, commute on the five, for a seven-minute cruise down the “highway” (if you call it that).  Traffic is fairly non-existent in the bubble that is West-side Maui.  Not to mention, I quite enjoy filling up my gas tank, on average, once a month.

5. The ‘Aina 

Kauai is not the only island with things to look at.  From the crater at Haleakala, to the pools in Hana, and the lush-lined trails of Waihee Ridge, there is no shortage of landscape to marvel at here on the island of Maui. Living in the presence of such has forced me to step back, slow down, and appreciate the simpler pleasures in life: a fresh piece of fruit off the vine or a refreshing sip straight from the coconut.

6. The Beaches

I grew up five-miles from the coast and spent many a summer afternoon basking in the sun with the sound of the surf lulling me to sleep.  After living on the islands, the southern California coast will unfortunately, never again compare.  From the crystal-clear water, to the endless acres of white sand, Maui beaches are most certainly un-paralleled.

7. New Friends 

Upon arriving to a new destination, we all face the angst and uncertainty of wondering who our new friends will be.  I was most fortunate to fall right into the arms of individuals whom I can no longer imagine my life without.  It goes without saying, anyone who keeps gluten free burritos in their freezer for your visits, risks being thrown out of a bar upon rising to your defense, and answers your SOS calls from the side of the road without a hint of hesitation, is worth holding onto.

Make It Happen

There’s an old saying, “everything happens for a reason”.

Although I consider myself an optimist, I’ve struggled to embrace the validity of this statement for as long as I can remember.

Recently, I’ve instead come to the conclusion that every person happens for a reason.  In essence, each individual we encounter presents us with an opportunity to learn something: how to be, or how not to be.

Over the course of the past ten months, in particular, I’ve been exposed to countless new faces and personalities.  While I often feel as though this has been the most mentally exhausting year of my life, the degree of exhaustion quite parallels the reward.  In a cast of what has felt like thousands of introductions, I’ve observed those who opt to stand out for the greater good, those who choose to blend in with popular belief, and everything in-between. 

Friendships and upsets aside, this continuous whirlwind of interpersonal encounters has equated to opportunities, inspiration and most importantly, an internal promise to always do the right thing, regardless of ease. 

In the end, we will encounter three types of people during our lives: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens (Lasorda). And although their individual impacts will vary substantially — they will all happen for a reason.

 

Quality

Quality takes enormous precedence in the realm of satisfaction.

When I think of quality, and the means by which I expect it, I think of people.

The premise itself is solid. We’ve all heard our father’s rattle off the old saying, “keep your standards high”. Although we may roll our eyes at the sound of these words, they inevitably ring true.

Such logic is not exactly new-found. The first President of the United States, Mr. George Washington himself, once stated, “be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence”.

I suppose as I grow older, the validity of this statement only sinks deeper. At one time, I was largely preoccupied with the notion of salvaging friendships where the negative outweighed the positive, simply for the sake of maintenance. I thought this made me a good person. I thought it made me happy.

Through experience, I’ve come to no longer believe in allocating time to those who would not do the same for others; whose intentions are less than good; moreover, whose quality of character are far from deserving of a slot in this heart of mine.

I’ll always believe in exercising courtesy to all.

And I’ll stick to allowing time to assist me in identifying the ones worth holding onto.

And although as the years pass, these folks will inevitably undergo growth and change; I rest assured, for quality stands the test of time.

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The Weight of Words

Little known fact: I frequently browse knick-knack shops and bookstores, thumbing through pages on a quest for small bursts of inspiration.  I scribble these gems onto receipts and the backs of shopping lists and proceed to stash them away for a rainy day.  I have a passion for words; for how they merge to form statements, and for the means by which these statements facilitate action.

Not surprisingly, I was raised in a home where school essays were scanned meticulously by my mother prior to completion.  Summer reading was not suggested, but matter of fact.  And upon asking my father to define any given word, we were directed to the immense, brown leather-bound book that lay atop the dusty shelves of our home office.

Such tactics conveyed the importance of representing ourselves appropriately, daily; on paper and in the world.

I often sit and sift through the ever-growing collection of receipts and scribbles.  Sometimes, the lines and phrases inspire me to take to the keyboard and write words of my own.  Often, they change my outlook on various subject matter.  Always, they strengthen me.

I am a firm believer that our words are stronger than our actions.   That we should strive not only to be heard, but to enlighten; to speak with conviction, purpose and passion.  In doing so, our actions will surely follow suit.

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Less Than Perfect

Perfection.

The majority of us tend to be on a constant quest for it, namely in the workplace.

We find ourselves caught up in things that are, or things that are not.  It is the absence, or presence of these “things” that seemingly make our lives a living hell.

I’d like to suggest, however, that this absence of perfection is precisely what makes us strong.

Thus far in my short three and a half years as a member of the professional workforce, I have most certainly encountered individuals and circumstances less than desirable.  Tears have been shed, words have been said.

Life has always progressed.

The tears, nor words spewed out of frustration, did not initiate any sort of positive change.

We are only better for enduring the experiences; for hopefully taking a look back and treating each problematic encounter as an opportunity.  Ultimately, overcoming distaste; resolving to enable ourselves to work cohesively with anyone and everyone.

In short, “Strength of character means the ability to overcome resentment against others, to hide hurt feelings, and to forgive quickly” (Lovasik).

Piece of Mind

What puts you at ease?

For me, it’s Van Morrison.

It’s tapping my foot to the beat of Brown-Eyed Girl as daddy drums the steering wheel of his old Beamer, barreling northbound on El Camino Real.

This is my song.

The warm breeze wrestles whispy strands of hair, obstructing my big brown eyes from vision.  A smile creeps across my face as I smooth the wrinkles from my khaki skort, all the while clicking my white Sketchers against the floor.

Of course, we are headed to Olympic Driving Range, where we will proceed to hit a couple hundred golf balls before dusk invades the blue summer sky.

I stand corrected.  Rather,  I will hit a couple hundred golf balls.  Dad will not hit one.  He will, however, grab that damn seven-iron and swing it about fifty-five times, standing behind me, observing.

At some point, Dad will lean in and yank the bill of my black Cobra hat, stating, as if, for the first time,

“Em, you hit the guy in the cart picking up range balls, I’ll take you for a slurpee on the way home.”

I giggle, well-aware that regardless of whether I manage to make my target: that slurpee is mine.

Daylight is now rapidly escaping us, and my hands are growing raw.  Dad proclaims that I must end the night with a good shot.  A few attempts go awry before I succeed.  

At last, I turn to daddy and shrug my shoulders.  He says nothing, but smiles, and motions me toward the parking lot.

Here we are, again, cruising.  I clutch my Coca-Cola flavored slurpee tightly between my tired hands, inevitably suffering a brain freeze.  My eyes begin to grow heavy as the sounds of sweet rock ‘n roll lull me sleep, sinking deeper into the seat with each breath.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more at peace, as in this moment.

On the surface, uneventful, I somehow experience utmost contentedness.

In an effort to make sense of it all, the wise words of honest Abe himself are all that come to mind,

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be”.

I’ll take it.

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People and Places

I used to believe that traveling to different destinations would bring me the fulfillment I so desired.

I set my sights on big cities bustling with rich history, intense flavors, and picturesque landscapes.  

Thus far in my young-adult life, I’ve been fortunate to call many a thrilling new city “home”.  I’ve been enamored, intrigued, inspired — you name it.

It’s funny, however, as I reminisce, I realize it’s not so much the places themselves, as the people I’ve encountered along the way, that have influenced the becoming of a best possible version of “me”.

It was the girls who started as friends and became family.   Lulu, Erica, Bri and I ventured into a world of unknown, experiencing an array of firsts.  We exchanged laughs when life was easy, nursed hangovers after lessons learned, and dried tears when times were tough.

During my senior-year of college, it was Irma whom demonstrated to me first-hand how to care for others; to nurture and enable their emotional and educational success.  And it was Alizianna who taught me the true meaning of loyalty; to this day, standing by my side despite all odds.

I cannot forget Randy, instructing me to “rise above the bullshit”, in moments of brief disparity; also responsible for sending me to the floor rolling with laughter on more occasions than I am able to count.

A stint in Chicago brought me closer to Bri; where together, we built endurance to survive in the “real-world”.

My return to San Diego introduced me to Marissa; more than a colleague, but a lifelong mentor.  The woman responsible for transforming me from eager but timid young hopeful, into strong, impactful young professional.

Most recently here on Maui, I’ve been fortunate to seek inspiration from Shelly, whom I continuously admire for remaining true to herself, all the while, battling strife and struggle without falter, and surfacing better for it.

It is but one word that encompasses the likeness of these individuals.  They are each genuine; by definition, “actually having the apparent qualities or character“.

I can’t be sure what destinations lie ahead; but I rest assured, wherever they may be, I’ll find myself in good company.

In short, “the greatest value of having good people around you is not what you get from them, but instead, the better person you become because of them” (Pashwar).

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