Once upon a time I went on an adventure that led me down so many twists and turns, intellectual and romantic journeys, political quests and finally a home in paradise. I found the absolute best job in the entire world at King Kamehameha III Elementary School on Maui. I mean – can you imagine, a principal that is actually a cheerleader for the music department?
But alas, my time on Maui has come to an end. You see, for the past three years, my rent has gone up $100 each year. And I’m not waiting to see what happens next year!
To many people, this seems like an easy problem to fix. “Can’t you just find a cheaper place to live?” Well, yes, I could. But my question is: do you live to work, or do you work to live?
Once I found a place that would’ve saved me money. It was a room in an old lady’s house in Lahaina. She greeted me at the door, and then proceeded to lecture me for five minutes on the proper way to walk up the stairs to my room. “Softly. Not stomping like this, you see. Just softly, one at a time. Hold on to the rail! Now you practice. Softly, you see?” Then she showed me the window blinds, “Take the blinds by the handle, and twist counter clockwise, you see. NO NO NO! Not like that!”
She led me into the ‘kitchen’, which was just a cupboard and a sink. “When you close the cupboard,” she said, “Please close it softly. Like this. Now you try. Practice it again.” Needless to say, I wasn’t about to ask how to install an air conditioner, and high speed internet.
Another apartment I looked at was just a room in this couple’s apartment. They greeted me at the door, half-dressed, and the guy’s gut was hairy and scary. “It’s upstairs,” he growled taking a drag of his cigarette. The room was HOT, and stinky, about the size of a little closet, with no fan or A/C. There was one tiny window which the sun seemed to just focus through like a magnifying glass. Lahaina is one of the sunniest places in the world, so I’m pretty sure I would’ve been cooked alive in that room.
Lots of people say, “Wow, you’re leaving only because rent is going up? That’s it?” Well, no. I’m also leaving because quality is going down. At my apartment, they’ve got us packed in like sardines, and you always hear people fighting across the way. BOOM!! WHAM!! I wake up in the middle of the night. What the heck was that??? Yes, I can find a cheaper place to live, but it would be at the expense of living.
On the Big Island, rents are half as much. My $1000 apartment would be about $500 in Hilo. Gas, groceries, and – everything else is much cheaper. My family lives there (I’ll probably transition with them at first), and I have an army of friends in Hilo. I went to elementary, high school, and college there. All my connections are on the Big Island.
On Maui, most people move here for one reason: the beaches. But most beach goers aren’t interested in things I’m interested in, like drama, dance, economics, boardgames, politics, the arts. I try to get out, start clubs, go dancing, but somehow I just don’t feel connected to anybody there. I’ve tried to go on many dates, or just outings with friends, but I always feel like I’m not allowed to be passionate about anything, unless it’s the beach. And I hate the beach. To be honest, this has been the loneliest four years of my entire life.
Nobody moves to Hilo for the beach. It’s a college town. People move to Hilo because of the culture, the local style, the good deals, and the home town feel. On Maui, it doesn’t really feel like anybody actually lives here. Most of the cars on the road are tourists, and most of the people you meet have either just moved here, or are just about to leave. Usually both.
In Hilo, it really feels like everyone really lives there. Go to the mall, or the park, or the bowling alley, and it’s all people who have lived there for a long time, and aren’t going anywhere. It feels grounded. Like home.
Am I moving because rent is too high on Maui? Yes. But it’s so much more. I’m moving because my head is in Hilo, and so is my heart.
Of course, the first question everybody asks is, “Do you have a job?”
“No,” I say.
Then they panic, “What will you do! What will you do!? YOU HAVE TO FIND A JOB!!!”
But, I’m a big boy, I’ve been teaching for almost eight years in high school and elementary. I have a college degree in music and education. I’m an avid producer, writer, tech wizard, musician, actor, and political adventurer. I’m great at inspiring others, leadership, economic research, and journalism. I’m quite capable of taking care of myself, so let’s just say . . . I’ll find something.
In the meantime, moving is easy. The hardest part is saying goodbye . . .