I figured out what it is. What’s making part of this transition here to Kauai more challenging than I thought.
I’ve found high school all over again.
This is a small island and there are cliques of all sorts. There are the people who party, the hippies, the [fill-in-the-blank].
The story in my head, about how moving here was going to be, is different than the way that it’s panning out and that’s probably very good for me, because it’s giving me a chance to see who I am and reminding me that I have the power to change and choose.
Because I HATED high school. I used to cry every day my sophomore year, since I went to a school I wasn’t even supposed to go to. Beverly Hills High needed more Chinese kids to up their minority quota, so they came to my junior high, which was out of their district, to recruit. And, being that my parents were very much into academics as many traditional Chinese parents are, there was no question that I would be going.
Yes, Beverly was a great academic environment. Socially, mentally, emotionally, socio-economically, and even physically, it was brutal. I was a total loser. At least, that’s what I thought about myself.
I felt completely unattractive and was perpetually dealing with a family environment that broke me more and more each day. My mother used to drive me to school berating me the entire 14-minute car ride every morning, so by the time I got there, I was frequently on the brink of tears. But, since I had learned from a young age that “saving face” was of utmost importance, I swallowed everything I felt in the moment, so that I could present the person I thought I was supposed to be: happy Judy.
The instant I saw one of the few friendly faces I knew, I smiled and pretended like everything was all right. Inside, I felt anything but okay, yet didn’t know how to be honest and say, “I need help. Please help me, I’m hurting.”
This is how it went, day in and day out every academic year until I graduated. I was extremely self-conscious, shrinking in comparison to the kids who had money, the kids who seemed like their lives were so golden they were almost shiny when I looked at them. I was awkward and not at all sure how to fit in other than to watch the good life happening from afar. I was, in a lot of ways, very depressed.
It’s no wonder then, that over the past couple of weeks since I’ve been here, I’ve suddenly felt lost and afloat. I can’t find my groove or the group of friends where I fit in. I feel like the new girl in school who came in a year after the freshmen started together, and I’m scrambling to figure out where my classes are, what’s going on, and how to be “cool.” I don’t have the right whatever-it-is, and fairly often, I just want to cry.
When I started at Beverly, my parents wouldn’t listen to my pleading to transfer to the local high school I was supposed to go to, the one where all the friends I’d grown up with since elementary school were going. My mother and father were hard-edged, toed the line, and I hated them for it. I wouldn’t say that high school ever got any better. I just found other ways to adapt, like developing an eating disorder.
Then today, I realized that this doesn’t have to be a duplicate of those very difficult years — I can be a better parent to myself; I can be who I wished I were back then.
I remember hearing years ago that when we feel insecure, we go back to that point in our lives (usually junior high or high school) when we felt the most uncertain about ourselves, and then all that old drama gets relived.
Well, screw that.
I’m not a scared teenager who’s too naive to figure out when people aren’t being kind and then too polite not to do anything about it. I’m the woman who’s worked my ass off to be here, the one who had the guts in every single way to do what I needed to do not only to survive, but to more importantly thrive — mentally, emotionally, financially, intellectually, physically, and spiritually.
Despite my own greatest efforts at sabotage, I’ve made real connections along the way. I’ve found love when it didn’t get modeled for me very well growing up. I keep showing up in extremely vulnerable and courageous ways, because I believe there are a lot of truths worth sharing that help us feel less alone in the world and more okay with exactly where we are.
And, I overcame an eating disorder that was absolutely taking away everything in my life, which for those of you who’ve ever battled addictions or been close witness to anyone who has, you know how desperately hopeless and bitterly painful such battles can be. Those life experiences, and then some, are what enable me to be an incredibly thoughtful writer, a wonderful yoga teacher, and a powerful Reiki practitioner. I have the privilege and the blessing to support and inspire other amazing souls to thrive.
That’s what’s real. Not any high school bullshit. So, fuck high school. Forget all the kids who put on a good show, yet actually don’t feel very good about themselves. Screw the pretenses and the popularity contests; the ideas of who I think I should be in order to fit in. Turns out, I’ve never actually wanted to fit in. I’ve always wanted to be different.
This time around, I chose to be here. I’ve always wanted to live in Hawaii and this IS my dream come true. I didn’t get bussed in because of my race, though my ethnicity can be to my advantage this time and not someone else’s. I didn’t get to say how I felt back then to anyone, I let myself be taken for granted, and now, I get to be as honest as I’d like, however and whenever I want. I’m not afraid anymore. I get to do everything differently than before and the more I embrace this truth, then the more I become a fuller expression of me.
This island IS magical. I asked to come to write my book, and Kauai is providing one opportunity after the other to generate meaningful content. If our souls continue to gravitate towards situations that are designed for our greatest healing, then in every way, from men to money to wounds that still need mending, that’s what she’s doing for me.
Since arriving, I’ve been told not to talk about money, because people might take advantage of me; how this is indeed like a foreign country, so there is a definite sense of culture shock for those who’ve arrived. I’m told that there can be extremes of separations from the locals versus the haoles. And, that the men here act like boys when it comes to dating, whether coming from enhanced machismo or juvenile deflection of how they really feel. I’ll take it all into consideration, and keep showing up as me.
Because this version of me, two decades after I first started high school, is who I’ve always wanted to become. Sure, there are parts of me I’m still working on, but if there weren’t, then I wouldn’t be alive or growing.
And, at the end of the day, with all of my darkness and light and the beauty in in between, I might be pretty damn cool after all.