Take Me Home Tonight

I don’t try to hide my unhappiness about having lived for so long in Washington state. The sky is almost always gray, it is wet for 3/4ths of the year, and the days seem bitterly short during the winter. Sometimes it’s down right depressing. It’s a sharp contrast from the always sunny and warm Hawaii. But those aren’t the real reasons why I was unhappy there.

My family moved from Hawaii to Washington when I was 10. All of my friends, teachers, and family were very supportive, telling me how exciting it was to be moving to the mainland, so it didn’t seem too bad at first.

We arrived at Sea-Tac International Airport at night. Though it was dark, I could see endless trees. I’d never seen so many trees in my life, and this isn’t some rural forest area either, it’s a heavily populated metro. The cold air was actually exciting. It brought an entirely different feeling than the always-warm weather of Hawaii.

That winter it snowed early, and a lot. Snow, to a kid who grew up in Hawaii, is like Christmas. We built snowmen that were bigger than us, and had epic snowball fights. I guess we were spoiled, because it doesn’t usually snow that much around the Puget Sound. That was a winter to remember.

Summer was fun. It actually gets hotter there than it does in Hawaii, and there are sometimes long, sunny, dry spells that can almost make you forget all the rain that Seattle is known for. We have a little creek running through our backyard with willow, apple, and maple trees lining the sides. Our house is two stories, and we have a large patio overlooking our backyard. So during the summer, when I was little, I would take one of my action-figures – the bravest of them all – attach a plastic bag parachute to his back, and throw him off the patio as far as I could. Sometimes he’d land in the creek, and sometimes he’d land on the other side. Sometimes his parachute failed to deploy properly and I would rush downstairs to provide emergency aid. And sometimes the parachute fell off completely.

But the most amazing thing about Washington was autumn. Fall in the Pacific Northwest isn’t always pretty, since it tends to rain a lot. But during late September and early October there will be a few days where the sun will be shining through a cloudless blue sky, the weather turns cold and crisp; cold enough to clearly signal the end of summer, but not too cold to be uncomfortable, and you’ll see rows and rows of trees with leaves painted in brown, orange, yellow, and red. I’ve seen it so many times now, but every year I’m still amazed when the leaves change colors. It gives me a nostalgic feeling as if, should I let my imagination run wild, I might just fall into a different world. Like something from Beauty and the Beast. It makes me think that something incredible might just happen. Not that incredible things can’t happen on any other day, but it seems like the stage is set for something strangely wonderful to occur on days like these. I know it’s just my imagination, but that’s what imaginations are for after all: creating exciting things out of the ordinary.

Anyway, I’d say these autumn days are about as perfect as there could ever be. Hawaii has good days throughout the year, whereas Washington’s are few and far between. But honestly no day in Hawaii can really match Washington’s best.

There are some fun things to do in Washington that you can’t do in Hawaii. There are major league sports teams, which is a huge upgrade from Hawaii’s collegiate teams. There are amusement parks and fairs, bigger and better than any in Hawaii. Around Halloween you can go to pumpkin patches and pick your own pumpkins. Around Christmas you can go to tree farms deep into the rural areas to pick and cut your own perfect Christmas tree, fresher than any Christmas tree in Hawaii. During the spring if you go to the valleys you can see endless fields of tulips in any color you could ask for, looking like it came straight out of a Dutch painting. During the summer you can drive almost anywhere and pass fruit vendors selling fresh cherries and apricots. And of course, any time of year, there’s the majestic snow-domed Mt. Rainer, standing high and proud, overlooking the entire Seattle area.

So no, I don’t dislike everything about Seattle. In fact, there’s a lot to like.

When we first moved to Washington we lived in an apartment in a quaint town called Issaquah. We stayed there for nine months while my parents looked for a house to buy. I liked the school there, I made lots of friends, and I enjoyed it.

But that summer they found the house they wanted, and it happened to be in a different city, so once again I had to leave everything I knew. This time I was really mad. “You can do it to me once, but you can’t do it to me again! Not now.” That was my way of thinking. I was so stubborn, for the first few months, in protest, I actually tried not to make friends at our new home, hoping against hope that they would somehow change their mind and buy a house back in Issaquah, or better yet, go back to Hawaii.

The rest of my family had a much easier time adjusting to the Pacific Northwest. They like it so much now I’m fairly certain none of them will ever return permanently to Hawaii. I got used to Washington, but subconsciously I always thought of it as just a temporary home. We took most of our things with us when we moved. But I left my heart in Hawaii.

After I graduated high school I returned to Hawaii by myself. While I was happy to be back in the place I grew up, I was unhappy, because I had dreams that I was chasing, and I didn’t really know how to go about it. So after a year I returned to Seattle planning on staying there for a few months while I worked to get one of my dreams off the ground.

For various reasons, I was there for four years, and not because I wanted to be. Every day I was there I thought about Hawaii, and looked forward to the day I would return.

People would say, “You’re from Hawaii!? How nice that must be!”

When people think of Hawaii they think of the crystal clear blue water, the white sandy beaches, the sun and sunsets, scenic Diamond Head, things like that. But they don’t really understand what it is about Hawaii that means something to me. Sometimes the ordinary things are what I love best.

– The red dirt found everywhere, formed from hundreds of thousands of years of lava flow, the high-ridge mountains cascading down both sides of the island, and the unique blend of trees and plants and things that you can’t really find elsewhere.

– The way rain clouds gather around the Ko’olau’s, creating a sublime effect where part of the island is sunny, and part is dark.

– The empty grass fields of central Oahu. The simple, old-town feel of the North Shore.

– The way coconut trees stand high and sway in the breeze in the early evening skies, bringing a sense of peacefulness and familiarity no matter how caught up in things I might be.

– The early morning calls of birds that are sometimes annoying, but just wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t there.

– The way people take their time when they drive places. The way drivers let each other go even if they have the right-of-way, something that would confuse the heck out of people if you tried it on the mainland. The way drivers thank each other to the extent that can’t be found on the mainland.

– The way shorts and slippers are considered acceptable attire pretty much anywhere. The way girls don’t need special occasions to wear flowers in their hair.

– The way local businesses make sure they take good care of their customers. The way non-local business are forced to cater to the local population, more so than I’ve seen in any other state, because if they didn’t, they would lose significant business. Businesses signs that stand in front of their store may fade easily in the hot Hawaiian sun, but their character doesn’t.

– The way schools are built so that even when you’re in a classroom, you kinda feel as if you’re still outdoors. It’s a stark contrast from schools on the mainland.

– The way people hug instead of handshake. The way shakas are acceptable alternatives to waving.

– The way people speak a mixture of many different languages, yet pretty much everyone knows what everyone else is saying.

– The way locals pronounce words (for example: “today” = “taday,”) in a pretty, almost sing-song tone.

– The way people have parties and expect a variety of good food, instead of the usual haole style of hamburgers, chips, and watermelon. When I was growing up in Hawaii, after every baseball game our team would have a huge potluck with pretty much any kind of food you could ask for: rice, fried chicken, beef teriyaki, noodles, mac salad, manapua, andagi, ect. Guess what I got after baseball games in Washington? A fruit roll up and a Caprisun. (But enough about the food. That’s a subject for it’s own time.)

– The way some people from Hawaii will see me when I’m on the mainland, and without me having said a word to them, they instantly know where I’m from, saying, “Eh, you from Hawaii?” I ask them how they knew, and they say, “You just look like it.”

– The general attitude of the people here that is aloof, but happy, and caring.

– The overall people and culture of the islands, a mixture of so many different cultures, it’s impossible to find anywhere else. Hawaii has a unique character all to itself.

Not everyone raised in Hawaii is so happy to be here. If you ask them why they want to leave (or why they left), most will tell you, “It’s too small.”

I don’t blame them for wanting to see new places. You can not drive endlessly like you can on the mainland. But on the mainland you can come to one town and find that it’s pretty much the same as any other. It’s a suburban sprawl.

When you have endless areas to explore, like on the mainland, you can always keep going. Tired of one area? Go on to the next.

You can’t do that in Hawaii. Each island may be small, but it is crammed full of such a wide array of people and culture that I think you could spend a lifetime getting to know them, and still find something new. The towns and neighborhoods are small, but each has it’s own unique traits.

It’s easy to get bored of an area after you’ve seen whatever there is to be seen, and done whatever there is to be done. That’s what happens when you look with just your eyes. But if you take the time to get to know the people and cultures around you – not just passively, but really getting to know them – you will never be bored.

As I heard one local Hawaiian say, most people who live in Hawaii are not of Native Hawaiian descent, but we are all Hawaiian.

A lot of mainlanders who move to Hawaii have trouble adjusting. I can see why. The culture is significantly different. On the mainland people tend to keep to themselves more. In Hawaii, if you do that, people will recognize you as a mainlander, not a true Hawaiian, no matter how long you may have lived here. But they will always be ready to welcome you with open arms whenever you decide to open up.

It’s the Spirit of Aloha, the meaning of Ohana. If you don’t know what those words mean, you can look them up, or ask someone. But knowing their definition is not the same as knowing what they really mean. You can live in Hawaii all your life and never know their true meaning. It’s a sense of family, a sense of belonging. It’s caring about people who may be complete strangers, because everyone here is connected in some way since we are all Hawaiian. It’s like when you’re on a flight back to Hawaii, and as the plane begins its descent into Honolulu International Airport the stewardess says over the intercom, “And for you returning residents, welcome home.” Little things like that that make you feel forever tied to the islands, no matter how long you may have been away.

Not everything about Hawaii is so glamorous. It is crowded. The traffic is terrible. The crime rate is high. There are lots of homeless. Drugs are prevalent. (It’s quite likely that some of your happy-go-lucky neighbors are happy because they’re growing drugs.) The education system is out of date. Businesses are slowly being overrun by rich mainlanders who are buying out locally owned businesses. Everything here is expensive.

Maybe Hawaii isn’t really all that great a place to live. But it is great for me.

After four years passed in Washington, I still didn’t really achieve the things I set out to do. I accomplished a lot, but not everything. My plan was not to return to Hawaii until I had accomplished what I wanted. But things were going downhill for me over there and I figured a visit to Hawaii would do me good. It was just supposed to be a visit, just for a week or so. But the moment I got here I realized that I was here to stay.

There were some things in Washington that I know I could have handled better. Yeah, I missed Hawaii. Yeah, being stuck in Seattle for years when I thought it would only be a few months was unexpected and difficult. Yeah, maybe some things didn’t go my way. Even after having come back to Hawaii, for months I was still bitter and cynical. It’s taken some time for me to get over that. But I could have had a better attitude. It wasn’t Washington that made me unhappy, and it wasn’t even anything that happened there. It was just me.

Washington is a great state, and I’m proud to have it as a secondary home. However, I will try to avoid visiting during the winter.

I will have to travel a lot in order to achieve my dreams. To live an easy life in a quiet town might be nice, but it isn’t in the cards for me. I was meant to see the world, the good and the bad, the beauty and the suffering, and I was meant to do something about it.

I may be away for months, even years at a time. But no matter how long I may be gone, no matter what awe-inspiring places I might see, no matter what amazing people I may meet, Hawaii, first and foremost, will always be home.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara. Wherever I am, I’m always at home. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Washington Gurls

To the tune of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”

 

Title: Washington Gurls

 

I know a place where the sky is always grayer

Cold, wet, and damp

I think there’s salmon in the water

 

Sippin hot cider

Laying underneath the evergreens

Boys gouge their eyes

If they take a little sneak peak at them

 

You could travel the world

But nothing brings you down like the Puget Sound

Once you party with them

You’ll be wishing you weren’t here

 

Washington girls are so regrettable

Flannel shirts with parkas on top

Pale white skin

So cold you’ll drop your popsicle

Oh oh oh ohhhhhhhh

 

Washington girls are unreliable

Pine fresh smell they got it on lock

Cops raid parties like these

Now put your hands up

Oh oh oh ohhhhhhhh

 

Ice on the beach

You’ll get rocks in your stilettos

They live in their jeep

With Nirvana on the stereo

 

You could travel the world

But nothing brings you down like the Puget Sound

Once you party with them

You’ll be wishing you weren’t here

 

Washington girls are unremarkable

Hiking boots with rain coats on top

Frozen hearts so cold you’ll drop your popsicle

Oh oh oh ohhhhhhhh

 

Washington girls are irresponsible

Pine fresh smell they got it on lock

Cops raid parties like these

Now put your hands up

Oh oh oh ohhhhhhhh

 

 

Obviously it’s just a parody, just a joke, so if you’re a Washington girl, don’t hate!  I don’t really think so negatively about Washington.

Those who dream in black and white

When I was a little kid I had this reoccurring dream. I dreamt of being in a strange world where I had to climb to the top of a very tall mountain filled with barriers floating in a purple sky. There was a meter posted where I could always see it, keeping track of the amount of progress I made. I’d make it a good distance to the top before something would go catastrophically wrong, I’d go crashing to the bottom, and the meter would drop back to zero. I’d be so unspeakably sad about all the lost progress. I’d look at the meter and the mountain and think, “How can I ever make it now?”

I’d wake up sweating and breathing hard, unable to fall back asleep, and feeling terrible about myself.

I had that dream many times. Asleep, I never did reach the top of that mountain. But then I realized it was meant for me to reach while awake, and after that, I never had that dream again.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day*. Dr. King was someone who had a dream, and he brought that dream to everyone. He knew that chasing the dream was neither easy nor safe, but it needed to be done. He knew that not everyone thought his dream was possible, and not everyone thought it worth pursuing. He knew there would be fierce opposition. He stood up, when others backed down, and he died making that dream come true.

Back when he was still chasing his dream, there were many people who did not believe in what he was doing. “It’s impossible,” they said.

Now a lot of people say, “It was inevitable. How could it have ever been any other way? People like him are just meant to do things like that.” Sometimes I think people forget, or just don’t realize, what it takes to make a dream happen.

When I was little, I dreamt of a lot of things. I dreamt of being rich and famous, so I could buy everything I wanted, and then I’d give my money to the poor people of the world so they could buy everything they wanted too. When you’re a little kid, you don’t know any better but to follow your dreams. I guess I never grew up, because that’s still what I do. I dream when I’m asleep, and I dream when I’m awake. The only difference between the two is that while awake I can turn those dreams into reality.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my favorite people in history. Most people assume that, since I do writing and music, my favorite people would be writers and musicians, not a civil rights activist. But if you think like that, you are completely missing the point.

Yes, Dr. King was a civil rights leader. But he was more than that. He was a dreamer.

Things like writing and music, in and of themselves, are not really important. It’s all about how you use it that gives it any importance. In everything I do, there is a bigger picture. I’m not really a writer. I’m not really a musician either. I’m a dreamer, and I seek to make dreams come true.

My mom always wanted me to be a doctor. She, along with a lot of people, thinks the things I’m doing now are not practical or useful, and that I’m wasting my time, and wasting my life. These people continue to try and persuade me to change course. But they don’t see the whole picture.

The idea of being a doctor, of having someone’s life in my hands, does not daunt me at all. I think I could handle it rather well. It’s pretty cut and dry. You go through years of training, and you know exactly what needs to be done. I’m sure it isn’t easy at all. But I’ve never been satisfied with things that were.

What does scare me, though, is the idea of not doing something I was meant to.

I don’t think it’s my place to be a doctor, because I wouldn’t be helping as many people as I think I should, in the ways I think I should. This isn’t a knock against doctors. If I end up helping people as much as any given doctor does, I’ll consider it an accomplishment. But I think there are plenty of good doctors out there, which is exactly why I don’t think it’s my path to be one. I need to do the things that no one else is doing, the things that no one else realizes needs to be done, or perhaps, the things that some people realize needs to be done but don’t know how to achieve them.

Dreams, when meant to please yourself, may or may not be worth pursuing. But when dreams can influence the world around you, when they can inspire people to achieve more than they thought they could, when they can give a better life to those less fortunate, how can you deny it? I’ll go so far as to say that veering from your dream would be doing a disservice to those around you, the same people who think you’re doing a disservice to yourself by ‘wasting your time’ chasing dreams. It is your job to bring the dream to those who don’t understand it.

I talk a lot about success. People seem to think that by success, I mean money. So they say, “You should win the lottery! Then you’d be happy, right?”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Money means nothing to me. It’s a means to an end. It’s a useful, and sometimes necessary tool. If I had a lot of money, I’m sure I could find a way to put it to good use. But if I ever get rich, I will give most of it away. I don’t need it, and I don’t want it.

I do not measure success in terms of money, but in terms of the influence I’ve had upon others. Money can help you be influential. But in itself, money means nothing. It’s all about how you use it.

Material things are not what I want, for those present just passing satisfaction. What I want is a legacy.

I dream of making an impact. I dream of changing the world. I have many dreams, but ultimately, the biggest dream is of a world free of poverty, disease, and hate. I may never see these dreams come true. But that’s not going to stop me from trying. I’m not afraid of failing, only afraid of never having tried.

“Those are great things to say and all, but how can they really be accomplished?” I bet that’s what you’re thinking. And if you’re not, you probably should be. A dream is worth nothing unless you realize how to bring it to life.

It isn’t enough just to chase dreams. You have to be pragmatic about it. Like a tree, you have to have your roots grounded deep into the earth, for that is the base of which you will grow off of. But there is no limit to how high you can grow. Dreamers are not usually thought of as also being realistic. But it’s absolutely necessary to be grounded in reality in order to make dreams come true, or you’ll find your dreams are nothing more than nice thoughts.

Regarding the things I’m doing, no one really sees the big picture. They don’t understand why I go about things the way I do, and they don’t understand how I think I can make an impact. But that’s fine. I can’t really explain it to you, because my words fall short. But I can show you a little bit at a time.

Whenever I should die, be it today, or a hundred years from now, I don’t want anyone to be sad. My life is not important. The influence I’ve had upon others is.

I’m not afraid to die, only afraid to die leaving behind a meaningless life, to die not having fulfilled something I was able to, something I should have, something I was meant to. That would be a tragedy.

I will never stop chasing dreams. After one dream has been accomplished, there will be the next. There will always be another. This world is too imperfect, this universe too big, and this life too intriguing, to ever stop.

If I should live a short life, I want to leave it having achieved as much as I could have with the time I was given. And if I should be fortunate enough to be alive a hundred years from now, you will find me still chasing dreams.

But no matter what I may achieve, I know I’ll never be amazing. I’m not talented in any way, shape, or form. I never have been, and I never will be.

The only thing I’ve ever been truly good at is not knowing my own limitations. Because of that, I’m not afraid to try something people think is impossible. There is nothing special about me. I’m an ordinary guy who has extraordinary dreams, and I look for ways to make those dreams reality. I might be too stupid to realize how difficult things really are. But I’m also too stubborn to give up.

I may not be able to achieve something on the magnitude of what Martin Luther King Jr. did. But I’m sure going to try my best to make the biggest difference I can.

Those who dream in black and white find their dreams too mundane to be worth pursuing. But those who believe in the vibrancy of their dreams, who believe the unbelievable, who chase what others think is impossible, who practice what others say is impractical, who realize what others thought was unreal; those are the people who become unforgettable, as their legacy continues long after their mortal bodies fade away.

Dream as big as you want, or dream of accomplishing things on a smaller scale. It doesn’t really matter how big your dream is, as long as it’s contributing in some positive way. This is how you can make a difference in the world. And in doing so, you will build a legacy for yourself.

But you’ll find me, always, chasing the biggest dreams. There is no limit to how much you can achieve, only to how much you think you can.

Do not be discouraged by what others say. They will try to lead you away from your dreams, not usually to be antagonizing, but because they think they are helping you. Those you think may be against you, really are not. Most of them are with you, they just don’t realize it yet.

Once the dream is made real, they will applaud it. Don’t hold grudges, for they will only weigh you down. You can’t expect people to see the same vision as you, or dream the same dreams. If everyone did, it wouldn’t be a dream.

Dreams are there for anyone who seeks them. A legacy is there for anyone who wants it. Do not be afraid to dream awake, and do not be afraid to make those dreams come true. People may call you a dreamer, they may call you unrealistic, they may call you naïve, but once you show them that the dream is both necessary and within reach, they will call you a fighter.

Anyone can dream. It’s very simple. Don’t be intimidated. If you don’t already have a dream, think about what you want. Don’t know what you want? Think about what you can do for others.

If you already have a dream, why not pursue it? It doesn’t have to be something as ambitious as saving the world. Even the smallest dreams are worth pursuing when it helps someone in some small way, because in that way, you are making a difference.

And if you are already chasing dreams, don’t give up. Your efforts will be appreciated someday.

So if in your dreams you should happen to see a little kid climbing his purple mountain, do not help him when he falls. He doesn’t want you to feel sorry for him. He wants to show you how much he can achieve. He will get back up, start from scratch, and reach the top. And from there he will see his next dream.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara, dreamer of things that never were. Thanks for reading.

Obligations & Commitments

Every Christmas my mom makes calendars using family photos taken throughout that year, and she sends these to the grandparents, and to the relatives who don’t have children of their own. And every year there’s a family Christmas photo to go along with it.

Being apart of the family Christmas photo was something I was prepared not to miss. You see, the photos are always terrible. We, as a family, are pretty much incapable of taking a good picture together.

The youngest of my brothers gives a big, cheesy smile, and opens his eyes extra wide, looking like a deer in headlights. My two middle brothers have a long-standing heated rivalry. While we’re posing for the picture, the older one will inevitably poke fun at the younger one, which is sorta like North Korea bombing South Korea: everyone tries to intervene, but really, there’s not much anyone can do; this is a problem only the two of them can deal with. They go at it, verbally, and physically, but the older one always wins, and finally my middle brother leaves.

Then we have my sister. Honestly, she is the only one who looks good in the pictures.

Then there’s me. “Mr. No-Smile,” “Mr. Thinks-he’s-too-cool-to-smile.” Or, as my parents call me, “Mr. We-spent-thousands-of-dollars-on-braces-for-you-and-you-can’t-even-give-us-a-smile?” I don’t like smiling in pictures. It feels awkward and forced.

Now that I’m away from the family again, my mom sent me one of the calenders. I looked at the Christmas card and who did I see? My sister’s boyfriend. Standing in my place.

The neighbors next door were playing their music very loudly again, and this was the song they were playing:  O Fortuna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xscsuuKF6ZE&feature=related

I thought it fit the mood perfectly.

Obviously it’s over-dramatic, so I’m just joking. But I was pretty mad, though I can’t say it was entirely unexpected. My mom had long been including him in more and more family-only traditions, but this time she went too far. It’s a family photo. He shouldn’t be there. I said it was inappropriate. My grandma called it, “premature,” and my grandpa called it, “ridiculous.”

When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to get mad and blame people, so instead I decided to look at what I did to contribute to this outcome. For one, I’m an ocean away, so I obviously couldn’t have been in the picture. But that’s not the point.

You see, my sister is only two years younger than me, but we’ve never been close. Growing up, she’d never been interested in my interests, and I’d never been interested in hers. That’s how it’s always been. We’d never really talk or anything. We would just keep to ourselves. We’ve always had separate friends. I don’t think we’ve ever had even one mutual friend. Our rooms were right next to each other, but we grew up a world apart.

Being older than her, it’s really my job to break uncomfortable barriers and set the tone for our sibling relationship. The tone I set? Monotone.

I just never had time to be interested in her. I’ve always been ambitious and focused, setting high goals, and constantly working to achieve them. She’s never understood my dreams, and when I’d ask about hers, she’d say, “I don’t know.” I’d try to help her figure out what she wanted to do, but she just never came up with anything.

I started thinking, if a random person came up to her and asked, “What is your older brother like?” what would she say? Knowing how kind she is, she’d probably say something nice about me. But the real question should be, “How has your older brother treated you, his younger sister?”

She’d probably say, “Well…he’s kind of a jerk.”

It’s true. I can be a jerk sometimes, and my sister has probably been on the receiving end of my jerky-moments more than anyone. Our family has high standards, and whenever my sister hasn’t met those standards I’ve always been there to make sure she knew. But I didn’t really offer support. I would just deride her and make her feel bad. That’s kind of how my family encourages each other: make fun of each other when we screw up, that way we don’t screw up very often. It works to an extent, but that doesn’t make it the right way to encourage.

Now, about my sister’s boyfriend. Whenever I have to mention him, it’s never “my sister’s boyfriend,” it’s, “my sister’s ugly boyfriend,” or, “my sister’s stupid boyfriend,” or “my sister’s lazy boyfriend,” ect. What can I say? I like to be descriptive.

Why do I dislike him? Because he’s lazy. He’s not polite. He never really says anything. He never really does anything. He doesn’t ever help with anything. He’s just there. Taking up space. In our living room. And in my sister’s heart.

For example, when my sister was moving into her apartment, my family was there to help, and my sister’s boyfriend was there, sitting on the couch, watching football. My grandma looked at him and wondered why he wasn’t helping.

My sister said, “He’s taking a break. He was helping before you guys got here.” A break? Seriously? It’s not that big of an apartment. Having to make excuses for someone in what is supposed to be an “established” relationship is not a good sign.

My mom says he’s shy. I’m not exactly the most out-going person either. If someone is shy, it can be endearing. But if someone is overly shy, and rebukes attempts at conversation, it’s just frustrating. This guy wants to be part of the family? He should be the one trying to build good relations with me, not the other way around.

My dad, being the calm, collected, patient leader that he is, doesn’t say anything, but I can tell he isn’t thrilled about the guy. My mom refuses to say anything negative about Mr. Boyfriend because she’s worried it’ll cause a rift in our happy family, but I can tell she wishes he was more…talkative, assertive, confident, ect.

The thing is, I know my sister is only with him because she doesn’t want to be alone. 15 years from now, he’s gonna be fat and old, sitting on the couch watching football, while my sister takes care of the kids and the house and cooks and works. She might like him now, but is she going to like him then?

One night I tried to intervene with my sister. And by intervene I mean = try to get her to break up with him. I know I should mind my own business, but I am her older brother, so it is my business. Besides, this is exactly what the problem has been with my relationship with her all our lives: I’ve been only too happy to leave her on her own.

My plan was to calmly talk to her, but what really came out was something like, “Your family hates your boyfriend! You need to get rid of him!”

Needless to say, it didn’t go well. I’ll admit my approach wasn’t very good. It could have been thought out much better. At first she was furious, but later, I think she actually thought it was kind of sweet how I was trying to look out for her.

She didn’t say it, but if I were her I’d be thinking, “You’ve neglected me all my life and NOW you want to tell me what to do?”

Subconsciously, what really upsets me isn’t so much the fact that my sister’s boyfriend is standing in my spot in the Christmas picture, but the fact that he, the guy that I’ve been calling ugly all this time, bears a stark resemblance to me. There he is, not smiling, looking like he could care less if he were there or not. We don’t really look alike, but we look alike just enough so that our elderly relatives, when looking at a tiny Christmas card, might just mistake him for me and not even notice I’m not there.

Diving deeper into it, could it be that the things I dislike about my sister’s boyfriend are things that I also do to a certain extent?

The bottom line for me disliking him is because I don’t think he’s very good to my sister now, and I don’t think he will make enough changes to good be in the future. But I’ve never been very good to my sister either. So who am I to talk?

Sure, there were a few instances when I was there for her when she really needed it. But those moments were few and far between. When you’ve known someone for their entire life, you’d really expect more, wouldn’t you? After all this time, I don’t think my sister expects a whole lot of support from me.

I’ve always been very focused on the things that I want to do, the goals I want to achieve, and the people I want to help. But I’ve neglected certain people close to me. People who looked up to me, who expected me to be there for them, and I let them down.

This is the difference between being obligated, and being committed. When you’re obligated to someone, you do things for them, but only if you have to, and only when it’s convenient for you. When you’re committed to someone, you do things for them because you want to.

Being committed to someone means to act in greater love towards them. That means getting to know them when you would rather keep to yourself and focus on your own things. It means remaining calm and patient when they are angry at you. It means finding compassion when you feel they’ve made a mistake. It means forgiving when you feel you’ve been wronged. It means continuing to forgive when you feel you’ve been wronged many times. It means being genuinely interested in their well-being. It means not giving up on them, even if they’ve given up on you.

When you’re genuinely interested in someone, you have no problem going out of your way to do things for them. Not having time is no excuse. Everybody has the same amount of time. It’s all about how you choose to use it.

Everything I’ve ever done for my sister in her entire life has been through an obligation. From now on, it will be through a commitment.

Some of us make commitments to certain people who are important to us. But if we make commitments to everyone we come across in our lives, we can better shape the world around us. It isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take a lot of time, just a little love. It’s really just a state of mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. We can step out of our own little world, and make an impact in someone else’s. Then perhaps they too will be committed to others. In this way we might just be able to be the change we want to see in the world.

And about that picture with my sister’s boyfriend in it. When I asked my dad about it, he explained it to me in baseball-lingo, so I’d understand better: “We haven’t signed him to a long-term contract yet. He’s still trying to make the team.”

I don’t normally make New Years resolutions, but these seemed appropriate:

New Years Resolution #1:

Strengthen bond with my sister, even though we’re 2,000 miles apart.

New Years Resolution #2:

Smile more.

I’m Rob Kajiwara. Thanks for reading.

ADDENDUM:

I have to make one thing clear about my sister’s boyfriend. He’s probably going to be my brother-in-law someday, and even if he isn’t, I want to make it clear that I don’t actually think he’s ugly or stupid or lazy. Actually, I do think he’s lazy, but I can be lazy too sometimes. He’s not ugly at all. I guess he’s a good looking guy. Not that I really know what good looking guys are. He’s kinda tall, athletically built, and has good facial features. I can’t say if he’s stupid or not, since I really don’t know the guy well. See, it’s my job to give my sister’s boyfriend a difficult time. It’s what older brothers are for. If he can deal with me, then I guess he’ll be good enough for my sister. And anyway, leaders bring out the best in people. I see myself as a leader, so I should be able to bring out the best in him, too.