Accidentally On Purpose

 

(Published in the May issue of the Hawaii Baptist Newspaper.)

 

Accidentally on Purpose

I wasn’t supposed to go on the trip to Pu’u Kahea. Money has been pretty tight for me lately, and anything that hasn’t been truly necessary has been cut out of my budget. So when I saw the price tag for the Gathering conference being held there, I automatically assumed there was no way I’d be going. Besides, I had never been on a retreat before, I didn’t really know what it was about, and it didn’t seem like my type of thing.

But then Arjay Gruspe, director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, came to me and said, “I didn’t see your application for the Gathering. Why aren’t you going?”

“No money,” was my reply.

“If we could cover your fee, would you go?”

I didn’t like the idea of going for free, while everyone else paid full price, so I was hesitant to accept the offer. But people kept encouraging me to go, telling me what a great experience it would be, so I figured God might have some sort of purpose for me to be there.

I had no idea what to expect.

The Gathering is a weekend retreat held annually for college-aged people. It’s held at Pu’u Kahea, a plantation-turned-conference center along the Waianae coast. The building itself is three-stories, with the kitchen and dining hall on the first floor, a large lanai on the second, and a main conference room on the third. The grounds outside are lined with royal palms, and there’s plenty of room for field games, outdoor seminars, and other activities.

Pu’u Kahea has long been used for Baptist retreats, but if you haven’t been there recently, they’ve made some nice improvements. All the cabins have been renovated. They’re now completely air conditioned, with new, comfortable mattresses replacing the old, flimsy ones people say used to be there. There’s a newly built prayer garden in a tranquil spot off to the side, complete with benches and a little koy pond.

Around 50 people attended the event, with ages ranging between starry-eyed 18-year-old freshmen, to post-college guys likes me.

The guest speaker for the trip was Michael Kelley, a young, energetic man from Nashville. It was his first time in Hawaii. The title of his presentation was “Life on Purpose.” In the opening message delivered on Friday night he talked about our walk with God, and encouraged us to ask ourselves what we are doing to live a meaningful life.

After the worship we gathered into small groups organized by our year in college to discuss the message we had just heard. Each group consisted of roughly a dozen people. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, each of us sharing our most memorable story from our time in college. The guys tended to tell stories about pranks they had pulled, while the girls mostly told about weird things that had happened to them.

One girl told of how she met her significant other. It was a lengthy story, but she was so obviously in love that one couldn’t help but overlook the length. I guess that’s the difference between a casual relationship and being truly in love. When you’re truly in love with someone, they always seem to be on your mind. You can’t help but talk about them at every chance you get.

In the same way, when you walk with God and have a relationship with Christ, not just a casual relationship, but when you’re truly in love and committed to serving Him, he is always on your mind, and you’re constantly looking for ways to spread his glory.

As a group we spent so much time sharing stories that we didn’t get around to covering the remaining questions of the lesson, but I think it was time well-spent. The story each person chose to share seemed to be an indication of who they were and where they were in life. Some stories were funny, others were more serious, but all were revealing. We seemed to learn a lot about each other in that way.

We had some free time on Saturday afternoon, so a bunch of people decided to go to the nearby water park, some went to the beach, and some stayed at the plantation and played on the giant slip and slide they have there. But I and a few others decided to go on the hike to Kaena Point.

I’d never been there, but had heard that Kaena Point was the most remote point on the island. The only problem was that the person who was supposed to be our guide for the hike had decided to go to the water park instead. So the rest of us figured we would go on our own.

Coming on the hike was a guy who said his first love had been marine biology. He was forced to switch his major to psychology in order to graduate on time, but he still loved marine life. Also coming was a young freshmen couple. They were both about the same height, on the shorter side, kind of shy, and held hands for practically the entire time. They were inseparable, and seemed like they were made for each other.

Rounding out the team was Michael, and his wife, Jana. I guess I had assumed that as the speaker he would be too important and busy to want to go hiking with us, so it was a nice surprise.

But when Michael heard that none of the rest of us had been on this particular trail before, he seemed to get a bit uneasy. Not only that, but the sunny weather we had had in the morning had been replaced by dark clouds, so there was some uncertainty as to whether we should go at all.

We went anyway. We hopped in the back of a truck, and drove past the beaches of Makaha, the makeshift homeless camps, and the high ridge mountains. After about twenty minutes, we came to the end of the road, which is where the trail began.

The first part of the trail was covered with deep mud holes, but we were able to work our way around by forging through smaller paths in the brush. We were thankful for those alternate paths, because none of us wanted to walk through the mud.

As we made our way along, the muddy parts ceased, the trail became friendlier, and we had more time to enjoy the natural scenery. On our right was a large, green mountain with portentous clouds circling it. On our left was the ocean, pounding against the rocky shoreline.

Eventually we saw a large arch made out of rocks. It’s the type of thing you might expect to see at the Grand Canyon, but not so much in Hawaii. We stood admiring it. Michael decided he wanted a picture of himself underneath it, but to get there meant having to go down a rocky slope, which was unstable-looking enough to think that with one false step, you could fall and break a leg, or hit your head on the sharp rocks that lay below. There was no trail to follow.

But Michael really wanted to check out that arch.

“I’m going down,” he said, taking off his backpack.

“Are you serious?” asked his wife. “Don’t do it.”

“I’m doing it,” he replied. “You only come to Hawaii once. It’ll be fine.”

He started making his way down, as Jana continued to urge him not to.

The younger guy traveling with us finally let go of his girlfriend’s hand, and boldly said, “I’m going too.”

“Don’t…” pleaded his girlfriend. But of course at that point he had to do it, whether he still wanted to or not.

Jana said something about men being stubborn. I replied, “If I had someone to impress, and she were here, I’d probably do it too.”

As the younger guy made his way down the slope, rocks fell towards Michael. But the two of them continued on carefully, and made it down alright, posing underneath the giant stone arch.

“You got down okay, but how are you going to get back up?” asked Jana.

They kept walking and before too long they found an easy path that led them back to the main trail. Turns out they could’ve gotten to the arch without ever having to go down that risky slope.

Michael was having a good time. “So glad I did that!” he said. I think Jana was a bit perturbed by his risk taking, but glad he didn’t get hurt.

We continued on our way, and eventually came to the end of the island, the most remote point of Oahu. Looking out into the ocean, we saw whales. Directly in front of us were seals resting among the rocks.

“I love whales!” exclaimed the psychology major. “They were the reason I first got into marine biology.”

It was a peaceful scene, different from most beaches in Hawaii. It’s a natural wildlife reserve for birds, like the Nene, and native plants that can’t be found in too many other places. The land is shaped in a way that makes it look like it really is pointing to something out over the horizon.

“I’m glad we did this hike,” said Michael. I think all of us were.

There were a lot of things that could have interfered with our enjoyment of the hike. It could have rained, someone could have gotten hurt, or we could have simply decided it would’ve been more trouble than it was worth, and not have gone. Decision making is a constant in life. Sometimes you don’t know which way to go, or if you should even go at all. Maybe you wandered away from the trail and are unsure of how to get back. Or maybe you just don’t know what it is you can or should be doing. But when you put your trust in God, the path is always revealed.

In one of our devotionals, Michael reminded us about the story of Joshua, who led the Israelites to conquer the large, fortified cities of Canaan, most notably the famous walled city of Jericho. Such a task was daunting, and I’m sure there were a lot of people who thought it was an unnecessary and foolish risk. But had they simply gone around the city, they would have been left vulnerable to attack. Joshua placed absolute faith in God, and God told him what to do.

There are times when we may find ourselves hesitant to act on things because of the perceived risk of failure. But when we walk with God, there is no risk.

Michael wrote, “Maybe faith isn’t the absence of doubt, but the ability to give your doubts and apprehensions to God, and move forward against the walls anyway… Might God be calling you to take a risk for him?”

As part of his Saturday evening message, Michael talked about ways we could glorify God. He used the example of Christian movies, which tend to be preachy and boring. Movies are supposed to be entertaining. So if a Christian movie has good preaching, but isn’t fun to watch, who, really, is going to be moved to develop a relationship with Christ? Michael suggested that to glorify God, you didn’t need to make films that preached Christianity, just quality, entertaining movies with good values and messages.

Committing your life to God doesn’t mean you have to become a pastor, a nun, or a speaker. Not everyone has that calling. I think it simply means doing ordinary things with God in your heart, for when you do that, you are living life with a purpose, and actively seeking ways to make a significant, lasting impact.

“Christians are frequently speaking out against gay marriage,” said Michael. “But what if a heterosexual Christian couple spoke about the joys of their relationship, showing people what they are for, instead of what they are against?”

A lot of people seem to think of Christians as boring, stuffy, and judgmental. We talk a lot about the things we’re against. We’re against drugs, abortion, gay marriage, and other things that some people find acceptable or enjoyable. Michael’s point was that being a Christian shouldn’t be about telling people what they can’t do. It should be about showing people the right way of doing things.

If people come to see Christians not as stuffy and judgmental, but as contributing leaders of society, I think people will be more willing and interested in hearing about Christ. In this way God’s glory is spread.

Saturday night we sat around a campfire, making smores, and talking story. People sang songs, and played guitars. We even had a ukulele player and a violinist. Most of us stayed up far later than we probably should have, but we were having a good time making new friends, and getting to know old friends better.

As our gathering wrapped up on Sunday morning, Michael’s closing message cited Matthew 24:14-

Revalation 22:21, the very last verse of the Bible, says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone.” Not just some people, but with

We packed and cleaned, and thanked the Pu’u Kahea staff for their hospitality. As we left, Arjay reminded us not to leave anything behind, but to apply it to our everyday walk with God.

I wasn’t supposed to come on this trip, but I’m thankful I was given the opportunity. I didn’t come to Pu’u Kahea with a specific purpose in mind other than to grow closer to God. It so often seems we live life waiting for things to accidentally come our way. But when you walk with God, nothing is really an accident.

When we devote our life to a great cause, when we are willing to take risks and live not to serve our own desires, but to glorify God, we are living a life full of meaning and significance. We are able to achieve our fullest potential, and make an impact that outlasts us. We are making a difference that matters.

That’s what a life on purpose is.

Take Me As I Am

When I first started writing, it wasn’t easy to share things with people. I’d invest a lot of time and effort into writing something, finish it, but hesitate to show it to anyone.

“What are people going to think of me after they read this? Maybe I shouldn’t bother. Why should I show anything to anyone anyway?” That’s what would go through my mind.

That’s why I started stating my name at the end of these articles. It’s a way of taking ownership for whatever came before it. It’s being accountable and saying, “For good or for bad, this is who I am.”

I’m constantly worrying about what people are going to think of me, particularly when I write. I think, “Does what I’m writing sound cheesy or over-the-top?” When you’re a wanna-be-tough-guy like me, the last thing you want is to come across as overly-sentimental. I also worry about the quality of the writing. When I finish something I usually think, “This just isn’t good enough to show people. Am I under-explaining something? Or am I stating the obvious? Is a message I’m trying to convey not clear? Or am I being repetitive? Am I unintentionally offending someone? What if the people I write about read these? Would they be hurt or upset? Does what I’m writing even make sense?”

The responses I’ve gotten to my writings so far has been very positive. But the more people that see it, the more people there will be who dislike it. It’s inevitable. It’s not a matter of if or when, but of how many. The same goes with life in general. Many people like you, but not everyone will.

There are people who are quick to criticize, but difficult to please. They are the first to speak up when you do something they don’t agree with, but when you’re doing alright, they fall silent. They might insist they criticize to help you, but really, they are interested only in helping themselves. They seek to criticize because subconsciously it makes them feel better about themselves and their own insecurities.

It’s one thing when a stranger does that to us. Sure, it sucks, but we kind of expect that from strangers. But sadly, some of the people who do that to us are people we know in person, people who may be our teachers and family members, and people who may call themselves our friends.

At least if it’s a teacher doing it, they usually don’t have a choice on whether they want to be your teacher or not, so I guess it isn’t so bad. Same with family. People don’t usually get to choose their family members, so sometimes you just have to put up with it. But friends are a different story. We get to choose who we’re friends with. We are rarely ever forced to be friends with anyone. To pretend to be someone’s friend, I think, is worse than rejecting them out right. At least when you know someone doesn’t consider you a friend, you don’t expect them to treat you as one. But a fake friend is much more deceptive, and much more hurtful.

Yes, there are some people who will pretend to be your friend, and maybe even convince themselves that they are. But they don’t really want anything to do with you, and they don’t really bother talking to you, except for when you do something they disagree with, or when they see an opportunity to bash you. These so-called-friends really don’t care about you at all, because they are too concerned about themselves.

You should not be concerned with what people like this say, because they do not have your interests at heart. Though we should still treat these people with love and not hold any grudges against them, we cannot take their words to heart, and we cannot consider them true friends. People like that seek only to put you down, and letting them into your inner-circle of confidants is like asking for trouble. I would never ex-communicate anyone, but I do think it’s necessary to distance yourself from people who try to bring you down. They’re looking to steal your sunshine, not share it with you.

There’s a definite difference between people who care about you and try to help you, and those who really don’t care about you at all. The former will treat you as a friend, and their care is obvious. They are always with you, through thick and thin. They will kindly rebuke you when you’re mistaken, and seek to steer you back on course. The latter will talk to you only when they feel like it; they seem eager to catch you when you are at your lowest, while at other times, they are largely absent from your life, showing little, if any, interest in you as a person. If you behave the way they want you to, they will love you. If you don’t, they want nothing to do with you. It’s sort of like they’re in a store picking things out, saying, “I’ll take you, but only if you do this for me. Can’t do it? I don’t want you!”

A real friend won’t pressure you and give you ultimatums to change, and a real friend won’t act in spite. A friend wouldn’t want to see you hurt, and they especially wouldn’t want to be the one who caused it. A friend will always be with you, through the good and the bad, if you’re wrong, or if you’re right. It’s a crummy feeling to see someone who was supposed to be your friend turn their back on you, but you shouldn’t let it get to you. You can’t lose a friend you never had.

Whether we’re dealing with false friends, critics, strangers, or anyone else, all we can really do is try to be our best selves. Sometimes we’ll fall short, but as long as we make a conscious effort to acknowledge our shortcomings and improve upon them, we will be successful in our endeavors.

People who criticize are often incredibly oblivious to their own shortcomings. They pounce on people when they make a mistake, but fail to see their own glaring mistakes in any given problem. The thing is, when we judge people, when we want to change them, we are really being hypocritical. First remove your own faults, then you have the right to judge someone else and ask them to change.

At the same time, we need to make sure we are not one of those people bringing others down. It’s easy to think, “I’m a good person, I would never do that! Especially not towards people I care about!” I don’t think anyone actually tries to be that person, so why do people do it? I think this happens when we fall into self-centered thinking, and forget that our influence is only as good as our relationships with those we are trying to influence.

Acceptance is a big thing to us, isn’t it? We naturally want people to like us and the things we do. Could it be that when people ‘hate’ on other people it’s because they’re subconsciously afraid of not being accepted by them? I think it’s because of the perceived threat they feel. Someone or something doesn’t match who they are so they hate it. I guess it’s a self-defense mechanism. No matter what, in everything we do, everywhere we go, there will be haters. There will always be those who look for reasons to dislike someone instead of looking for reasons to like them. But if we worry about people accepting us, it will keep us from reaching our full potential.

There’s a quote by Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” This isn’t to say it’s okay to be a jerk or to carelessly act without giving any thought to whether you’re hurting people. All it means is that we should be unafraid to be ourselves.

This is one of my favorite sayings: Humility isn’t thinking less about yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less. By thinking less about ourselves and more about other people, we bring out the best in us. All our good qualities are enhanced, and our negative traits – a result of self-centered thinking – are ironed out. When you’re thinking about yourself, it’s easy to get wrapped up in things and be overly self-conscious. But when you place others before yourself, you bring out the real you. All your good points are drawn out for people to see. As for your imperfections, if it’s something that can be changed, people who care about you will try to help you make those changes, not to mold you, but because they want you to be the best that you can be. And if it’s a physical imperfection, something that can’t be helped, the people who matter, the ones who really care about you, aren’t going to care anyway.

Thinking about saying or doing something, but you’re afraid or hesitant to do it? Ask yourself why you thought about it in the first place. If it’s for a selfish reason, it’s probably a bad idea, and no, you shouldn’t do it. But if it’s for a selfless reason, if you think it might benefit someone, it’s probably a good idea, and you should definitely do it. Sure, no matter what you do it’s always possible you’ll end up looking stupid and feeling foolish, but the greater probability is that it’ll be helpful to someone, and quite possibly, helpful to you as well. Confidence isn’t about always being right. It’s about not being afraid to be wrong.

I think it’s good to always be looking to improve yourself. People who do that have a significant advantage, since they are less likely to get stuck in unproductive habits. At the same time, though, you can work forever on improving your material or yourself, but at some point you have to say, “This is the best I can do right now. I’m just going to put it out there.”

I don’t mean to sound curt or insolent, but those who don’t like us don’t have to be apart of what we do. Don’t like what I write? You don’t have to read it. Don’t like me? That’s okay too. No hard feelings. I don’t change who I am for anyone. But I always try to be my best for everyone. Take me, or leave me.

I would write things even if no one read them. So it stands to reason that I don’t actually need to show anything to anyone. But the point of writing isn’t really for me. It’s about what I can offer to you. I’m not here to please people. I’m just here to do the things I feel I was called to do. We can’t live in a shell forever, worrying about what people think about us, because we won’t get anything done that way. There’s a world out there, and it needs our help. Not everyone will want it, and not everyone will want us, but we can’t let that stop us from reaching the people who do.

You should not seek to fit into someone’s mold. Don’t change who you are to fit someone’s idea of who they want or expect you to be. At the same time, don’t expect these things of others. Be unafraid to be who you are, and strive to be your best self. Not everyone will want what you have to offer, but if you’re worrying about pleasing people, you’ll find it difficult to get anything accomplished. We should turn our backs on no one, but at the same time, we can’t be letting people drag us down. Don’t bother with people who want you to change. It’s the people who want you as you are that matter most, since they are the ones who will be receptive to what you have to offer, they are the ones who will look out for you, they are the ones who will rejoice with you in the good times, and stand by you in the bad times.

If those who hate us or judge us ever have a change of heart, we should hold no grudges and welcome them with open arms, not because we need their acceptance, not because we are being the bigger person, not because we are better than them, but because that’s what it means to act with love. Until they do, or even if they never come to accept us, we should love them anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara. Take me as I am, and I’m yours. Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

I really like that song, but it sounds kinda pessimistic, and I like to end on a good note, so here’s another song. I have no idea what it means; the lyrics sound mostly nonsensical. But it sounds like a happy song.

 

I Saw Her Again

I was 6 feet tall when I started high school. But during those four years, I grew just one more inch. So in 2006, during my previous stay in Hawaii, I had assumed I had stopped growing, and would remain 6’1” for the rest of my life. Nothing wrong with that, right? 6’1” is a pretty respectable height. But anything less than 6 feet is considered short in my family, so at 6’1”, I was just barely making the grade.

Now that I’m back in Hawaii, people constantly remark about how much I’ve grown since the last time they saw me. I didn’t realize it, but in the four years I was away, I grew two inches, and am now 6’3”. (Once again, I’ve assumed I’ve stopped growing.) In addition to height, I added some bulk (also without realizing it), and I think it makes people think I grew more than I actually did.

But people also mention how much more mature I am now. I think they mean well, but it kind of makes me think I must have been a snotty little brat back then.

In any case, I don’t feel any different. Whether it’s physical or emotional growth, I never really notice it. Life feels like one big on-going experience to me.

I think when people think of themselves as “mature,” that’s when they stop maturing. I think a lot of these “older more mature people” who talk to me as if they have matured, have themselves stopped growing, and I don’t mean physically. When I look at them and the way they live, they seem to have cut themselves off from learning, get stuck in unproductive habits, and refuse to change, even when a more beneficial way is presented to them. And I’m not talking about things like technology, I’m talking about simple things like putting aside petty differences, and not holding grudges. These people are usually more than twice my age, so you’d think they’d be able to see things more clearly than I could. But because they think of themselves as “matured” they’ve stopped learning, and have settled into their lives as basically being the same person they will always be. I don’t mean to sound insolent and disrespectful, I just think it’s sad how they’ve shut themselves off from learning anything new.

Growth, I think, is a choice. We can’t choose how much we grow physically, but we can choose how much we grow emotionally. It seems once people hit a certain age, they tend to think, “I’m old now. I’m not gonna learn anything I haven’t learned already.” But it’s exactly that kind of thinking that interferes with their learning process.

I think of maturity as an on-going, never-ending process. For this reason, I will never think of myself as “mature,” but rather, “maturing.” Even when I’m old and gray and on my death bed, I will still think of myself as in the process of maturing. Sure, we need a certain amount of maturity to accomplish certain tasks the right way, and I can recognize when I’m more mature than I was before, but I won’t ever consider myself “mature” as if it’s some sort of defining plateau one has to reach. As long as I’m alive, I never want to stop growing. There’s just too much out there to learn. A thousand lifetimes could never answer the questions I have.

Perhaps maturity is just doing what you know to be right. I think there’s something inside all of us, a little voice telling us the right thing to do. But we so often let external influences prevent us from doing it. Pride, I think, might be the biggest influence of all. We’re so worried about keeping our pride intact that we stop ourselves from making the right decisions. And the person we hurt most when we do that is ourselves.

When I first moved back to Hawaii in 2006, I didn’t know too many people, since I had either lost touch with most of the friends I grew up with, or they had moved to the mainland. I was 19 years old at the time, and I had a cousin who was around 13 or 14. I didn’t have too many other friends, so she and I started hanging out. I figured it was good to get to know my relatives more.

I normally try not to talk too much with young girls. In this case, by “young” I mean any girl under the age of 18. It’s not that I mean to be rude and ignore them, but young girls are impressionable, and tend to get easily attached, if you know what I mean. I just don’t think it’s right for an older guy to hang around young girls.

But I figured there was nothing wrong with hanging out with my cousin. We’re related. It’s okay. Right…?

We enjoyed each others company, and grew closer as cousins, but there were a few strange occurrences. For instance, we were walking in the mall one day when she saw a girl she knew. They talked for a bit, and later I asked, “Who was that?”

“Why do YOU want to know?” she said, as if I had some secondary intention.

“I was just asking.”

There were little things like that that made me think there was some jealousy on her end. Jealousy is always unhealthy, but it was even weirder since we’re, you know, cousins.

My cousin started calling and texting me alot, and frequently asked me to pick her up from school and hang out. She was getting too attached to me. But naively I didn’t think too much about it, figuring, “We’re cousins.”

We went to the Punaho carnival where we ran into one of her teachers.

“Who’s this?” she asked, referring to me.

My cousin gave a long, winding, and confusing explanation of how she knew me. I really don’t know what she said. But the way she said it, it sounded as if we weren’t related.

The woman gave me a sideways look, as if to say, “What are doing with a girl her age?”

You know how some girls mature faster, so they look older than they really are? Not my cousin. She was 14, and she looked 14. Not that it would have made it any better had she looked older, but at least it would have looked less weird to passersby.

Her teacher left and I asked, “Why didn’t you just tell her we’re cousins?”

My cousin replied with another long, confusing explanation. I shrugged it off, thinking, “Girls are weird.”

Later we met some of her friends. They asked me, “So how did you two meet?”

“We’re cousins,” I said.

My cousin started ignoring me after that. Every time I’d say something, she refused to say anything, unless it was to find a way to snidely insult me. But she had no problem talking to other people.

“Something wrong?” I asked. Obviously there was.

She said something like, “If you don’t know, I’m not telling you.”

Seriously? What kind of reply is that?

“Why did you tell them we’re cousins!?” she finally asked.

“Because we are,” I said. She should be thankful I didn’t say I’m her babysitter.

She didn’t talk to me for the rest of the evening.

I thought, “She’s giving me the silent treatment? This is ridiculous.”

Now her friends knew that we were related, which, I guess, threw a wrench in her plans to use me to make her peers think she had an older guy-friend. I didn’t really mind her using me. It was kind of flattering, actually. I just didn’t like the bratty drama queen way she was going about it.

“I’ll leave, if you don’t want me to be here,” I said.

“I don’t care,” was her reply.

“You can get a ride home with someone else, right?”

“Yeah.”

So I left. She was with her friends, she had a ride home, I didn’t want to be there anyway, so I figured it was okay.

I got home and I received a text message from an unknown number. Turns out it was from one of her friend’s phones. It said, “Why did you leave her all by herself? You should come back and pick her up.”

Now I see why statutory laws exist. As much as they are to protect young girls from older guys, they’re also to protect older guys from young girls.

“Tell her to walk home,” was my reply. I’m not the type of guy who puts up with high school drama games. There was no way I was going all the way back when she had already told me she didn’t want me to be there.

Later we had an argument. I think she wanted me to get down on my knees, beg for forgiveness, and worship her majesty. But that wasn’t going to happen. She was giving me her little cry-baby run around, the way 14 year old girls do, but I wasn’t going to put up with that. I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I said something mean. Really mean. Poetically mean. That was the last time we spoke, some 4+ years ago.

They say girls mature faster than guys. But a 14 year old girl does not have the same maturity level as a 19 year old guy. (If she did, there’d surely be something wrong with the guy.) So what kind of scummy dirtbag goes around purposefully emotionally hurting young girls? Me, I guess.

Over the years, while I was in Seattle, I felt bad for what had happened before. She was wrong, but so was I. Her behavior was immature, but instead of fixing it, I let her bring me down with her. I shouldn’t have been so mean to her. Besides, she was only doing what insecure young girls do.

So two Christmases ago I sent her an email asking how she was, and wishing her a happy Christmas. I didn’t get a reply, so I figured she was still mad. “Oh well,” I thought. “At least I tried.”

Since I’ve returned to Hawaii, I knew I’d see her again eventually. I figured I might see her for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, but I didn’t.

Not too long ago, I went to my aunt’s 80th birthday party. It was held in a big ballroom, and there were a lot of people there. It was more like a wedding reception than a birthday. It was a family reunion of sorts, and I got to catch up with a lot of relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time, and even some I had never met at all. I figured my cousin wouldn’t be there, since she goes to college on the mainland. Break had ended for most college students, and I assumed she had already left.

I was talking to another relative, when he mentioned my cousin. “Did you talk to her yet? She’s sitting over there.”

He pointed across the room, and there she was.

I had long ago decided that when I saw her again I was going to be nice and talk to her the same way I would talk to anyone. I figured I wouldn’t say anything about what had happened before, unless she brought it up, and even then, I would talk about it as if it were no big deal. Maybe she was still mad, but as far as I was concerned, it was water under the bridge.

But now that the moment had come, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was having second thoughts.

“I haven’t seen or talked to her in over four years,” I thought. “I have no idea what her reaction will be.” More drama? Maybe. Maybe she’d try to make me feel bad about what happened, or maybe she’d try to justify her position. Maybe she’d expect me to apologize and drop rose petals on the ground she walked on. Maybe she’d treat me like dirt, insidiously looking for ways to make me look bad, while keeping a sweet demeanor on the outside, so that no one else would know anything was up. Or maybe she’d completely ignore me.

You know in cartoons when they have a devil and an angel trying to guide the main character? That’s exactly what happened to me. There was a puff of smoke, and a miniaturized devil version of myself appeared on the table in front of me.

Devil Rob: “You know, Rob, you don’t have to talk to her.”

At that point, there was another *poof* and an angel version of myself appeared on the table next to him. They both looked up at me.

Angel Rob: “Of course you have to talk to her. It would be rude not to.”

Devil Rob: “You could pretend like you didn’t see her. She might not even know you’re here.”

Angel Rob: “Whatever. She knows you’re here. Girls somehow always know things like this. They have built-in-radar, or something. She probably knew the moment you got here.”

Devil Rob: “Yeah, well, Rob doesn’t have built-in-radar, so he can’t be expected to know these things.”

Angel Rob: “He should get it installed.”

Devil Rob: “Hey, man. There’s a lot of people here. If you wanted to, you could probably avoid getting near her at all. Talk to other people, then slip out nice and casually.”

Angel Rob: “What kind of attitude is that?”

Devil Rob: “I’m just trying to look out for Rob here. This has the potential to be super awkward.”

Angel Rob: “It also has the potential to be a good thing.”

Devil Rob: “She didn’t respond to your email. She probably hates you.”

Angel Rob: “Maybe she didn’t see it. Or maybe she didn’t know what to say.”

Devil Rob: “Or maybe she hates you.”

Angel Rob: “So what if she hates you? Be a man and talk to her anyway.”

Devil Rob: “It would be weird.”

Angel Rob: “It got weird a long time ago. It can’t possibly get worse.”

Devil Rob: “Famous last words.”

Angel Rob: “She’s family. You can’t go the rest of your lives without talking. You’ve got to talk to her again at some point.”

Devil Rob: “Just talk to her next time. Nothing wrong with that.”

Angel Rob: “There’s no time like the present. It’s not good to leave things unresolved.”

Devil Rob: “Other people are talking to her. It would be rude to interrupt.”

Angel Rob: “Lame excuse. Talk to her anyway.”

Devil Rob: “If no one had pointed her out, you wouldn’t even know she was here. It’d be so easy to just forget about her.”

Angel Rob: “You gotta talk to her, Rob. Put your big boy Nike’s on and just do it.”

Devil Rob: “New Balance is better.”

Me: “I’m tired of this. Wait here.”

* * *

“Hey! How are you?”

“Tired,” she said, as if we had just talked recently. “I was up late last night, and had to wake up early this morning…”

I had no idea what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that. She seemed apprehensive, but not upset.

“So…how have you been?” I asked, trying to make conversation.

“Okay…” she said. Suddenly her countenance changed entirely, she flashed a big nervous smile and said, “Sorry about what happened before!”

Before even giving me a chance to reply, she added, “I know you remember!” just in case I was going to pretend like I didn’t. And just like that, all tension between us had disappeared.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.

“My head’s gotten a little smaller since then.” She framed her head with her arms, as if to show me that her head did, in fact, get smaller.

“Why didn’t you come over for Christmas?” she asked.

“I wanted to! But my grandma didn’t feel like going anywhere. She was too tired.”

She said, “I leave for the mainland tomorrow, but we should get together when I get back during the summer and catch up!”

“Looking forward to it,” I said, and I meant it.

 

Angel Rob: “Aren’t you glad he talked to her? She was probably waiting to say that to him for a long time. And to think, you wanted him to avoid her entirely.”

Devil Rob: “Grr….” * disappears angrily *

 

It’s so tempting to take the easy way out instead of doing what we know to be right. But doing the right thing is always more rewarding. People will sometimes do you wrong, but even so, you are also wrong if you fail to treat them right.

We talked a little more, and she again apologized about the things that had happened all those years ago.

“I grew up a little since then,” she said.

“I grew up a little, too.”

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara. No matter how old I get, I’ll never stop growing. Thanks for reading.

Shimanchu nu Takara / The Island People’s Treasure

 

 

This is an Okinawan song popular in Okinawa. (So I’m told.) Because Japanese is the dominant language even in Okinawa, most of the song is in Japanese. However, there are a few Okinawan words.

 

I made this translation using my elementary Japanese/Okinawan language skills, and lots of people at the Okinawan Cultural Center helped. This is a non-literal translation, so I placed more emphasis on making a nice-sounding translation that flowed well in the English language that still kept the original meaning, than on a word-for-word translation.

 

Though the song is about the Ryukyu Islands, I think it fits well for Hawaii too, no?

 

 

Shimanchu Nu Takara (Non-literal Translation)

 

I was born under this island’s sky

How much I do not know

About the shining stars, the floating clouds

I don’t understand these things

But anybody knows

When I’m sad, or when I’m happy

I look up many times at this sky

If you study just the textbook, there are many things you will not understand

The important things of this place

Are the island people’s treasure

 

I was born in this island’s sea

How much I do not know

About the coral reef, and the swimming fish, which are becoming polluted

I don’t know what to do about these things

But anybody knows

We play in the sand, and float on the waves

Little by little, this sea is changing

Television can’t project, and radio can’t announce

The important things of this place

The island people’s treasure

 

I was born of this island’s song

How much I do not know

I don’t understand the meaning

Of the love songs people sing

But I know more than other people

About the night, the time we celebrate, which lasts until morning

Until that time, this song will plays

Until the time comes to leave this island

I want to know more and more about the important things

This is the island people’s treasure

This is the island people’s treasure