Hello, friends. I apologize for being MIA from the blogosphere lately. The truth is that life has thrown a whole lot of change at me in a short amount of time and it is taking me a while to adapt. I sat down many months ago to start writing a blog post about how much Hawaii changed my life. It was going to be my farewell post and I planned on posting it as I took off and said goodbye to the islands for the time being. I wanted to write about how the islands opened my eyes to a beauty I didn’t even know existed, helped me face my fears both outwardly and inwardly, and became the place that I forever want to call home in my heart. But as I sat down to write that blog post, I couldn’t put it all into words. The magic of the islands will do that to you. They will take your breath away and make you speechless. They will leave you longing to be back in their presence for the rest of your days.
For the last year, I’ve felt like I’ve been on one of those carnival rides that spins you around and around and around until you want to puke. It is most definitely thrilling at times, but by the end of the ride, you’re ready for it to be over so you can step off and get your feet placed firmly on the ground. Nicholas and I started coming up with our “dream sheet” about a year ago. This is something we will do every four years or so for the rest of the time he serves in the Coast Guard. We get a list of all of the positions he is qualified to fill around the country, and we rank them in order of the places we’d like to end up. We had a dream of staying in Hawaii so we put that at the top of our list even though we knew it was unlikely, then we listed the rest of the places we could imagine ourselves. Then the waiting began.
As a planner, not knowing what our future had in store was quite nauseating at times. My anxious mind tends to take me for rides sometimes and I found myself wishing for the months to pass quickly until the Spring when we would find out where we were heading. At the same time, I was kicking myself because I wanted time to slow down so I could savor every last moment on that beautiful island. During those months, I quit teaching fulltime and became a substitute, I flew to Kentucky and Arizona to see family and friends, went to Maui for a holiday camping trip, spent 10 days in Park City snowboarding, trained for and competed in the Boston Marathon and my first half Ironman on the Big Island, showed my brother around the magical island of Oahu, and tried to soak in every last moment in the most beautiful place on Earth. It was a whirlwind and dizzying at times. Sometimes, I wished for a moment to just sit and be still, but other times I couldn’t imagine spending our last year doing anything else.
When we found out we were moving to Jacksonville, we were pretty disappointed. It was third from the bottom on our list (just above Puerto Rico and Alaska), but the needs of the Coast Guard and our country supersede the desires of our hearts. Tears were shed, planning began, and our days left in paradise began to dwindle.
You can read about my Boston Marathon experience here, but my real saving grace those last few months was training for my first half Ironman. A lot of people thought I was crazy for spending my last few months training so much. Some even asked if I ever had any fun. But the truth is that a lot of my training was done outside in the beautiful sunshine which is my favorite place to be. What training wasn’t outside, was inside of a bike shop with a group of strangers that became close friends. Our suffering led to camaraderie and I felt like I’d finally found my tribe. On top of that, I was able to shut my mind off during each workout and not worry about what the future held or what life would look like once we left Hawaii. Ultimately, competing in that race on the beautiful Big Island was one of my favorite experiences ever and it was the perfect capstone to close out our time in the islands.
The weeks following that race were overwhelming and at times I felt like I was being battered by a constant set of waves and never caught a break. My in-laws visited and helped us prep the house to get it rented. We tried to squeeze in some of our favorite things to do one last time and snuck in a few local races. Then we watched movers pack up all of our belongings, nail them away in shipping crates, and said goodbye to our house. We moved into a hotel for our last 10 days on the island, I hammered away some last-minute training sessions at the shop, and we said goodbye to friends. Then I hopped on a plane to San Francisco by myself with our cat, two bikes, and five suitcases. From there I picked up Nicholas’ beloved Tacoma that we had shipped from Hawaii and drove to Travis Air Force Base to meet him and our two pups who flew in the next night. The next day we started the first part of our cross country road trip which ended two days later in Park City, Utah for a much needed two weeks of relaxation in the mountains with Nicholas’ parents. Then we packed up again and headed the rest of the way east to Jacksonville.
I kept telling myself during all this time of constant change that once we get one of those items checked off it will be better. Once the house is packed, once we all make it to the mainland, once we get to Park City, once we get to Jacksonville, once we get into our new house and get settled, once we complete X, Y, and Z, I will catch a break will be able to come up for air. The funny thing is that life can be as unpredictable as the sets of waves crashing at the shore.
We’ve been in Jacksonville for over a month now and I’m still gasping for air. I have tried with every fiber of my being to be optimistic about this move and to find things I can love about being back on the mainland. Despite the optimism, however, my heart still feels shattered from the life I left behind in the middle of the Pacific. My body and mind crave that daily dose of sunshine I used to get because it’s too oppressively hot and humid to enjoy being active in the sun here. I miss the companionship of training with a group and I miss the lunch or dinner dates with the friends that became my family. I miss the crystal clear waters that quieted all of my thoughts and I miss the clean air that moved so smoothly through my lungs. I miss blueness of the sky and water that seemed endless in every direction. Most of all, I just miss the feeling of being “home.”
I decided to jump back into training for another half Ironman to cope with this change. It helped me once before so I figured if I just put my head down and grind out the miles, eventually, I will feel okay again. Most of the time it works, but once the endorphin high wears off the sadness can creep back in.
I’ve been reminding myself that these waves of change happen constantly throughout life. I’ve been here before. As excited as I was to move to Hawaii, those first few months were incredibly isolating and lonely. It takes quite a bit of time and effort to make friends as an adult in a new place and it didn’t happen overnight in Hawaii either. I know I will find things and people to love here in Jax, but it will take a deliberate effort on my part and I have to be up for the challenge.
Sometimes, it’s hard to get going when your feet are wobbling beneath you. That’s how I feel after this carnival ride of a year we’ve had. I don’t know what the future holds, but now that the ride has stopped, it’s time to deliberately start putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Luckily for me, I’m not alone on this ride.