An account of going away, and coming back.
By Estrella Madani
There are many things you expect when coming home from college: a crowd of family members awaiting you at the airport, your bed made the way it was when you were a child, and friends calling you everyday to hang out. Imagine my surprise when I touched down at MKK airport that December of 2009 after what seemed like the longest four months of my life and there was no crowd and many friends that stayed home after graduation had a full-time job while those who went to the mainland for college spent their limited time with family. Luckily, my bed WAS made the same way it was when I was a child (thanks mom). Driving from the airport, a recurring paradox wouldn’t leave me alone: that life on Molokai had gone on without me, yet nothing changed at all.
A trip to Friendly Market consisted of five or six acquaintances and old friends I failed to keep in touch with asking as if I disappeared to a magical land, “How’s school?”, “Wow, how much weight did you gain?”, or the classic “USF, is that University of Southern Florida?” Talking to past teachers about how I’m doing, I hear “I always knew you could do it”, and it fills me with a sense of pride. But when those words are spoken from classmates, people the same age as me, I think, “You can do it too. Remember when you scored higher than me on that math test? What changed?”
It’s hard to explain this emotional roller coaster that begins the second of arrival, and resonates until a week after departure. Nothing sounds better than soaking in the warm waters of Make Horse and catching up with family and friends at high school athletic events. But it’s impossible not to wonder if the time and money used to get home is worth the two weeks of boredom and icy glares accusing me of thinking I was better than everyone else (by the way, guess what? I’m a minority on the mainland too: apparently my skin, hair, and eyes are “too dark” to be considered Caucasian). The entire experience is topped off by a final three days of depression prior to leaving. I don’t know if others who have left experienced the same thing, but there is nothing more terrifying than leaving home with no knowledge of when you’ll be back.
It has been nearly six months since the last time I was home. I arrived the day of the Class of 2010’s graduation and spent a whopping 13 days on Molokai stressing about money and figuring out how I was going to pay for an apartment during the summer of an unpaid internship in San Francisco: a summer of hardships, learning, excitement, and craziness I wouldn’t take back. The hardest part was realizing I couldn’t live out a normal summer on Molokai that an 18 year old should have.
Today is December 1, 2010. I will get to Molokai in the late afternoon on December 16, 2010 for winter break. I no longer expect a crowd waiting for me at the airport, for old friends and classmates to call me, or even for my bed as a child to exist. I do however, hope to hug my mother as long as possible until people start staring, and hug my little sister who has most likely grown a whole foot since the last time I saw her. I want to celebrate the holidays with people who knew me before I was shoved into adulthood and savor the time I do have. I hope that the entire Molokai community (not just the youth) realizes that it’s not too late to do amazing things.
My biggest hope of all is that someone will read this and see that I wouldn’t forget about this place, and neither will anyone else who left it.