My name is Taylor Kaili. I am Hawaiian, even though I may not look it. Being Hawaiian is not a marketing strategy, it is a responsibility, a kuleana. A Kuleana to our home islands and to spread our culture of aloha, love. Our culture is one that treasures the unbreakable bond of ohana, family. In the wise words of Stitch, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” Family goes beyond blood, it is a connection to those who share your values of kindness and love.
Being Hawaiian means remembering our past, a beautiful and tragic history. A history of proud island monarchs who fought for their home and their people. Monarchs who are all but forgotten, remembered only in our schools and classrooms and preserved in our artworks, museums and stories.
As keiki, children, we are taught to respect our ‘aina, land. We are taken to the beach and told that it is a privilege to be able to see this wonder of a sight any time we want. We are told that most people can’t, that they are trapped in metal prisons and have forgotten that what really matters lies beyond their windows.
As a child, I didn’t understand any of this. I wanted the concrete oasis that we were warned against. I didn’t understand why my parents would keep me trapped here, where there were no possibilities. I felt as if I was stuck on a rock, where the Harry Potter series’ description of Azkaban prison seemed familiar, as if I were the one stuck in the middle of nowhere for crimes I had not committed.
It is difficult to appreciate what is in front of you when you are distracted by your bitterness. As an inconsolable child, I missed out on opportunities to enjoy my tropical paradise. Now that I travel on Da Bus (local slang) two to four hours a day, back and forth from our business trapped capital, Honolulu, I’ve found myself enjoying the sights racing beside my window more. As a child I would’ve thrown tantrums at the very suggestion of going on a hike on the Lanikai Pillbox Trail, or spending the day at Kailua Beach paddle boarding, now I pursue these pastimes on my days off.
I still do not think that Hawaii offers the possibilities that I have always aspired to pursue. But I no longer believe that this island is trapped by its restricted diameter. Oahu is home to artists, innovators and thinkers who have taken upon themselves the task of transforming our home to a creative hub, where they imagine a future that is similar to the dreams of my childhood. Using the time that I have left here, a measly two years of high school, I will make up for the lost time of my bitter childhood, and experience everything this island has to offer. Now, I travel to Eat the Street food truck fairs, to Art+Flea sponsored concerts and to local wonders like Diamond Head Crater Trail and Turtle Bay. I hope to take what I have learned from my discoveries, both of this island and about myself, to wherever my next destination is in life.