Depending on whom I talk to, the statement “I’ve been to the mainland once” is either an embarrassing confession or a badge of local honor. However it’s viewed, it’s the truth. I’ve only been to the mainland once and that was 15 years ago.
My parents took my brother and I to Disneyland. We stayed at The Saga Inn across the street (it was more like a highway, but I’m not too sure if that’s the correct term) and I was completely entranced by the absolute enormity of it all.
The trip was fun, though I freaked out and almost fainted in the wax museum. If you didn’t know this already, wax museums are really weird places.
Over the past decade and a half, I’ve had a number of opportunities to go back to the mainland. When I was 19 my best friend was moving to the West Coast to go and do hippie type things that involved a lot of hemp yarn and patchouli oil. I passed.
When I was in my early 20s, my boyfriend’s family moved to Oregon and we planned on following them over to take advantage of the lower cost of living, but we never made it. We got pregnant and decided to stay in Hawai‘i where I could raise a baby close to my family.
I even had a Texan-transplant boyfriend who asked me to move to China with him. I thought he was either totally insane or full of shit. He made the move, leaving me behind. He’s been there for 10 years, but I’m still waiting for my letter with Chinese postage stamps.
I’ve always blamed being stuck in Hawai‘i on financial difficulties. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that money’s just a decoy for the real issue: I’m scared.
The mainland is big–bigger than I can feasibly imagine. When I try to imagine, I get the same weird sensation you get when you start contemplating infinity.
The mainland U.S. holds 3,794,083 square miles. Maui? Just 729. I was going to do the math, but I think it’ll suffice to say that Maui is A LOT smaller than the mainland. In the words of a colleague who grew up on the mainland, “It’s big.”
It boggles my mind when I try to imagine just how big the word “big” is. Big like the Big Island big or big like Haleakala? Are the malls twice the size of the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center or three times the size of Ala Moana?
What also scares me is that the mainland is so humongous, it could be very easy to get lost in. And that would suck. Here on Maui, I know that there’s only so far I can go before hitting a familiar beach with familiar faces. It can be a little suffocating, but at least I feel safe.
In a few weeks, I’ll be getting on a plane and heading to San Francisco to attend a newspaper conference. I’m really excited about it, but I’m already experiencing moth-like fluttering in my stomach.
I can’t use the money excuse because my bosses bought my ticket. I tried the “I’m not sure if I can leave my family” route, which totally failed because my husband looked at me like I was a nut job for even considering passing on the opportunity.
“Won’t you guys miss me?” I asked.
“We’ll be fine,” he said.
“But, what if…”
“We’ll be fine,” he said again.
I know he was trying to put me at ease, but some co-dependent part of me really wanted him to beg me not to leave him to fend for himself with the kids. Part of me wanted him to lament about how much he’ll miss me. Guess I’ve always found it easier to be brave when other people are blubbering.
Starr Begley is now obsessed with bread making and is planning on bringing back authentic San Francisco sourdough starter. MTW