About five-and-a-half years ago, a 26-year-old malihini arrived on Kauai.
Fresh from graduating college and eager to start a career, that young Filipino-American from San Jose, California touched down on the Garden Isle, and he immediately knew that this place was very different from home.
The dead giveaway that made it obvious that this place was nothing like back home — the feral chickens.
And almost immediately, doubts flooded through his mind. Was this the right move? Why did I leave my family? Is this going to work?
But he was determined to stick it out at least a few years. He knew that this wouldn’t be a permanent move, but he was intent on not quitting after a short time.
For a while, things were rocky.
For his new job as a writer, he was required to get the spelling right for a lot of names. He particularly dreaded long Hawaiian names, and he hoped like mad he didn’t misspell any of them.
He arrived in early December, and for a while he got along fine. He didn’t become truly homesick until Christmas came around. Celebrating Christmas was a family tradition, and that year he missed his first Christmas with his family.
For months, he tried to grow more accustomed to life on Kauai. Some days were easier, but others were difficult.
He eventually found his stride. It’s not like how he was back home, but he grew to appreciate what Kauai was and understand why people from here fight like hell to preserve their home the way it is. He eventually found some normalcy, and months became years.
Over the years on the job, particularly during the summer time, he wrote stories of young people preparing for the next phase of their lives. On many occasions, that meant moving to the mainland.
Most if not all of those stories shared common elements — they’re excited for the future, nervous about the big change, and they’ll miss their family, friends and home.
It was subject matters that were all too familiar for him.
But, as I’ve written in a couple of recent columns, change is necessary for growth.
You could be a high school grad getting ready for college, a college grad preparing for adult life, or an adult transitioning into the next thing. Life is always changing.
If you’re still reading up to this point and are still wondering who that 26-year-old transplant was, well, it’s me.
If you’re still reading and wondering why I’m writing about change, well, it’s because I’m getting ready for a big change.
Tomorrow will be my last day working full-time for The Garden Island. Soon, I’ll be leaving Kauai and take on the next phase of my life in the Pacific Northwest.
I doubt many of you will make a fuss. Kauai got along before I got here, and it will continue to do so long after I’m gone.
Regardless, I’d like to take this time thank all of you who have worked with me over the years.
Thank you to editor Bill Buley for hiring me. Thanks for taking on an aspiring but inexperienced sports reporter.
Thank you to past and current co-workers in both the editorial department and advertising department. I’ve shared countless memories with all of you, and you’ve made my experience here at TGI worthwhile.
Last and not least, thank you to all of you who took the time to share your stories with me, and in turn, sharing your stories with the island. For those of you who I have had the pleasure of writing about your triumphs, I hope I’ve done your stories justice. For those of you who feel that there were stories you wish I had not written, I hope at the least I’ve written those stories fairly and justly.
Mahalo nui loa, Kauai. For many reasons, I’m thankful that my journey has taken me here. The Garden Isle will always be a special place to me.
Love, peace and chicken grease.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.