My partner looked me in the eyes and asked, “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I replied, and with a push to the chest he sent me overboard. It was warm on the surface but as I went deeper, it got bluer and colder, the world around me changing into an enchanted realm. At 80 feet the bubbles cleared and in front of me on the pale sand was a wing, then a cabin, and another wing. Soon I was looking straight into the cockpit of what used to be a World War II plane. Now it was just a heap of metal in the middle of a sand desert, separated from any world it had known.
On a trip to San Diego junior year I told a local that I had found a sunken World War II plane off the coast of Oahu, my home. I told her how I had taken the boat out for a routine dive and drifted off the normal diving area when I stumbled across the wreck. She did not believe me even when I showed her pictures, which led me to realize that many on the Mainland have no idea what the islands are all about. We experience the beautiful scenery of the mountains and explore the smaller islands but have the same values and society structure as the Mainland.
Most on the Mainland get their images of Hawaii from television and see the islands as a primitive sanctuary or as it used to be: an independent territory with no ties to the U.S. (or any nation, for that matter). The fact is, Hawaii has become a well-developed set of islands that is part of the United States of America.
By talking to some from the Mainland you can easily find a false image of the islands because of the stories you tell, like hiking to the top of a waterfall and jumping 80 feet to a small pond, or paddling an outrigger canoe across the Moloka’i Channel, one of the five most dangerous channels in the world. By relating this side of your life, the other part of being a normal American is ignored.
Island life is similar to Mainland life in that we are governed by the same laws and deal with the same troubles as the Mainland. However, we also experience things like surf sessions before and after school, amazing hikes, and swimming with sharks. These are just a few things that you cannot experience on the Mainland that you can in Hawaii, however, there is more here than just great pastimes. There is a connection that can be made by anyone who has been to the islands to the people and the land.
I cannot envision living anywhere else after college I am attached to this lifestyle and will spend the rest of my life in Hawaii. This is where I will raise my family and grow old.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.