13 July 2011

{big jumps} leaps of faith

I am in San Francisco for the Cystinosis Family and Medical Conference and to attend to my duties as a  (proud!) member of the Board of Directors. And, to borrow some beautiful words from my second mother, Frankie, to spend time with those who understand my life the best, those that have walked before me and embrace those just embarking on this journey.

This is the second in the big jumps; chasing your dreams guest blogger series. Clare from Never Niche has a story of bold motivation today. It will make you look at a dream with new questioning of "why not?" I have known Clare for almost half of my life. She is my ginger partner in crime, my sweet friend, and a woman who is a force to be reckon with. I hope you fall in love with her just like I have!


I grew up in small town, Colorado, graduating high school with the same ninety people that I sat next to in kindergarten. Now that I'm a little older I can recognize this as a blessed experience but when you're a bored, seventeen year old girl on the brink of big change, you feel a bit suffocated. I had wonderful friends, was an honors' student, and enrolled in every extracurricular activity you can name. Still, I felt alone.

College was something I knew should be in my future but as the day grew nearer, I panicked. I didn't want to see the same people I grew up with on a campus in Denver. I wanted to be free from everything (and everyone) I knew for the first time. My mother, a free spirit herself, empathized and found am exchange program for which I qualified. When the list of schools came in the mail, only one stuck out. I read the letter by myself first. The school name wasn't in bold text but it might as well have been. University of Hawaii.

My inner dialogue: No way. No WAY! But that could be really cool! No way, it's too far. I would have to wear so much suncreen! HAWAII? You have never even seen the ocean and you don't know a soul there, what the hell are you thinking? Are you trying to find the farthest possible university from home? Yes. Of course you are. You don't have to decide right this moment. Except that I did. I had put off choosing a school for so long that the final deadlines loomed. With my parents' blessing, I applied to Hawaii and was accepted within the month. When the local paper published graduation announcements for my class, I felt flushed with pride seeing a school that no one else would be attending next to my name. Me, Ms. Goody Two Shoes Play It Safe Has Never Even Dated Doesn't Drink or Smoke, going to the most exciting place of all.

When I stepped off the plane in late August and the humidity and smell of plumerias at the airport rushed up to greet me, it occurred to me that I could tell people my name was Yolanda and they would believe me, having no prior history. It blew my young mind. I didn't. But I could have.

By the end of that year, I was still Clare, of course, but things were different. Not only I had seen the Pacific, I had seen lava pouring into it, at night. I had swam to the bottom of its shores with tropical fish. I had been to the southernmost tip of the U.S. and laid on green sand for an entire day. I had climbed a swing over crystal blue water in Maui, ran around the wild chickens on the Na Pali Coast, eaten real shave ice with coffee beans in the bottom, seen photos of tsunami damage in the very place I was standing, gone slipper-less in everyone's dorm room or house out of respect, acted with a comedy troupe, sang in a university choir, hid in banyon trees, drank too much silver rum and woke up with black sand stained white jeans, suffered from sun poisoning, galloped horseback through mango trees, lived off of pineapple, opened a refrigerator sized box of aspen autumn leaves from my parents after telling them I missed the seasons, danced with real Polynesian girls, boycotted and protested cafeteria food that funded slave labor in Australian prisons, intervened in a situation with a girl I didn't know from her physically abusive boyfriend, stayed up for nights on end, and met some of my favorite souls. As if all of these things weren't staggering enough, I was a racial minority for the only time in my whole life. I ran around open air hotel hallways on breaks from school to the sound of the ocean thundering against the sand outside. I wrote my papers for class under palm trees, eyes bright red from swimming in saltwater all morning. I told my story instead of everyone knowing it from years and years spent with me. I was myself. I was free.

No other experience could have proved to me that I can be great on my own in the open world. When I came home for good, the visible change was that my fire engine red hair was pretty bleached from the sun, I had a new affinity for shell and gold jewelry, and a tendency to add, "...yeah?" to the end of every sentence, even if the words were a statement and not a question-- a speech habit picked up from my Maui girlfriends. Everything else was underneath. No one else needed to know how life changing my leap of faith had been. I knew.

"Nau wale no." Three simple words strung together, gentle consonants. It means, "Just for you," in Hawaiian. Just for me, yeah?


  1. That sounds like the experience of a lifetime... what a blessing it must have been!

  2. I love Clare's writing, and this piece is particularly beautiful. Thanks for posting it!

  3. Ah, this is beautiful and so inspiring! Funny, it was actually dreams of teaching yoga on a beach in Hawaii that fueled my eventual exit from mundane jobs and inspired my leap of faith to move West to begin with. Colorado and Oregon aren't exactly Hawaii, but... it's moving in the right direction, huh? :)

  4. What a great story, Clare! I went through a similar experience in high school. I wanted to get away from Kansas, so I applied to a bunch of California schools. They turned out to be too expensive, so I just went to the next state: Missouri. Ha ha. But, like you, I remember seeing my name in the paper under my school and being super excited that I was the only one going there. Getting away from where you grew up encourages a lot of growth! I was so happy I did it! I wish there were black and green sand beaches in Missouri though... :)

  5. I love your story! You make Hawaii sound so beautiful. I want an experience like yours!

  6. I read every word. Nicely put, Clare. You're so da kine, yeah? ;)

  7. I love this and Clare, love how you shared your story and this totally unique experience. I'm such a big proponent on setting the sails and getting away. The amount you learn about yourselves and others is paramount. Can't replace it :)

  8. I love that Clare wrote about Hawaii, because I feel like I know so little about it. I was in awe as I read everything she did that year, because I really didn't know about any of it!

    No other experience could have proved to me that I can be great on my own in the open world.

    That was my absolute favorite sentence in this whole entry. Clare if you're reading this, write about Hawaii some more! ;) xoxo.

  9. Thank you everyone for the sweet comments. Or should I say: mahalo.

  10. Taking a leap of faith is the best way to grow. I've always wanted to pack up and move to Hawaii and I know one day it will happen in my life!

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