We sing a lot.
I show up to an increasingly crowded room full of people I kind-of know, and we sing songs. Sometimes they’re songs about God’s holiness, sometimes we rant about how much we love him, sometimes he belts out how much he likes us, which is far more than I ever can comprehend. Whatever the morning, it’s a pretty give-and-take scenario, and it’s my life.
The life I chose.
The life I chose when I was sitting in the living room of a beach house in the middle of a New Zealand winter, last July. I mean, I didn’t buy a plane ticket until August, I didn’t tell work until October, and I didn’t make it social media official until like… I don’t even know when that happened. But I knew it, I knew it in that rocking chair in that beach house: life in New Zealand, as I knew it, was done.
Which was so infuriating.
I don’t know if I was more mad at God or at myself. I think I was mad at God because he was exposing how much I was mad at myself. I was mad that I couldn’t be content in my childhood dream. I was mad that no matter how good life was in New Zealand, that nagging thought just poked me daily. Well, maybe not daily. For many months at a time I knew I may never leave New Zealand. I knew that I could probably get married and settle down and live the Tauranga dream—buying a wood-paneled cottage and long walks on Mount beach and sipping a never-ending supply of Folk coffee.
I was mad, because I knew I could just stay. I knew that New Zealand was waking up after its pandemic slumber and finally realizing that much of the world had stopped wearing masks. I could have gone and visited family like a normal expat, and then just came back. It was that simple. But I didn’t.
So last November I pulled the pin of a grenade and watched my beautiful little life explode in slow motion all around me.
Moving countries in the middle of normal life is not like moving countries for university. 18 years old is doe-eyed, ready to go. No one blames you for escaping your hometown, no one bats an eyelid. I mean, it comes with its own set of horrific transition. I wouldn’t want to do that again. But 28, moving back to Kona. That was a different story.
I felt like I was 18 again. I didn’t know how to fill up a car with gas and I forgot that to bank a check you have to say “deposit” not “cash” and I called the trash can the rubbish bin constantly. I was new and old all at the same time: I didn’t know the famous boba place my coworkers knew, but I’d run into people I went to high school with when I went to Target. Who am I kidding, I usually went to Target with Angel and Lexi. Then we’d go and sit on the soccer field we played on for 12 years, and we’d talk of the last 11 years and wonder how we got here, back in our hometown, after so long.
It seems to be a Kona thing, to come back after so long.
Hawai’i has this homing beacon that likes to blink no matter how happy you are across the world. And though I blinked back tears my last three months in New Zealand, I got to Hawai’i and I was like… um. Wait. I’m confused. This is good?
And that was probably the biggest shock of all: that it was good.
The first night I was in Kona, I slipped away from family dinner early and ran down the hill to campus to sing some songs in a crowded room full of strangers and some people I kind-of knew.
And that’s where it hit me, thinking of family and songs and home:
this is why i came.
(It so happens, I like singing songs. Especially in that room.)
And no matter how happy you are in one country, that tug on your shirt is worth paying attention to. I hate it, and some days, like even tonight, I’m still so mad. I’m so mad that I threw a grenade at my life and flew across an ocean to chase some tug that leaves me without good coffee and without the dozens of dear people that became family in the last 10 years.
But I’m only mad for a moment.
Or, I’m frustrated for a different reason. I’m mad because I’m so happy. The overwhelming joy I have here—coupled with the genuine shock that I’m so happy—seems contrary to how sad I was to leave New Zealand. It’s nonsense, to drive around Kona with this deep, settled sense of home and peace—when I never really experienced that growing up here.
But life doesn’t have to make sense to experience it.
For example, the other night, we sang a song that went like this:
leaving my home
selling all that i own
just so that i can have you
There was a sea of Gen Z that crashed close to the stage, crying because they were counting the cost, crying because they were realizing this God they talk about all the time may just be worth leaving their home and selling all that they own.
I sat on the edge of a painted-white concrete wall and cried for a different reason.
I wasn’t counting the cost of a journey was ahead of me. I cried because it was a memory.
“Selling all that I own” wasn’t some metaphorical lyric, six months ago. I sold my writer’s desk and my iMac and donated boxes upon boxes of clothes and threw out an unearthly amount of stuff. Ten years of life, done.
I packed three suitcases and left the rest behind.
just so that i can have you
I cried, and I sang, and I cried some more.
Because this is what I know, six months down the line: for whatever I’ve lost, I get Him.
I’m not mad anymore.