Sunday, April 19, 2015

What I Did (and Didn't Do) in Hawaiʻi

I was in Hawaiʻi from February 9 to April 21 this year:

WHAT I DID: I was insanely productive.

-Within two weeks of arrival, I finished and submitted my doctoral dissertation!

I also wrote:
-an 800-word encyclopedia article about Hawaiʻi -- submitted and accepted
-a 4,000-word journal article about work, class, and environment -- submitted and under review
-an 8,000-word journal article about Sāmoa -- not submitted... I still need to do some revisions on this one!

I also wrote:
-a 2,000-word conference paper which I presented in March
-a 500-word autobiographical statement for a website

I also:
-continued to toy with an 8,000-word piece that will eventually become a 5,000-word book chapter... but still needs a lot of work!
-began to write a few pieces: essays, articles, et cetera, and then promptly gave up on them... that happens sometimes, too.

WHAT I DID: I got a job.

 It really wasn't anything I did in Hawaiʻi, although my first week here I did a few phone interviews for various positions, but the job came very shortly after my arrival in Honolulu. So while I was here all I had to do was call and email everyone I know and get their opinion and then make my decision. I, of course, accepted the job. What this meant was that, although I had brought folders of notes and c.v.s and even my best suit with me to Hawaiʻi—fully expecting that I would have to continue to go on job talks and fight for a job while I am here—, instead I was able to put all that in the closet and focus instead on my writing!

WHAT I DID: I went on two amazing trips.

I went to Maui for five days, and to Sāmoa & American Sāmoa for eight days. In Maui, I camped for four straight nights. It was fun! In Sāmoa and American Sāmoa I traveled around by bus and plane and stayed in hotels and did the tourist thing. On both trips I traveled alone. I did not feel lonely in Maui. But I did in Sāmoa. At least I talked to people and made a new friend in Sāmoa. In Maui I was a hermit, but I loved that aspect of camping.

On Oʻahu I took a few smaller trips: to Kaʻena Point one day with friends; to Mānoa Falls, and to Diamond Head, by myself. I bought a crappy old bicycle and used it to go to beaches at Waikīkī and Ala Moana. I wandered on foot a bit in Mānoa. But I really did not go out and explore this island as I have on past visits to Oʻahu.

WHAT I DID: I generally lived a healthy lifestyle.

A few weeks into my stay in Hawaiʻi, I started going to yoga once or twice a week. (About one month ago I stopped going, however.)  I ate poorly my first month here, but then after getting an apartment off-campus I started eating mostly local foods and preparing my own meals, mostly fruits and vegetables. I even went to a cooking class for some inspiration. Getting a bicycle was good, because I used that for exercise, although when I stopped going to yoga I became somewhat slothful. I barely drank at all here, and I tended to go to sleep around 9pm and wake at 6:30am. Lots of sleep!

WHAT I DIDN'T DO: I did a horrible job making friends.

In two previous visits to Hawaiʻi—in 2010 and 2013—I had only made one local friend here. Upon arrival this year I tried to reconnect with her—made multiple invitations to hang out—but it never worked out. In my first month I made another new friend on campus, but after a few times hanging out, that fell apart, too. Moving off campus was helpful in that I lived with a number of roommates, and they have all been really friendly! One in particular has become a good friend—someone I can confide in; someone I can talk about deep and complex life issues with. I am so grateful for this friend. But to live in a place for over two months with just one friend is not good enough. I was very lonely here in Hawaiʻi.

Part of my problem making friends was the very structure of my time here: I am on a fellowship funded out of New York City. I am using that fellowship money as I see fit, including renting this apartment and doing research on campus. But I am neither a student nor a faculty member on campus. I have attended a few talks and events on campus, but I do so as a strange interloper: an outsider who is neither a local resident, nor a member of the University community, nor even friends with anyone affiliated with the university! Most weekdays I have eaten meals on campus, hung out on campus... but when I do I feel almost worried that someone is going to find out about me and say that I'm not supposed to be there! I don't even have a university ID. Who's this trespasser? they'd say. I have read about people like me—people who hang out on university campuses, attend lectures, and seem to be part of the student body, when in actuality they are not paying tuition and have just sneaked their way into the fabric of the institution. That's sort of how I feel at the University of Hawaiʻi!

I could have made friends at yoga (except that they were all slightly, or even quite, older than me). I could have made friends at the grocery store or co-op. (I did, in fact, talk to a few folks there now and then, but acquaintances did not blossom into friendships.)

Then there's the matter of dating. One of my goals in Hawaiʻi was to go on a few dates in Honolulu, and in that regard I was nearly a complete failure. Finally, in the last few weeks of my stay here, I went on a few lovely dates with a local guy. And that, due to the fact that I am only a bird of passage here, was that. Perhaps the whole time in Hawaiʻi I knew in my mind that I was only here temporarily, and I did not allow myself to really engage with others because I knew I would have to leave them, just as I had so tearfully left my friends in New York City a few months ago.

Well... enough whining. I was lonely here, and homesick. It could have been different, but it wasn't. I focused so hard on my work—I threw myself into 'insane productivity' like never before—that I sacrificed my personal goals and social needs for the sake of my work.


I have mixed feelings about my two months in Hawaiʻi. I feel proud of all that I accomplished. As a writer and a thinker, my pen truly flowed! It is a wonderful feeling to be productive! On the other hand, I feel like I lost track of the bigger picture in my life: that of health and happiness. I may have kept physically healthy but my cloistered academic life was certainly not emotionally or psychologically good. It's a strange twist in the arc of life. I spent basically all of 2014 putting emotional and social goals on the front burner, putting my academic work, on the other hand, on hold. If I am now doing the opposite, I hate how it feels, and I miss those days when I cared more about just 'feeling good' than feeling satisfied with my writing.

That said, I was on a prestigious research fellowship this past year, and so 'what I was supposed to be doing' was exactly what I, in actuality, did. I was supposed to spend my time here doing research and writing. That's what I did, and I did a damned good job of it!


  1. Hi Greg,
    I'm a historian at the University of Connecticut teaching a course this fall on the History of the Pacific. I'd love to know where you are teaching (and what) and talk more about how you approach the subject.
    Brad Simpson

  2. I would be interested to read the journal on Samoa. Do write more!



  3. Nice blog! I liked reading details of your Hawaii trip. It was great. We also attended a destination engagement party of our cousin at one of event venues in NYC. The venue was truly amazing and all arrangements were just superb.