Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The End of a Dream

*It should be noted, this post was written months before any of the current lava activity began.  Our hearts go out to the would-be neighbors and residents who are affected by this natural disaster.  As any of us who live(d) on the Big Island know, Pele takes what she wants, when she wants and we all, unfortunately, know the risks living there.  It doesn't make the loss of home, land, and livelihood any less traumatic for all who love our island home whether we physically or spiritually live there.*

A few weeks before our family was thrust into the grieving process of my Grandma, I was going through a different grieving processs.  Many of you know we love Hawaii.  We've been there 14 times, and somewhere around the halfway mark, we decided to buy land on the Big Island.  We didn't love Hawaii for the beaches or warm weather.  We loved it for its culture and the healing abilities it held.  When we were in the process of losing my father-in-law, we were going to cancel our trip.  It was at his insistence after going through his relapse and a daily roller coaster over the previous five months of hope and despair that he said it was where we needed to be and said if he could be anywhere at that time, it would be there.  We did not have a "good time" while we were there.  We were not sipping mai tais and going parasailing.  Instead, we drove upcountry on Maui to a spot that shared the road with downhill bikers off Haleakala volcano and smiled because Dad did that and it was the happiest he'd ever been.  We pulled over on the side of an old country road that overlooked the whole central and part of the southern regions, and we were just below the cloud line.  There was no music on the rental car radio, no talking, just listening to the sound of nothingness.  The breeze blowing through the pines, the distant sound of a plane on its descent and an occasional bird flying overhead.  We had several experiences on that trip that brought us closer to God and nature, our church.  The Big Island was when we found out we had to go home and it was in the area we decided to buy that we got the news.  When we were going through the worst thing imaginable in our lives, this place sustained our souls, and we wanted that sanctuary for always.

(The property that inspired us to buy our land)

We were fortunate enough to get a large parcel, and I remember the first time we saw it in person.  Tall ohia trees with beautiful spiky red lehua blossoms and large and small hapu'u ferns.  We couldn't really get onto the land because it would require a machete and we didn't want to clear a path that could lead to squatters thinking it was okay to take up residence.  (A problem we were reading about more and more.)  Our chef friend, who is Hawaii born and raised and well known to all locals, was excited when we told him we were thinking of buying there.  He said: "it's good when people move here who "get it" and are moving here with the right intentions.  You are full of the aloha spirit in your hearts and actions."  That always stuck with me.  He knew our hearts and that our intentions were pure.  We picked out what home we wanted to build and thought about what landscaping we wanted.  We looked at nurseries a few times and researched what fruit trees grew best in the area.  It seemed as though the Mr's work was leaning toward teleworking and we had faith that within five years we might be able to move out there and start the dream.  Property taxes were surprisingly low because it was land and no structure was on it, and people always seemed to be impressed that we had property there which made us feel legit.  Like we were working toward making our dream come true instead of talking about it.

As time passed, as the value kept going down because we bought on the bubble and it burst the following year.  It's not a fun feeling to watch your future home value half in five years but the value of the land wasn't our focus.  The value of what it could bring to our lives when we built our dream, became a part of and contributed to the community was what was important to us.  We already make sure to contribute to the local economy directly when we vacation there.  We donate to humane societies and food banks.  We buy the leis from the auntie who is selling them roadside over picking one up in Walmart.  We support local art and craft fairs and buy as much from farmers markets as possible.  But it was that hope for our potential future that kept our aloha alive.  The thought of going into one of the two stores in the area and having the owner know us by name.  Dropping off and picking up mail at the post office and talking to the workers who are like family now.  Making a loaf of banana mac nut bread for the tutu down the street who is always so sweet to us.  Waving hello to neighbors up the street walking their dogs as we walked our hood.  Stopping by the Hilo Farmers market and having vendors ask us how we've been since we saw them last.  Then having the guy who grows flowers save the last anthurium I asked about the week before because he knew I was coming for it that day.

I couldn't wait to landscape with all of the native plants and fruit trees and build up a little paradise like others had when we stayed in the area.

As it became clear the Mr's work was not going to full-time telework like they kept dangling for years (despite him NOT needing to be on-site for his job) we were looking at retirement there.  Even that was fine with us for a long time because Hawaii hadn't changed much...until it did.  At the time we purchased, it had not changed regarding development, mainland attitudes and the aloha spirit in the ten years we went there.  After our purchase, there was a slow change on Maui where one of our friends (local girl) lives that is speeding up, and is frankly a little scary.  Our last two visits to the Big Island have shown an acceleration in development and some places feel like they are going to be completely unrecognizable the next time we go.  A shift in attitude and aloha spirit made us feel like this may not be the dream anymore.  We wanted to leave the mainland to escape the irritations and pettiness that has run rampant in our society.  In Hawaii, PC wasn't a thing for a long time.  People of other ethnicities would kid with each other about stereotypes and they knew it wasn't some personal attack.  They didn't get offended at every little thing.  Everyone was just laid back.  Now road rage is becoming more common because mainlanders come in with their impatience, tailgating and I think locals are just plain sick of it.  Don't get me wrong, Hawaii has its share of jerks like everywhere else but in much less proportion to those who didn't hesitate to give a smile or let you into traffic with a thank you shaka.  People don't smile or wave at each other as much and crime is going up as police funding and government resources go down. Locals are getting gentrified out of their neighborhoods while more and more condos and housing built for the rich or vacation rentals for tourists become the priority.  It was enough to make us start wondering if dealing with the same things we deal with here but paying a TON more for everything because of being on an island was what we still wanted.  It felt like it didn't matter if we had the best of intentions and aloha in our hearts because development and an influx of people on shows like those house hunting shows are giving people ideas to just pick up and move with unrealistic expectations.  (I think a more interesting show would be to see how many of the people who moved from the mainland on the show are still there.  We think 70% have moved back to the mainland.)  We had to soul search a bit.

Our apprehension was further solidified in 2016 when a visit to our place showed some people had been kind enough to start dumping on our land.  We called around and were able to get in on the last day at a green recycle place being open to dispose of the tire and laptop we found ditched there.  We know that when people see they can start dumping and nothing gets done then they will continue to do so.  We felt like this at least sent the message that someone was watching/taking care of the place but would it be enough or would they just start chucking things further back off the lot?  To say it put a knife in the dream is about accurate.  I said I wanted to make it a priority to sell when we got back.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a return call or email.  (Well, those of you familiar with the concept of "Hawaiian time" might believe it.  LOL)  They have no problem spamming you with their listings but getting an actual response even from people who sent out a batch of postcards to landowners asking for their business...nothing.  Out of frustration, we didn't pursue it in 2017, and the Mr never brought it up again.  Toward the end of that year, I got our tax bill, and our property taxes for land in our zone were now double.  That was it for me.  When we were ready to move forward, I looked at a bookmark I had on Yelp for a realtor that got excellent ratings for working with people who buy and sell from the mainland.

He got back to us the same day, and within a week our property was listed!  We both felt so relieved because this dream we were so passionate about was beginning to feel like a noose around our necks.  So much has been stacking up in the con column for us that it felt like the right time to close that chapter.  We knew we could easily have over a year or more wait on our hands.  Land in that area was not moving, and I'd been keeping my eye on it for two years.  We knew we'd need just to be patient.  But in a very short period of time, we were signing papers and in the escrow process.  We were blessed that they gave a good offer not far below asking price and after consulting with our realtor and looking at comps and what recently sold for what price, we accepted their offer.  It was immense pressure and relief off of the Mr, and I felt the same to a degree...until I didn't.

I didn't regret the decision to sell.  My logical self knew the area was not right for us, and the community had not established itself in the way we'd hoped for the decade we owned it but selling it meant the dream was dead.  I know, there are other dreams, but this one meant something because it was our first dream.  We owned that dream more than half of our marriage.  I remember printing out an artist rendering of one of the houses we were considering building and coloring in the siding to the color I wanted and the flowers on the outside.

(This is the picture I printed and colored from Honsadors website.)
I don't know where the physical copy is right now but I know if I ever do some deep cleaning, I'm going to come across it, and it's going to hurt like hell.  I have an email folder in the name of the home and emails from contractors, home builders, land clearers and the whole process with our realtor who we became friends with for a few years after.  Looking at the folder brings tears to my eyes, and I think of that process and the hopes and dreams we had.  What hurt more was going through the folder and seeing how half of the bookmarks were now dead links due to going out of business.  I guess other people's dreams die too.  Yes, we can always buy a place in the same area or close to it that is already built, and that's fine if that's the route we choose to go.  But that's a different dream.  That was someone else's dream that we're inheriting and possibly having to fix.  It's this one I am mourning.

It feels like failure.  I don't expect anyone to understand that, but it does.  We were halfway there having the land to build on and a good amount of the cost of the house available to us.  But with the Mr's work being a-holes about teleworking (to a man who is ALWAYS there on time, stays late when needed and is never unavailable to anyone) it became apparent it was not our ideal situation.  On the same token, I am also proud that we took the step at all.  So many people say "one day, we're going to build in (insert dream location here)" and they talk about it until the day they die.  We at least secured and owned the land to do that whenever it was feasible for us.  I'm proud of us for that.  I'm proud that we believed in that dream enough to move ahead with one of the biggest things needed to make that dream a reality.  As we all know, sometimes dreams change or the change is forced upon us by situations...but it doesn't make it hurt any less for the ones that didn't come true.

‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.
(All knowledge is not learned in just one school.)

Waiting for the lesson.

What dreams changed in your life whether emotionally or forced upon you?

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  1. Wow thanks for sharing that. Many dreams died with Hubby. The biggest one was me to pursue my dream of being a freelance consultant. Too risky now without that second income. Have a great day!

  2. A few years ago, the majority of my long term dreams died due to someone else's choices but that's a weighty question for me so I'm not going to go into details.

    I'm sorry you feel like your dream has died. I understand why it's so painful for you. I also think that you made the right choice. You weren't going to be able to build and move for a good number of years yet, and there would likely be substantial damage to your land by then if you were already dealing with dumping there. The expense of paying the taxes every year until you retire had to be added to the eventual cost of building and living on the island. Practically and logically you know you did the most prudent thing.

    Emotionally is harder though. I think your dream just changed though, it's not dead. It was never about that particular plot of land or that particular house (it kind of was, I know, but bear with me) it was about finding a place to live where the pace is slower and people are kinder and you feel like you fit in. You can still have that, even if it's in a house that you remodel to your liking instead of building from the ground up. Plus, you've give someone else a chance to live out their dream and that's something to feel good about too.

  3. I sat on a panel discussion for women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) for high school students. One of the main themes of discussion is accepting that dreams can change. That what you think you might want in high school may not be what you want at 20, at 30, at 40, etc. And all of that is okay. Dreams change, we change. The importance is that you keep dreaming and adapting. It is okay that Hawaii is no longer your dream, maybe it will be Paris or Portugal, or Costa Rica. Or maybe it will be a home in the woods surrounded by nothing but nature.

    I know I never dreamed that I would be where I am now. After university I dreamed that I would be making six figures and working for an oil company, travelling the globe for work. Instead I live by the ocean, work for my local electric company, not earning six figures, and travelling the world when I can afford it. I had started following my dream and found that it wasn't making me happy, so I quit. I found a new dream. It was hard to make that decision and I grieved the dream, but I moved on. I now dream to have a happy life with the family I have made with my boyfriend, his son, and our extended families. I dream that we will have many adventures together both near and far. And so far, that dream is making me happy.

  4. So sorry that the door has closed (for now) on Hawaii. I've been thinking about you since the volcano eruption started....

  5. What a difficult process that was for you to go through. So much emotional stuff going on at the same time and it no doubt felt like one more goodbye. I'm sorry you're hurting so much, and I do understand why. So hard to let go.

    My dreams that died were the career I thought I'd have and not having kids. Life is far different than what I thought it would be when I was young.


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