My younger brother said 'I do' last night, in a traditional Hawaiian ceremony on a Maui beach surrounded by family and friends. Coming out of the south, I was thinking a lot about how crazy it is that our country is so diverse and how there can be such significant cultural differences from state to state, even though we all call ourselves Americans. Dominique has a huge extended family, who I now call my family, and we spent last week learning about Hawaiian culture and traditions. The first and most surprising thing for my suburban family from Oregon to learn was that the groom traditionally slaughters the pig that's eaten at the reception [Erik didn't end up doing it, which I guess can be considered the first official compromise of their marriage]. They did include other Hawaiian traditions in the ceremony, though, like the washing of each others' feet and having both of the moms drink nectar from wooden bowls. I did a pretty good job of keeping it together until my new hula-dancing-sister-in-law performed at the reception and I looked down to see my stepmom in the front row with full-on tears streaming down her face. Hawaiian culture is really beautiful and I felt the love as they shared their traditions with us.
The night before the wedding, my siblings and I left the group to spread our dad and Nana's ashes in the ocean, something that we've been putting off for over 5 years [in true Myers' fashion]. It was something we'd gone back and forth on how to do for a while, and having everyone together in such a beautiful place felt appropriate. I had reservations at first that we'd be putting a dark cloud over a week that was supposed to be about Erik and Dom's commitment and love for each other, but Erik pointed out that we could think of it as a way of letting go of the past and celebrating a new beginning.
Losing my dad is still the hardest thing I've ever gone through, and while it's true that it gets easier as time goes by, the sting never entirely goes away because he's still gone as time keeps going on. Life just continues, and it's especially obvious at the bigger milestones that something's missing. However, there's always good that comes with the bad, and while I would change things if I could, it's also true that losing someone earlier in life than expected changes the way you live your own life, in a good way. Because it pushes the fact that we're all going to die someday directly under your nose, and it becomes really obvious how easy it is to forget to live. Death is only devastating when life isn't lived fully, which I really believe makes dying at age 90 as much of a tragedy as dying young if you wasted your time on earth.
For our last day on Maui, my godmother and I took an Uber to a blowhole about 30 minutes north of where we're staying. We didn't realize until we got there that there's not really a beach to hang out at, and it occurred to us after hiking around for a while that we didn't really have a plan for getting back, since we were out of Uber range and the rest of the family had planned on a beach day. I suggested hitchhiking and Joan, aka my fairy godmother, agreed that it was a good idea so we hitched a ride with a Colombian physician, Andres, and his wife, Maria, who currently reside in Atlanta. They offered us iced waters and asked us if we were pressed for time, because they wanted to stop at the scenic viewpoints along the way. It seems like the best experiences I've had have come from not having a plan, and this was a good reminder to just let the details work themselves out.
While we were stopped to take a picture, Andres asked me if I'm 22, which is funny because it's the age that people keep pinning on me throughout my road trip. I don't know why it's so common for people to ask how old you are, but I think the reason people guess I'm 22 is that 22 tends to be the age that people are told to go out and have an adventure, since 'now's the time to do it'. What makes what I'm doing different is that I'm 30 and I've already had 8 years in the real world to travel, make mistakes, move around, play the corporate game, make new friends, date different guys, etc. And while I share the lack of obligations and commitments that 22-year olds have, this would have been an entirely trip if I would've done it right out of college. What's made it so meaningful for me is being allowed the time to revisit the people and places that helped shape me throughout my twenties and slowing down for long enough to untangle and digest the lessons I've learned along the way.
Leaving Hawaii is bittersweet, but I'm excited to get back to Oxnard to visit my friends Kristen and Dan for a few days and then onto Death Valley to camp with Madison and her friends. In the spirit of my new Hawaiian family, aloha!