Dear Fiji,

I’ve been here for 5 months now. I’ll be leaving in two weeks. Throughout it all, I am immensely grateful to have finally gotten to know my family here. Fijians are truly some of the most gracious people on the planet and I’m proud of my heritage.

The goal was never to ‘find my people,’ but to uncover parts of myself through understanding my heritage. Through this I have been in the presence of so many celebrations and witnessed the family ties that are woven so tight and intricately together, the connections both amaze and confuse me. I’ve been forgiven for the many ignorant faux pas, and taught so many customs, I’ve been shown the old ways. The past of my ancestors has been revealed to me like my people before me, spoken. Ive been surrounded by more children in the past few months than I probably have my entire life. I’ve bushwhacked up the mountains learning about my waring cannibal ancestors. I’ve climbed the foot worn paths to where the purest Kava grows. I’ve drank plenty of grog, and no, I don’t mind the taste at all. In fact, there’s something I quite enjoy about it’s earthiness, and it’s always gonna be a high tide bilo for me! I’ve sat in prayer many a time, my head bowed in masu. I’ve frequented the local buses, welcoming the fully open windows (or mostly nonexistent) with the drivers blasting reggae dance hits. I’ve walked the city streets well enough to know my way around, clutching my bag all the while. I’ve nearly gotten my phone stolen. I’ve gotten a tattoo (which I get stopped all the time about and I shamelessly love it). I’ve tasted more versions of curry than I thought possible (goat is my favorite…sorry goats!!). I’ve eaten the biggest, freshest tuna. I’ve shed some tears as a result of being too enthusiastic with chili peppers. I’ve gotten dengue fever at least 3 times and learned my lesson from drinking tap water. I’ve experienced koro or village life, how life runs so differently than in the urban areas. I’ve been a participant (sometimes unwillingly) of ‘Fiji time.’ I’ve swam in the clearest blues of waters on the quietest of empty beaches. Some things are still sacred.

Even as much as I’ve been so deeply embraced, there are days I feel I am a stranger. Which has nothing really to do with my family, as I feel similarly with my family in the states which I’ve known since I can remember. As I’ve always thought, I am a lone wolf running temporarily with a pack from time to time.

Still there are days when I’m overcome with loneliness. I sit on the bus, the warm sun on my shoulders, wind blowing, music loud, and I feel that knowing- I am a stranger. But then I go to the market, pick some apples, and the vendor asks where I’m from. How long have I been here? And just this little conversation brings me back to. Usually it’s followed by are you married, which always solicits this internal eye roll. But, I always find it funny, and always walk away smiling.

Continually I learn that I am never alone, and even in the moments when I’m feeling so fragile, there is someone, noticing me. Fiji, I have seen you, and I’ve tried my best to be open to you so that I can let you in. Thank you for all your lessons, all your embraces, your open waters and beaches. I will never forget you.

Where am I?

In Fiji, yes I’ve been here for 3 months and have lots to say about that (for another post), but where am I? You know, in terms of personal evolution. Well, I can tell you thanks to social media, namely Instagram, I’m judging myself thinking, ‘why haven’t you done that yet?’ ‘Why aren’t you there yet?’ ‘You probably shouldn’t have eaten those 5+ cookies because then you’d be closer to getting that body.’ Whoa. I know. But I’m human and I have to remind myself we are all at different states of being.

Right now, my state of being is inhabiting a 31 year old body; visiting my mother’s side of the family in Fiji since 21 years by myself; and the most expensive thing I own is my phone, which is 2+ years old. So for anyone in their early 20s or fresh out of college wondering what the hell they’re going to do with their lives- relax…no, actually calm the fuck down- I’ve been floating in a bubble of unknown for 5 years.

As a psychic once told me of my view on life, “This is fun and all, but what am I doing here?” By no means has the past 5 years been unproductive. I’ve discovered myself and cultivated a loving relationship with myself that is always growing. It’s not just one of those,’Hey self, you’re cool- I love you,’ kind of relationships; it’s been a journey of listening. It’s been figuring out what nutrients my body needs, putting myself in situations that result in growth, recognizing the balance between pushing and coddling, honoring my intuition, encouraging myself to try new things, and letting go of fear. I’ve literally spent all this time raising myself. It’s strange to think of it in this way, but I think I’ve been a pretty good guardian to myself.

I don’t have what most people have or strive for in this stage of life- a family, steady career, house, car, retirement plan, and if I were to compare my accomplishments in this way, yeah, I’d kinda feel like a loser. But I don’t, and I’m abundant in so many other ways. I have a loving partner, whose also my best friend, on top of having an amazing support group of cherished people, I’m in freaking FIJI writing a book, and (besides my student loans 😢), I’m FREE.

This buzz kill once told me, “Well, the fun has to end sometime.” You have no idea how much that annoyed the shit out of me. Firstly, people forget we all struggle. Secondly, deciding not to choose the societal mold of a 9-5 and everything that goes with it does not necessarily mean it’s an irresponsible choice. I think just the opposite actually. My choice to free myself from the manacles society has created, allowed for self exploration- to get at the core of what truly matters, and know that life is meant to be lived, and not be a slave to it.

I consider myself a late bloomer. I didn’t have my path figured out early, and that’s ok. Heck, all this time being free, maybe I’ll avert that midlife crisis! But really, this post isn’t about explaining why I’m here and not there, but an attempt to express that success needs redefinition. It frustrates me that for many, success is a struggle where the end of the rainbow is a new car, six pack abs and a thigh gap, and a 6 figure salary. Success is about fulfillment as it speaks to your true self. It’s personal. When we are stripped of our physical world what is left?

For myself, it is the experiences, the love, the compassion, the hope. So to answer my question of where am I? I’m exactly where I need to be. How about you?

Podcast to Listen to : A New Definition of Success + The Spirituality of Success From Author of ‘Earth is Hiring’ by Peta Kelly

Sacred Journey

The air is humid. I have a nice shimmery glow from a film of sweat that never seems to go away. I’ve sworn off all things starch. I don’t want to look at another piece of jackfruit, kasava, Dalo, or bread again. Every meal, really? Fijians love their starch. Today I feel I’m risen from the dead. In the past week I have experienced dengue fever, a cold, and yesterday the woes of accidentally drinking tap water. Whatcha got for me next, Fiji? But seriously, be easy on me!

Pilgrimage. My holy yearning. Fiji is my journey of the soul and now I am understanding what sacrifice means in the sense of pilgrimage. Sacrifice, from the Latin term sacrificium, to make sacred. Sacred journeys are meant to be wrought with hardship. How can you know what something is really worth if you haven’t had to fight for it? On my sickest of days, I cried daily, being brought into the darkest parts of myself, my internal sufferings inflamed from my burning fever.

Today I woke, the nausea gone, my lips chapped from dehydration. I’m alive. My Na Lika (Auntie) had asked me to go to the hospital last night, but I refused (we live at the doctors headquarters because my cousin is the only surgeon for the hospital). I can make this on my own. I know my body’s limits. And today, I know I’ve crossed the hump.

It sounds silly in a way to feel you have accomplished something out of pure suffering, but I have. I’ve gotten to know myself better. I know that I am terribly sensitive and fragile, but my will power is stronger. I have an inner fight inside myself that I know I can rely on. And I know that I need love. Yes, physically, I’ve come to Fiji on my own, but in times when I need guidance, someone to talk to, a friend, I reach out. How powerful is that, to hear that you are loved?

I’ve made it through my first month here, with some tests to be sure, but I’m ready to continue on. I know there is more to experience, both beautiful and difficult. But I’m embracing it all, I don’t want anything to slip through my fingers. I’m alive, so let’s get on living!

Lessons From Within

Can you see me? Deep, deep down? My heart is wide open, and there’s lots of room. I’m going on a journey to find my way back home. Crossing the ocean to reach my islands. They’ve been waiting so long. So much longing, but still I’m afraid, says the child inside.

My mother tells me, “I carried you in my womb. Still I carry you. When you walk with your bare feet on the ground, I hold you. When you rest your head on a coconut tree, I am there.”

But what if I fall?

My grandmother tells me, “When your tears fall, I have sat beside you and cleaned your face. My hands have touched yours. When you weep, it is a prayer, and I am there.”

But what if I get lost?

My sister tells me, “You’ve come as a seeker. You are a warrior. You are a goddess. When you look up at the stars, I see you. You’ve come for a reason, and you are guided. You’re never alone.”

My sister, my grandmother, my mother- they are all parts of me, pieces of my heart. I’ve come here to love and learn about love. And I know there is still room in my heart, and it is wide open.

Photo: ehscapist