Having been born in Puna, and raised here for most of my life, I have come to yearn for the opportunity to leave the island. At the age of nine my family moved to California, only to move back to Hawai‘i a year later. After getting back to Hawai‘i at the age of ten my overall goal from that point on was to leave the island, return to the mainland and experience what the rest of the world has to offer. I feel fortunate that I was given the chance to live in another state and see a little more of the world before I got older and my love for island life solidified and made it more difficult for me to be receptive to change. My out of state trips had given me the chance to recognize that there is more than island life, and that new experiences are good, especially for young people still discovering the world. Finally, my life has reached a point where the change I have been longing for is close to becoming reality.
At the age of thirteen I began to crave social connections. However, in my case, the kind of social connections that I desired were of other members of the LGBT community, which I was now understanding I would be a part of.
Growing up in an isolated area like Puna, and going to a small charter school in Pahoa did not help. Knowing that outside of Puna there were many people just like me, my desire to leave Hawai‘i became even stronger. And as my desire to leave the islands grew, so did my disdain for “paradise”. Though I didn’t know why I felt so much resentment for the place that I have lived in for most of my life. I now know that I felt that way because I was isolated, and it took time to identify the feeling. The isolation that I experienced was social; and, the social aspect was something that I needed very much, just as any youth does in the complicated time of their life when they are discovering themselves.
Though there was the feeling of isolation, there was a silver lining to the whole experience. My strong desire to leave the island, as a result of the isolation I felt, gave me a clear goal that I knew I had to reach. Like many people who are trying to leave behind a life or place that made them unhappy, I saw college as the key to change. College would offer me the chance to learn, become part of a diverse community, and leave the island. I now realize that I was lucky enough to feel that college was the escape route that was right for me, rather than something unattainable, or harmful. Not only would going to college help me leave the island, but it would also enrich my life and help me throughout the rest of my life. Having wallowed in the doldrums for quite some time I now realize that it would have been very easy for me to mirror my father and fall into a path which involved drugs and alcohol (which I nearly did). It would have been easy and simple to become another teenager stuck in Puna, roaming the streets of Pahoa. But once again, my desire to be able to reach the rest of the world prevailed over apathy.
My goal to go to college and have a new life outside of Hawai‘i didn’t develop itself over the course of one night. It was something that came when I realized that it was possible. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I emerged from the life of homeschooling out into the world of high school at a public charter school. As someone who wanted more social connection it was exciting, though it was not all that I wanted. It may not have been all that I wanted socially, but it was wonderful for the part of me that wanted to learn. Having been in the fifth grade the last time I attended a public school I was worried that the education I had received at home was inadequate. I soon learned that my previous education was of little importance. What matter now was my new found desire to learn and succeed now that I had the learning outlets that homeschooling had not previously offered. As I excelled in high school, while at the same time searching for a way out, college became the obvious answer to all my problems. And from that point on my desire to learn and do well became even more intense. I didn’t realize it at first, but the isolation that I had experienced at first later became the very thing which turned me into such a driven person. With my goal in mind I quickly became a student in Advanced Placement classes with a 4.333 GPA, and straight A’s, all while being a student council member, volunteer, Chief and Editor of the yearbook, varsity cross country runner for Pahoa High school, dancer, part time college student, and contributor to the Big Island Chronicle. All of these things kept me focused on my goal, and just recently, got me accepted into the University of California, Berkley, at the age of sixteen after taking my senior and junior year concurrently. It is unbelievable to some, especially when they find out that my single mother, three sisters, and I, have all been living in poverty together in a one roomed home.
When I think about the way my life has turned out it feels like everything has gone just as it should. I struggled with feeling that I was isolated by not knowing a single other LGBT teenager for a long time. But little did I know that the isolation I felt would be the driving force to a greater life. For that I am thankful, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was unexpected, but adversity created something amazing inside me. Now, graduation is less than a month away, I have yet to turn seventeen, and I’m preparing to start on the next section of my life at UC Berkeley. I have hopes that in the future I will be able to help others who are LGBT, and those who are not. Most of all, I hope that my presents in this small community has affect other in similar situations. Everyone has amazing potential, they just need someone or something to show them it’s there, whether that be themselves, or something else.
Note: My journey to UC Berkeley has yet to begin. To help make my dream of attending UC Berkeley possible, donate at http://www.gofundme.com/makingberkeleypossible and help lessen the burden of enormous tuition fees. Every dollar counts and helps make a difference. Thank you!
(Jerry Javier is a senior at Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science Public Charter School.)