I will never forget meeting with my third-grade teacher about missing school for a week. My family had the chance to go to Hawaii and she listened as we waxed on about the educational benefits of hula lessons and luaus. She finally responded by saying, “Well, since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I guess you should go.” I remember walking away from that meeting thinking, “Maybe it’s once in a lifetime, but maybe not!”
Being back in Hawaii has reminded me of the possibility I felt on that pivotal family vacation in the tropics:
- I remember snorkeling and seeing submerged worlds of color that somehow encompassed all of the light of the sky and all of the mysteries of the deep with each breath.
- I remember watching the power of the Kahiko Hula dancers as their whirling became a story, a prayer, and a prediction right before my eyes.
- I remember tasting the contrasting sweetness of the malasadas (holeless doughnuts rolled in sugar) and kulolo (taro dessert) with the saltiness of pork lau lau (wrapped in taro leaves and steamed), poi (fermented taro root) and lomi lomi salmon (rubbed with tomatoes and onion).
- I remember the ease I felt walking from outside to inside and back again with no change in temperature.
- I remember how little clothing, food, and toys mattered when the sand and sea beckoned.
I have been lucky enough to return to Hawaii for many reasons in the years that have passed between third grade and today. This trip is different. Yesterday on the beach my 10-year-old was talking with a gentleman from Australia about his journey over the past few years. When the man said, “That is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” my son said, “We’ll see” with an open and knowing smile.
I realized, at that moment, how many times I limited myself in my adult years by labeling something, “Once in a lifetime.” I think my intentions were good. It was a way of communicating gratitude for the opportunity but it was also a ceiling I was unknowingly building. I have learned so much about the possibility these past few years and what I know for sure is that it begins with what I am capable of imagining.
From this point forward, I think I will leave off the “Once” in exchange for “We’ll see.”