This past weekend, I took my three kids to the dentist. My older two daughters went in for their cleaning and I waited with my 22 month old son out in the waiting room.
Being a typical boy, my son was wandering around the room playing and talking about the fish tank. A father sat on the side watching my son play. He appeared a bit sad as he saw Connor busily exploring.
“I have a son too and I love watching the videos I have of him at this age,” he said. “My wife cries every time she watches it because we miss him. I just watch the videos alone then cry to myself.”
I was a little unsure about what to say and asked him where his son was. He proceeded to tell me that his son went to school in the mainland and decided to stay because he found a good job up in Oregon. He said that it a hard for his son to come back given how expensive Hawaii was. His son couldn’t find the job he wanted and didn’t want to work at a hotel at the front desk.
I could see some tears of sadness in the man’s eyes as he watched Connor run around. He was really sad to not have his son home with family. He went on about how he doubts there is a future for his son in Hawaii with the way jobs are here. There’s no real incentive to return home.
As I listened to his story, I too did not want to move home. When I finished graduate school and was applying for jobs, no one wanted to hire new grads. I needed to have a year’s worth of experience just to apply. I decided to stay in the mainland instead and had planned to stay there for good.
Thanks to my husband’s dream of farming and against my wishes, I did move back. I’m fortunate to have a lot of family who helped us get started too. I wouldn’t have been able to make it here financially without family given the high cost of living here.
There are so many Hawaii folks that I have met over the years who long to come back home but simply can’t. It takes sacrificing career ambitions much of the time to return. Hawaii’s job market is pretty limited depending on what one’s skill set may be. It doesn’t help that starting your own business is very tough. This isn’t a new phenomenon though. Coming home is simply out of reach for so many.
Given what is happening to Hawaii, it appears that our local folks are leaving for better opportunities. I’m hoping that I won’t have to feel the pain of missing my child who wants to come home but can’t. Are we investing in bringing back our keiki who know and love Hawaii? Are they willing to take sacrifices to live back home? Something has to change or more local folks will leave and a small piece of local ways leaves with them.
I see and hear the same things from people who want to move back home but don’t for professional reasons. I too am in that same boat. I constantly hear politicians and others talk about keeping locals, recruiting top talent and advancing Hawaii, but in practice I don’t see that. I’ve talked with leaders of various companies and industries in Hawaii and some of the high-end advanced work being done on the mainland just has little support in the islands. A majority of people I grew up with have left the islands, only to be replaced by foreigners and mainlanders, and while diversity is great I think local culture will get more and more diluted over time.
Unfortunately, that is all too true. It’s very frustrating for me to be back in Hawaii and seeing what is happening politically that leads us in the same direction as before. I’m hoping that through some of the events happening now, it will change for the future. We who see this happening must start getting involved politically, which isn’t fun but necessary if we are to see change.