Oh my god, there’s been a lot.
I guess what pops into mind right away (and what I’m sure most people can relate to) is that transition phase into high school. That tumultuous time when you’re no longer a kid but a teenager; when climbing trees isn’t cool anymore and boys start to become aliens from another planet instead of your long time playmates.
For me there was the added layer of moving away from my quiet island home to a more sophisticated, modern place like Guam. Although separated by merely 800 miles of ocean, the two islands couldn’t have been more different. In Palau, we had mostly unpaved roads and probably about a hundred cars total. Guam had tall buildings, malls, four lane roads and McDonalds–very very foreign concepts in Palau.
It was a time of enormous change.
It was difficult because it was the first time I had ever left my family. It was terrifying that I was moving in with complete strangers who were to be my guardians. They were an American couple, both lawyers, and their four children. The fear was short-lived as they immediately became family to me and I love them dearly to this day. But it was still a huge adjustment and I missed my family in Palau terribly.
And then there was high school. It was difficult because everyone in school was cool.
I was a small island girl who, before arriving in Guam, had never been to a mall or had a Big Mac or ever painted my nails. Sure I saw all those things on TV back home but I couldn’t really relate to my peers at first.
It was difficult because I found myself trying to balance being the smart, studious girl (I was on a scholarship and my family had high hopes I’d be the first on the tree to go to college) and fitting into my new hormone-and-drama infused world. I went to a reputable college-prep school where everyone came from a prestigious, well-to-do family—except for me. Luckily I was never bullied for it. In fact, it was never really an issue with my peers. It was more of my own insecurities and internal battles that made high school so difficult on an emotional level.
Eventually the difficult times dissipated and I gained the confidence I needed to find out who I was and what I wanted to be. By my junior year I was class president and a social butterfly hosting sleep overs and throwing late night house parties (it helped that my family had a sweet swimming pool). My rebellious side came out my senior year. There were lots of sneaking out and partying and defying authority. For some miraculous reason, I still graduated with good enough grades to earn a full scholarship at a college in Boston.
In hindsight, that difficult time was crucial in shaping me into the person I am today. If I hadn’t taken the leap (at such a young age too) to leave my comfort zone, I don’t think I’d have the conviction to have traveled and lived in all the places I have. I’m so thankful for my family (both blood and by choice) and friends who have always supported me in my choices. And I’m thankful for the difficult times that have shown me what and who I am.