Of Change And Comfort Zones
By Amal Ghazali
I finally set foot on Hawaii. It took me three back-to-back flights to get there, but exhausted as I was, I was also excited to finally see for myself one of the most famous places on earth, mentioned in books, films and songs for as long as I could remember. It has always been depicted as a tropical paradise, and being born and raised in another tropical paradise that is Malaysia, it didn’t sound too different than what I am used to. But when I arrived in the Big Island, Hawaii, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were so much more to the archipelago than just beaches and cabanas.
Hawaii, in actuality, is a term of reference to a cluster of islands. The most famous one is perhaps Oahu, home of the popular North Shore and Honolulu beaches where people come from all over the world and all walks of life to enjoy the seaside lifestyle. This is great, but the geologist in me wanted more, and so I found myself on another Hawaiian island, the Big Island, known to locals as the ‘original’ Hawai’i. It’s a place to go if you wish to witness one of Mother Nature’s most captivating sights – active lava flows oozing out from earth and still shaping the island up to today. As an added bonus, it’s also a place to reflect on the physical examples of change – there were lava flows after lava flows, adjusting how the island looks like each year, and the locals who seem unperturbed by it.
The Uncertainty Of Change
Getting to know the history of Polynesians and how they travelled by canoes to begin new lives in Hawaii thousands of years ago was fascinating. It’s a story of humanity’s great voyage – leaving their homes and families and adventuring into the great unknown. Hawaii is still considered as one of the most remote places on earth, and one could only imagine the great deal of angst and anxiety the Polynesians would have to endure with the transitions in their new home. Furthermore, the islands were active volcano hotspots and continued to grow and evolve constantly, which only meant more frequent changes to those who chose to live on them.
Let’s be honest. Change isn’t something that is easy to do. Most of us are creatures of comfort, finding relief in the familiar and ease in things that we are used to. I can easily observe this from my own lifestyle. I once contemplated moving away, but the thought of leaving the suburbs I’m so used to, into a brand new place where I would have to figure out where the Laundrymat or the new morning market is makes me feel anxious, so I don’t. I like knowing exactly where I would park my car each morning at the office. I buy the same nasi lemak from the same place, because who knows if the other stalls are any good?
Looking back, there were so many things in my life that I’ve chosen or resorted to, not because I thought they were the best things, but only because I was afraid that anything else would require too much change. And change, for me, was scary. It was the idea of the unknown, the uncertainty that may result from these changes that intimidated me.
One of the things that really awed me about Hawaiians were how susceptible they were to change. Almost every year, new lava flows would flood the surrounding neighbourhood, causing the roads, buildings and parks to be completely blocked or buried by deep meters of hardened rock. And each year, after all the damages were done, people would just rebuild their lives again and again. Roads blocked by lava flow? They would just build more roads around it almost immediately. Homes destroyed by the volcanic settlement? They would build new houses on top of it, and market them as tourist attractions (an experience of sleeping right on top of a lava flow, anyone?). The old beaches were completely buried but new beaches were formed where the eruption met the sea, and folks would just open up new parks and seaside spots for everyone to enjoy. It seemed as though change is inevitable on the island, and the locals have embraced it fully without much fuss.
Giving Change A Chance
Lately, whether it is within our own community or on a personal level, there seem to be a lot of call for change. With the current adjustment in the political scene, it is evident that there is a certain level of restlessness that seems to be an effect of the shifts that are gradually happening within our country and society. Understandably so – it’s the fear of the unknown and the loss of sense of security that comes with major changes. However, I also think that it is an exciting time for us. I look forward to see what these changes may bring, and what we can learn from them regardless of whether they are pros and cons, to become an even better, evolved nation.
In terms of personal changes, I’ve been inspired by my recent travels to the Polynesian paradise of Hawaii to be more open to leaving my comfort zone and trying to see things in my life from different perspectives. Changing is the only way to learn anything new, and what’s life if you’re not progressively learning anything new? Most of the time change is always a good thing, but if it isn’t, there is no better way to find out than trying it out yourself for sure.