I don't want to go back

text by

Jessica Welch

photo by

Josiah Kekoanui Patterson

In this short time that I have been at home practicing physical distancing with my family, I have felt a calm and flow I haven’t felt before. Our days are spent with each other. With time on our side as they say. Time to drink our coffee on the couch, stare outside the window and watch the weather blow into the valley. Time to snuggle with my teen daughters and their dogs. Time together to cook, eat and clean. To tend to the vegetable garden. It feels precious and I don’t want to go back to what my life looked like before.

I spend hours at a time working. Taking breaks to walk the dogs, ride bikes with Zoe on empty roads, weed the veggie garden, practice yoga with my husband or do the dishes and laundry while everyone else plays with legos. My parents, brother and sister live all over the world and we talk now on a regular basis. No long commute, no exhaustion after a long day. I am far more productive. Most of all I have the space to respond to life with aloha. What have I been doing all this time? I don’t want to go back.

I want the world to keep healing. I imagine this as the jumpstart that our mother earth and our human race needed. To be forced to stop and take care of ourselves so we can take care of those working in healthcare, grocery stores, first responders, those working with homeless populations, the bus drivers and medicine makers.

My daughter Zoe is 15 and she keeps quoting Lilo & Stitch (a movie she hasn’t watched for years): “ʻOhana means family. And family means no one gets left behind...or forgotten.”

I imagine a society where aloha is integrated throughout our education “system.” Where time is dedicated to kilo – inside and out. Time spent learning who we are inside. What sparks us, what we’re passionate about, where our natural strengths lie. And time spent looking up and around. The trees, winds, rains. The path of the sun as it moves across the sky. Mahina and what she is telling us. Considering the trees in our neighborhood as citizens to count during a census. What do they need? What are they telling us? How does the water flow or why isn’t it flowing? Where should it flow?

I imagine time spent – and maybe divisions between school, home and work have been working against us all this time – solving real world problems. We don’t need to create hypothetical problems. We have plenty. A society where we acknowledge the minds, skills and spirits of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to collectively solve problems we’ve created. Can we sit back and let aloha wash over our egos, bureaucracies, our preoccupation with liability and let our kids think and work? Let them be citizens of this world “armed” with confidence in voice, design tools and sense of belonging.

In my own work at Mānoa Heritage Center, I imagine the healing that can happen if we are willing to dive into histories of trauma. To listen to, try to understand and acknowledge the trauma caused by westerners (including missionaries) coming to Hawaiʻi, sugar plantations, the overthrow, rapid development of Honolulu. To dive into this hard history with a goal of healing ourselves, our communities, our past so we can move forward unhindered by pain. Free to respond with aloha.