“You’re from Hawaii? Why Would You Ever Leave?!”

If you read my post from two years ago, you know that all it took was one trip for Anthony and me to decide that we wanted to eventually move back to my hometown. After living in New York for almost four years, I’ve gotten used to East Coasters asking me, “You’re from Hawaii? Why would you ever leave?!” I’d been asked that question during college as well, but in New York, Hawaii is even more of a distant, exotic paradise, and everyone seems to want to trade places with me. Our plan is still to return to Hawaii — but most likely in the distant future (i.e., three or four years) as opposed to the near future (i.e., one or two years).

The thing is, I love New York.

I love the diversity here, and that’s saying a lot from someone who grew up in Hawaii. At work, I sit by a Chinese, an Italian, and a Jamaican, while my train is usually a mix of Russians, blacks, Hasidic Jews, hipsters, and — more recently — French tourists. You can find every type of cuisine and hear more languages than anywhere else.

I love that I can watch a trend start in New York and then spread to other lesser cities a few months later.

I love our subway system, which runs 24 hours a day and covers such an expansive area. I even love my commute every morning, during which there is absolutely no seat on the Q train, so I spend those 45-minutes standing — half awake, half asleep — in the corner. Sometimes, if I’m feeling perky, I’ll read a book. New Yorkers are probably the most well-read people in the country, and we have our subways (with no internet connection, for some reason) to thank for that.

I love that I’ve been here long enough to see restaurants come and go. Nothing is stagnant in this city, and though I’ve had to witness some of my favorites disappear, I’ve accepted that it’s part of the circle of life and certainly beats being stuck with the same sub-par restaurants forever.

I love that, even though most of my friends don’t live in New York, I’ve been able to see nearly all of them just because everyone visits New York at some point.

I love New York women. New York women are ambitious, always speak their mind, multitask productively, can dress impeccably for every season, and know when to put on their bitch face to ward off the cat-callers.

I love that I can walk (and jaywalk!) twenty blocks and not even notice, whereas walking one block in the suburbs seems agonizing.

I love that everyone is a foodie here. I even gave up my restaurant blog when I started living in New York because, honestly, I can’t compete with 8 million people.

I love the old architecture all over the city. I still find it breathtaking to walk through the Flatiron District or Soho and notice all the details put into structures centuries ago. On the west side of the country, things are more cheaply-made, constructed at a time when mass production became the norm.

I love New York pizza, from the trendy Neapolitan-style found at every mid-range eatery now, to the dollar slices that are exponentially better than anything you can find in the rest of America. Like gelato in Italy, you don’t have to do research to find a good pizzeria in New York; you can just stumble into the corner shop — and that is what makes New York pizza so great.

I love being able to recognize so many places in movies and TV shows — and not just touristy places on Manhattan. My street in Brooklyn, just like every street in this city, has been filmed numerous times since we’ve lived here.

I love how talented some of the subway performers are. If they were in any other city, they’d be huge, but in New York, they’re just nameless buskers.

I love that, even though all New Yorkers think they’re the most important person in the world, in times of need, there’s something that bonds us together. I’ve experienced countless instances of the beauty and humanity of New Yorkers — because in the end, we’re all just trying to survive in this crazy city together.

I can go on and on about the things that make New York amazing, but most importantly, I love the life that Anthony and I have built together here. Being so far away from our family and many of our closest friends, we’ve been able to define ourselves and learn about each other more deeply than we would have if we had been surrounded by familiarity.

I love our little Brooklyn apartment, with its clanging heaters and no view, but with shelves full of worn books and cherished DVDs. Our kitchen is tiny yet surprisingly efficient and stuffed with appliances that prove how much we love to cook. On our walls hang historical maps of New York City, and on our fridge are magnets from various countries that we’ve explored together.

I love that we still find fascinating, quirky things to do in this city, even though we seem to have already explored it more than most New Yorkers. (I blame my obsessive research tendencies and Anthony’s ability to appreciate everything.)

I love that we wake up at the same time, even though I don’t technically have to be up for another hour, and always eat breakfast together. The more I see how other couples interact, the more I can’t help but appreciate our own relationship. It’s in the little things — the way in which we meet each other after work every day so we can catch the train home together; the way in which we communicate openly and respectfully, even when it’s hard for me; and the way in which we split household chores evenly (a man cleaning as much as the woman?! Imagine that!).

I recently visited Hawaii by myself. Though it was beautiful as always, it didn’t feel right. The main reason is because Anthony wasn’t with me — after all, it’s not the location but who you’re with that really makes a place your home. However, another reason is because I’m not ready for paradise yet, and I know I’d have been miserable if I had stayed in Hawaii.

Honolulu is certainly the best place to raise a family (New Yorkers can attest to that), and Anthony and I are excited that we’ll be able to raise ours there. We can’t wait to take our future kids to pristine beaches and stunning hikes every weekend, to feed them the best Asian food in the country, and to expose them to so many cultural opportunities that only a city like Honolulu can offer. However, I’m only 26, and neither of us is ready to start a family yet — especially when we belong in New York right now.

A hui hou, Hawaii. We’ll be back, just when we’re old (i.e., in our thirties).

One of my favorite things to do in New York: picnicking in Central Park with my love


Quantifying the Unquantifiable: An Anniversary Post

Next week, Anthony and I celebrate our one-year anniversary. This is a big deal for both of us, but especially for me because I have never been in a relationship for this long. I first attended an all girls’ private school for thirteen years, and then a small liberal arts college full of hipsters who were “too postmodern” for monogamy. Two years ago, if you had asked me if I could picture myself in a serious relationship at the age of 22, I’d have laughed and said, “I wouldn’t be able to put up with anyone long enough.” It seemed like a reasonable hypothesis; I had spent most of my life as a proudly independent woman who dabbled, albeit quite passionately, in fleeting crushes, and had more fun gossiping with her friends about the men with whom she happened to be involved than actually dealing with the guy. Of course I didn’t want to get involved in a serious relationship.

Anthony proved my hypothesis wrong. In fact, he proved a lot of things wrong. He proved that not all guys want open relationships, not all young people are scared of discussing a future with their significant other, and, most importantly, when you’ve found someone you love, you’re not gonna let them go.

For those of you who read Anthony’s insightful post about relationships, I am now here to prove him wrong. I, too, can be publicly mushy. So bear with me.

How I have been able to put up with Anthony for an entire year:

  • His intellectual curiosity. Possibly the most desirable quality that can be found in a person, intellectual curiosity keeps people young, life exciting, and conversations interesting.
  • He can make me laugh and understand my humor, which is often esoteric and sarcastic. The saying is trite but true: Laughter is necessary for any successful relationship.
  • He’s an atheist Filipino (yes, they do exist!). It’s so rare to be able to have discussions with someone who shares both my beliefs and my cultural background.
  • He is an optimist, which perfectly balances out my unwavering cynicism.
  • He reaches for my hand whenever we’re in public. I’ve never been one for public displays of affection, but, somehow, I find Anthony’s desire to showcase our relationship endearing. Plus, holding hands means a lower chance of losing each other on crowded New York sidewalks.
  • He gives me good mood nuzzles, which I constantly need when stressed about the many obstacles in life, e.g., not finding parmesan at the grocery store, losing my favorite yellow cashmere cardigan.
  • His family is an anomaly — it’s large, tight-knit, and everyone loves each other. I didn’t know those still existed in America.
  • He makes leftovers taste better than the original, whether it’s warming up pizza on a skillet or making garlic fried rice out of plain white rice.
  • He is very good at folding clothes.
  • He can complete the Rubrik’s cube faster than anyone I know.
  • He gives great massages. Often.
  • He values my opinion but is not afraid to argue if he disagrees with it.
  • He’d rather watch Hitchcock and have a two-person wine-and-cheese party at home with me than go out to a crowded bar.
  • There are fine lines between giving me my space and being too absent, between being affectionate and being overbearing. Anthony has mastered those fine lines beautifully.
  • He’s a beer snob. Drinking with him has taught me that I like dark ales. Plus, I could never date someone who drank Coors or PBR or other piss-like liquids.
  • He’s organized. More organized than me, in fact. I may create the lists and calendars, but he’s the one who keeps our room tidy.
  • He is constantly trying to please me, and by this, I don’t mean that he puts my happiness before his own. Such a relationship would be unhealthy. The stronger a relationship becomes, the more the happiness of both partners align. What made us happy when we were single has changed since going out with each other. More often than not, my happiness is now consistent with that of Anthony’s, and when that’s the case, he does everything in his power to satisfy.
  • He eats real food. After spending half my life with diet-obsessed friends from ballet, and then my college years in Portland surrounded by vegans, it’s almost too predictable that I would end up with someone who appreciates a good steak — cooked medium-rare, of course.
  • I have been told that this is the time to explore my options, to not get tied down to any particular guy, to have fun in my youth; I don’t have to settle down with anyone until I have lost my looks or charm. Apparently, this is what twenty-something-year-olds are supposed to think. I seem to have found the one self-proclaimed Relationship Guy in his twenties who eagerly rejected these standards of being progressively hip and instead never gave up on his lifelong dream of finding a long-term girlfriend.
  • He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself, and still (or thus?) loves me. He understands my odd obsessions, my sporadic bad moods, my irrational insecurities. Just as my favorite character said in Anna Karenina, “I love him, and therefore understand him,” love entails a deep understanding of the beloved. Without both a desire to understand and a success in that understanding, love cannot flourish.

That was merely an abridged list; I can’t possibly think of everything right now, and I doubt people would want to read all that anyway. Besides, it seems almost blasphemous to create a list of justifications for being in love — and this is coming from someone with a penchant for quantifying the unquantifiable.

You’ve probably noticed that most things on the list revolve around feeling respected, appreciated, and secure. This is, in essence, why we begin relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but those with our careers and with our platonic friends. Humans want to be appreciated for their passions and idiosyncrasies. I know I’ve found my dream career when I deem its main purpose respectable and stimulating, and it takes advantage of my talents and interests. I’ve found a friend when that person seeks my presence and is someone I can call up whenever something upsets me. A romantic partner is the most important person you choose to share your life with because of exactly that — you are choosing to share your life with that person. Unlike other people in one’s life, a romantic partner has many roles. This person knows the intimate details of your life, shares your living space, and has the possibility of sharing the rest of your life. I have never spent so many hours of every day with a single person since my mother took off from work to take care of me as a baby. And you know what? I have enjoyed every hour.

This past year has defined my life. It has felt like more than a year, but at the same time, it has flown by without me even realizing. Anthony’s put up with me this long. Hopefully, he’s up for more.