Hell in Paradise

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“OMG Brittany Bivens?! Is that you?! Oh my gosh – how long are you visiting for? You’re out in Maui these days, right? I have been SO envious of your life looking at your InstaGram pictures – you really do live in paradise…”

“Well, actually…” 

I really don’t remember how this exact conversation played out, to be honest I think I mumbled through some awkward pleasantries while trying to divert my old high school buddies eyes from my shopping cart. Kitty litter and 6 bottles of wine (…for myself… there was a sale, this is a judgment free zone, okay?) while quickly approaching 30? I could save that conversation starter for another day. *

Honestly, I find it funny how so many people who knew me as a child or teenager now identify me as the girl who lived in ‘paradise’ aka Hawai’i.
It’s almost like a badge of honor of how I “made it” in life because of where I was located.
There was a part of me that felt like I was living a lie; especially after being showered with compliments of my ‘huge success’ for living in Maui.
My ego ate it right up while my soul just sat back quietly and whispered “girl please.

Social media plays a huge part in projecting our lives,
But the perception of this projection is not always as it appears.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for my 9 years in Hawai’i.
I wouldn’t trade that time for world.
Hawai’i really is a physical paradise, I’ve never loved another place that I’ve lived more than I love the land and culture of Hawai’i.
But the truth is, even in paradise, you still experience life and all that it entails:
Extreme highs, lows, and every space in between.

Out of my 9 years spent in Maui, I spent 3 solid years in misery.
From a social media standpoint, it looked as though I was living the dream:
Lounging about upcountry in my gorgeous home, overlooking the beautiful bicoastal views of Maui.
In pictures, the perception of my reality was true perfection.
However, I was lost and numbed by fear.
I was lazy.
I barely had friends because I never socialized.
I wasn’t painting or doing anything creative.
I was in a toxic codependent relationship.
Long story short, I lacked any and all ambition- especially following a depressing health diagnosis.
Surprise – I have epilepsy.
In a matter of moments my picture perfect paradise turned into the shocking reality that it was.
And to top it off, I was now damaged goods.

Gazing out the window one day while riding passenger** down the mountain, I was staring into that luminous Maui sunset and pondering my life’s reality at that moment in time.
I wondered what the hell I was doing with my life.
It felt so dull and sad,
This was not the life I envisioned for myself. 

In that moment I had an epiphany of myself as a child, remembering all of my dreams: it was the awakening of my authentic self: bright, exciting and strangely familiar

In an instant, I finally woke the fuck up and started making moves.
I sold my car (paying people to drive me around was too expensive and honestly just a pain in the ass.) **
With my car money, I moved out on my own to an apartment that was walking distance to the beach and I secured a bicycle for transportation.

This was my first time in life where I was truly independent

Like Bambi learning to walk for the first time, I was definitely slipping and falling. But I was so determined to walk with strength and balance that I never allowed the slips to keep me down.

It was an uncomfortably comfortable time.

But, what I love about uncomfortable situations is my discovery of self.
This was my time for self discovery and self creation.
I was finally ready to live.

Out of all places in the world to be, I do feel so incredibly blessed to have been on Maui.
Maui nō ka ‘oi.

I may have been far from loved ones, but I found my Ohana within my community – and more importantly, I built a home within myself.

Now my friends,
That feeling of living up to your own dreams?
That’s way better than any social media attention or superficial compliment you receive.
And it doesn’t happen because of where on the globe you are located.

All in all, even if you are living in paradise that doesn’t excuse you from living in your own personal hell.
You have the ability to create your own paradise no matter where you are.

Don’t underestimate yourself.

Stay in touch <3

* Update to those of you I have yet to run into – I am no longer living on the island of Maui. In fact, I have been living in Georgia for almost 2 years, though these conversations happen more frequently than one would think.

** In case you didn’t know- anyone with an active seizure disorder is not allowed to operate a motor vehicle.