Why I Quit the Best Job in the World

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Why I Quit the Best Job in the World

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Hawaii Island , Kauai , Maui , Oahu
Apr 15, 2014

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. 

Maya Angelou.

The first time I heard the words, “You have the best job in the world,” I was on Hawaii (Big) Island. That great orb of light and energy had just greeted the water again for the night. It was large, the sun, and now that I think about it—almost six years later—I wonder why it seems the sun always looks so much bigger from the Kona Coast? 

I was on a dive boat the first time my choice of employment was dubbed as superlative, chatting with a group of women from the Midwest. 

“Where in the Midwest?” I asked, as I wiggled one leg into a wetsuit. We were gearing up to dive with manta rays, one of my first feature stories as writer/editor of OutriggerHawaii.com, a website from Outrigger Hotels and Resorts created to provide visitors with deeper stories about Hawaii.

One of the things I love about writing is it’s a good excuse to traipse through rainforests with ornithologists and ask them about an endemic forest bird found in the upper reaches of Haleakala. It’s why I chased down an 86-year-old master boat builder amidst flying dust and buzzing saws. Why I will camp on Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north side of Molokai with biologists striving to stop the possible extinction of Hawaii’s own seal, the second most endangered marine mammal in the world.

Ornithologists and boat builders and biologists will answer your 3,271 questions if it’s for a story you’re writing. Otherwise, you’re just a nuisance. And they won’t respond to your 589 emails, either.

Writing, then, is a way to sate one’s curiosities.

Too, writing is a way to live a life of no regrets. Hence, why I assigned myself the manta ray story. I'd always wanted to dive with manta rays.

St. Louis, those four women, all members of a choir, sang as we geared up. 

“Where in St. Louis?” I asked, tugging my wetsuit above my hips, adding a little hop or two to give myself plenty of fabric leeway to get my arms in the thing.

Webster Groves, they said. 

“My best friend from college lives in Webster Groves,” I said. “She was the maid of honor in my wedding.”

I shouldered my BCD while these women stared at me, their mouths open, their eyes wide. 

This is not an uncommon conversation I have with people in Hawaii. I call it two degrees of separation—vs. the more common refrain of six degrees. That is, I can make a connection with almost every person I meet in Hawaii through a single other person. In this case, it turned out one of the women was a cousin of a friend in Webster Groves, Missouri. This phenomenon happens whether I am meeting a visitor from St. Louis or a kama`aina from Kailua-Kona, it seems. In fact, it’s protocol in Hawaii to follow up with “Do you know so-and-so?” after finding out where they live. I’ve always said it’s the modern version of what ancient Hawaiians did when they traveled from district to district, island to island. They’d greet each other with long genealogical chants. We are social animals, after all. We make connections with other people through other people.

But, now, as we women bobbed in the ocean, getting ready to descend to the ocean floor and watch an otherworldly ballet of giant manta rays as they danced inches above our heads and scooped plankton into their open maws, the women wanted to know my history, in particular, how I ended up in Hawaii and what I did here, which, of course, led to what is a refrain I’ve heard too numerous times to count: You have the best job in the world. 

It’s true. I do.

Or, rather, I did.

Nearly six years into the job as writer/editor of OutriggerHawaii.com—as a paid travel writer; a paid travel writer with an expense account; a paid travel writer with a regular paycheck and benefits—I quit.

You may think I’m crazy. Sometimes, I do. And I’m sure my husband, as supportive as he’s been, thinks so, too. 

I started this blog with several blog posts from the now-defunct Hawaii Writers Conference. Leading up to it, I wrote a profile of one of the conference’s success stories—author Patricia Wood. Since meeting her—under the beam of a streetlamp at Nawiliwili Harbor after she’d sailed from Oahu to Kauai—I’ve hardly made a trip to Oahu without stopping to visit on her sailboat at the Ala Wai Harbor—where we drink wine and watch the Friday night fireworks in Waikiki.

Last week, I planted native trees in the upper reaches of Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore with Laurent Pool. I met Laurent and his wife Polly on a backpacking service trip with Friends of Haleakala. They, then, joined us on Kauai to kayak Napali Coast last summer. He’s the one who safely guided the rest of us to shore as a sizeable swell broke onto Polihale Beach.

I’ve written about Jerry Ongies on these pages before. A secret smile escapes my heart whenever I think of that 86-year-old boat-builder with the ever-present tape measure clipped to his waistband.

I knew Sabra Kauka long before I started writing for Outrigger. But this job gave me a good excuse to get to know her and her culture a little bit better. She’s also the one who invited me to spend five days at the remote Nualolo Kai on Kauai’s Napali Coast a couple summers ago. I can always count on Sabra for a hearty smile and willingness to share her mana`o.

So, yes, I’ve spent days backpacking inside Haleakala Crater. I’ve rocketed down the coast of Hawaii (Big) Island in a boat before dawn to hear the crackle of lava as it dripped into the sea. I’ve kayaked Napali Coast and gallivanted up and down Kalalau Valley, checking out each and every waterfall pool. And I’ve been diving with manta rays—twice.

But what’s even more amazing to me than all the crazy, amazing, rewarding things I’ve experienced and the places I’ve seen in Hawaii are the people I’ve met. 

Maya Angelou is credited with saying, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” And that’s the best explanation to give for my decision to leave a steady paycheck behind.

In a podcast I listened to recently, screenwriter Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Ocean Thirteen) explained the concept this way. “When you’re somebody who has this burning secret desire to do some kind of creative work, if you don’t, you turn toxic. And that toxicity is not just damaging to you but everybody around you.”

As many of you who have been reading this blog may remember, I turned a “Big O” birthday last year. We all know that as we age, time seems to speed up. Is it really April? When did it turn 2014? For that matter, what happened to the first decade of the new millennium? But getting older also made me think about time differently. As in, I only have so much more time left. 

I have three book projects in some stage of incompleteness right now. And before I get any older—and any crankier—I want to see them come to fruition. So, I will be spending the foreseeable future doing nothing new--I will still be writing. Only I will be writing on some book-length projects that I’ve been ignoring for a few years. Now is their time.

For my loyal readers out there, I invite you to follow me in this new endeavor at my personal website—www.kimsrogers.com—which, like the books, has been ignored for a while and needs a face-lift. I’ll be working on that, too.

Thank you for reading all these years. I’ll miss this space. I’ll miss my friends at Outrigger. But I gotta get these untold stories out of me, and the only way to do so is to sit and write them.


Responses:

Heather George | Apr 15, 2014 05:28 PM

We will miss you, but I will see you there again soon. Mahalo for all of your wonderful storytelling here, and all good wishes on your upcoming projects - how exciting!

Nancy McKinstry | Apr 16, 2014 01:53 AM

Kim, I'll definitely miss the stories on your blog. I wish you all the best with your new projects!

Jason Sewell | Apr 16, 2014 01:48 AM

Best of luck Kim! Wish you all the best. First time I've actually commented on this blog as an actual user ;)

Dennis Rockney | Apr 16, 2014 06:13 AM

Beautiful, Kim. Your voice will most certainly be missed on these pages. I look forward to your reading your books in the near future. Aloha and Mahalo.

Tracey Hartmann | Apr 16, 2014 06:56 AM

I am really going to miss reading about your adventures in Hawaii! Good luck with getting your book projects finished. I bet Eric is going to like having you home more!

Michael | Apr 16, 2014 06:55 AM

:( but happy we will be able to read you in the future.

Malia Yoshioka | Apr 16, 2014 06:50 AM

What a beautiful reflection on your adventures and connections over the years! I'm so excited for you to be giving those passion projects their share of your talents. They've waited patiently and now get their time to grow and evolve. :)

Manuela Hamm | Apr 16, 2014 07:00 AM

I'm following your blog since one year and I loved your stories so much. I will miss reading them in the future. But - you have to do what your heart and your soul is telling you. So, I wish you all the best for your new projects and I will follow you at your new website. Aloha from a faithful reader of Germany (at this moment celebrating vacation at Maui).

Dan | Apr 16, 2014 08:33 AM

Great piece, you will be missed! Good luck with your writing, A Hui Hou!

Greg | Apr 16, 2014 12:25 PM

Having followed your blog for a number of years and recently retired I understand your sentiments about the passage of time. For me it will not only be your stories I will miss it will be your photos. Being an avid photographer myself I always looked forward to your photographic stories even more. All the best for the future from an Aussie follower. Aloha and Mahalo.

Stefanie | Apr 16, 2014 03:40 PM

I will sure miss your blogs as I feel it keeps me in touch with Hawaii, but will track you down with your future endeavors. :) You are such a passionate person and can't wait to see your projects come to life!

Tay Perry | Apr 16, 2014 10:45 PM

I wish you the best, Kim. I have enjoyed reading your stuff over the past few years since we met. I also want to thank you for the nice article you wrote about me. I will check out your personal site in the future. Aloha, Tay (the 76 year old canoe builder)

diane tilley | Apr 17, 2014 01:15 AM

Hi Kim I will miss your blogs - they keep me in touch with Hawaii, but am glad to know you continuing to write. Stay healthy and I will see you November. Without a deadline though, time can have a way of drifting away. Aloha

Dianne White | Apr 17, 2014 04:52 AM

Good for you Kim! I've always admired your energy, vision and courage to pursue the right dream. I've enjoyed following your journey and continue to be in awe. I'm sure you will conquer the book publishing world with great success. All the best from the landlocked expanse of the Midwest!

John M | Apr 17, 2014 08:17 AM

Wishing you the best Kim! Dont forget us little people.

Amanda Sowards | Apr 17, 2014 02:47 PM

Atta girl, Kimmie.

Susan | Apr 17, 2014 05:32 PM

Good on you, Kim! I will miss staying in touch with Hawaii through your blog but congratulations for reading clearly the handwriting on the wall. See you soon... very soon!

Kim | Apr 18, 2014 10:57 AM

Wow. These comments are better than a birthday on Facebook. Thanks for all the love, friends.

Amy O'Brien | Apr 18, 2014 04:17 PM

Wow, Kim...as one of those four singing ladies from Missouri I'm stunned that you remember that day so vividly. What was so memorable about meeting you was that you followed your heart to a wonderful job in Hawaii and now you are following your heart again. It's not the job itself that made it the "best job in the world" it's the fact that you took a risk when most people just want to hang on to their safe and predictable life. You have no idea how often I've thought about meeting you and how inspiring your story was. In fact, I'll be taking a leap of faith myself in a few months and moving across the country without a job or home to follow my heart. I hope you don't underestimate the impact you've had on the people you've met over the years and how maany times I've thought about that amazing day off the coast of the Big Island. All my best too you...Amy

Roxanne Darling | Apr 24, 2014 09:29 AM

I am so happy for so many things - the space you pioneered here, the lovely intimate yet accessible style of your writing, and so much more Kim. Yet I also understand the call of the wild soul and I really admire you for acting on it and Outrigger for allowing you to be a real person who gets to say goodbye to us! (Not disappear into an anonymous corporate black hole.) We are all beneficiaries!

Mary | Apr 25, 2014 07:40 AM

Congratulations on your new "assignment." As I see it, a perk of "the best job in the world" is that so many of your memoirs have already been written. Good for you. I will miss your beautiful writing. Thanks for all you have shared.

Kim | May 01, 2014 06:35 PM

Amy, I love how this story comes full circle with your comment here. Thank you. And best of luck with your own leap; may the safety net appear when and where you want it;-) You understand so much, Roxanne. I hope to see you on Maui soon. There will be research trips, of course! And, good point, Mary. Blogs are like warehouses for our personal stories. Maybe you will start one!

Rick Calvert | May 19, 2014 07:16 AM

best of luck getting those stories told Kim.

Gray | May 19, 2014 02:39 PM

What a tough decision to make, but it's usually never a mistake to follow your heart, Kim. Best of luck with the books!

Mike with MikesRoadTrip.com | May 20, 2014 03:26 AM

Hey Kim! I don't know if you recall, but we met and spent some time together at TBEX Toronto. We were at that off-site venue for one of the evening events. You shared with me your iPhone HDR app. Anyhow, I wanted to wish you all the best with the next chapter of your life. Cheers!

Mike with MikesRoadTrip.com | May 20, 2014 04:20 AM

Hey Kim! I don't know if you recall, but we met and spent some time together at TBEX Toronto. We were at that off-site venue for one of the evening events. You shared with me your iPhone HDR app. Anyhow, I wanted to wish you all the best with the next chapter of your life. Cheers!

Kara Williams | May 22, 2014 10:18 AM

I get it! Really, I do! Now, how do I apply for your job? Kidding! I've got kids at home here in Colorado... and for that reason alone I am rethinking my own life/work balance in coming years. I only have them here at home with me for 6 more years, then both will be off to college! (Or otherwise flying the coop if I have anything to say about it.) Want to make the most of time NOW with them here.... not necessarily traveling a bunch without them. Best wishes to you as you complete your books!

Barry Elliott | Jul 11, 2014 01:34 PM

Hi Kim. I'm a kiwi who has spent some time in Kauai, surfing, sightseeing and loving the place. This is the first time I've come across your blog, but I loved your reason for leaving your job. I'm sure you will know the book and may even know the man, but Robert Goodman's book, The Hawaiians, is one of my prized possessions. I love the format, where 2 different writers give their own, interspersed, points of view of discovering the islands: the photos are great as well. I mention this in the hope that it will help you with your stories. Smiles and best wishes, Barry.

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