Moana- The Sea. Ke’ala– The path. Malama– Moon.  O’kalani- Of heaven.

The sea’s path by the moon of heaven.

I was born on the island of Oahu in 1989. My mom was a teacher and my dad was just getting his footing as a construction manager. My dad and his family had moved there while my dad was still in middle school, and my parents decided to move back there to start their lives together. My mom was gregarious and highly motivated, she was still in her 20’s and loved to party and meet new people. One of these people happened to be a native-born Hawaiian priestess named Aina.

Aina was kind enough to offer my pregnant mother a name for me, a common Hawaiian practice. My parents eagerly accepted and Aina got to meditating. My dad was hoping for something short and simple, but Aina could apparently already tell I was in no way going to be so easily defined. The first name she came up with meant “the rainbow that breaks through the clouds.” But it wasn’t quite right- so together they agreed to meditate a little longer. After a few weeks, my parents and her finally settled on the quite long Moanake’alamalamao’kalani. I can only imagine what it was like trying to spell and put that on my birth certificate at the hospital.

A pathway of light from the heavens to the sea has been a defining aspect of my personality in so many different ways across my life. The imagery explained to me is that when the Moon hits the ocean at night, it creates a bright reflection that stretches out into a pathway towards the heavens. So any time I see this natural phenomenon, I am reminded that I am unique and deeply loved. My middle name is the pride of my individuality, but it has also acted as a sort of defining metaphorical prophecy as well.

Maybe it is just confirmation bias or truth by association, but my connection to this middle name has followed me both externally to metaphorically how I perceive myself and my relationships with others. I will break it down piece by piece.

“A pathway of light”: I feel drawn to the idea of a grand destiny. I feel like if something is meant to be, it will light up as though there were large neon lights pointing the way. Conversely, if something does not feel purposeful or innately understood, than I should not become too attached to it. I have trouble committing to a life path or career, and I feel a large part of that stems from my nebulous nature- like a light’s reflection on the water. Light touches the world indiscriminately, illuminating things and piercing them in different ways. My love of learning, making abstract connections between ideas, and never really specializing in a particular field also reflects this nebulous and unattainable nature. After all, you can’t capture light in a bottle to store for later.

“From the Heavens”: I am an extremely spiritual person, but not in the traditional sense. I have no love loss for religion and the structures that it defines itself from. I have experienced too much pain and unexplained events not to believe in something that science has yet to define. Once I accepted this about myself, the idea of spirit and picking and choosing what I did like about existing faiths made so much more sense. So I work to define Heaven not as a place, but as a realm of undefinable spirit and love for self and fellow humanity.

“To the seas:” The ocean’s symbolism is probably too deep a history for even me to write about. I have moods that rise and fall like the tides, but can be as outrageous as the weather. I am full of life and deep, unknowable darkness. I caress the world with love, allowing it to define my boundaries while gently attempting to make it also fit my needs. The sea calms and inspires me at the same time without contradiction. And my deepest desire is to connect strange worlds while finding their commonalities. I cannot begin to tell you the level of excitement I had when Disney’s Moana came out. I have the soundtrack playing on loop in my car and also now share a namesake with a Disney Princess. And she sings in my range! A romantic idealist dreamer like me could hardly ask for more!

I shift and transition and am not easily defined though my patterns might be apparent. I am constantly searching for meaning, connection, and purpose. And most of all, I feel extremely blessed to have this title to remember who I am, where I come from, and to guide me on where to go in the future.


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