If I didn’t live this drama, I would not believe it. I am officially a hula dancer, and my first ever festival went fabulously. I WAS nearly PERFECT!!!! Honestly if you heard about the day of and everything that led that way, you probably would not believe that I made it to the festival at all. And also I was reminded of a very important lesson about judging a book by its cover these past 2 days too.
Consensus is I look native and the other consensus is that I danced very very well.
Hula isn’t just about dance. Hula is a way of life. When you are on the stage performing hula it isn’t about you and your stress fractures and your disabilities, hula is about telling the story.
Our halau performed the saga of Pele and Hi’iaka which happens to be my favorite hula because of… Lilo and Stitch 2 Stitch has a Glitch. They did a version about friendship whereas I love the original legend just as much. I’ll try to put our performance in order for you and then I’ll talk about my day, ❤ enjoy and don’t forget your moosemunch
So in the morning I cried during hula practice because my best friend Maya, who passed away in 2016, she always talked about how excited she was for me to go to BYUHawaii. She gave me that cookbook of recipes to fill and I painted her a poster of me dancing hula in Hawaii so that she could see Hawaii without going…
I danced with halau to prepare for the festival and yes I cried. I felt so much grief that she couldn’t see it and I did some stress running… And Tongan Chapter activity was right after halau so I went to that and I played touch with the boys (kinda like flag football) and the only problem was that I didn’t want to touch them, but I have no problem tackling them. I’m telling you it doesn’t hurt them cause they’re minimum twice my size.
They kept counting it as an out if they touched my hair. Honestly it’s probably because I run like a cheetah on a sugah buzz but STILL, not fair at all! They like their jokes. Anyways one guy grabbed my hair and I cornered him at the edge of the field and used my *tone*
“Did you pull on my hair?”
“If you touch my hair one more time, Imma punch you. We clear?”
And then I nearly tackled him on the next play. Man I hate it when they fake me out. I need to work on changing direction faster. Anyways so I was the one girl playing touch with the boys and they kept saying “Hannah, he’s single, go catch him.” And I was like “He’s Tongan, he ain’t single!”
I got to chase the guy who I voted sexiest Tongan hahahaa but I didn’t feel like tackling him. Usually I just tail them so close because I want to show them I could catch them if I wanted to, but I don’t like touching them. My buddy, who was gone for a long time, Jo, nearly held hands with him. You know in those chick flicks when they play a sport and their hands brush against each other and the fingertips brush over each others palms. Yeah. Literally after it happened I was thinking. If I was a normal, non-traumatized female I would probably be feeling really happy about that.
Then we played this game, where the guys stand behind the girls and they have to guard their girl when a guy from the other line comes to try to steal a girl. And I was so embarrassed. My face was a TOMATO. Plus I was nervous because I don’t like surprise touch. Plus my guyfriend Jo was behind me and I knew he wasn’t gonna defend me. Jerk.
So this guy came up behind me and grabbed me from behind around the chest and ran me over to the other side and everyone went crazy. But I nearly fell over when I got to the other line because guess what, my worst PTSD trigger, is being grabbed from behind. And oh wait, there’s more. So I felt a panic attack coming on. My heartrate was up and I started gagging and I was just anxious. My senses went into overdrive. In my head I ran through what my therapist told me to do. Remind myself.
I’m not there. I’m here. I’m safe. I’m here with my friends. It’s just a game. He didn’t know better. I’m here. I’m fine. Calm down. Deep. Breaths.
It gets better. So we finish the game and I knew I was about to have a panic attack. You get to this point of no return and bam, you fall off the cliff and lose all sense of reality. I ended up curled up, holding onto a chainlink fence of a baseball field, crying my eyes out and trying to keep quiet so no one would hear me crying. And I remembered a new memory. I was stuck. I floated out of my body and I was watching and then I was in my body and I was smaller and he was so tall and his voice. he was angry. he yelled out “YOU LITTLE WHORE!” and slapped me across the face.
At some points when my memories were coming back, I wondered if he had ever hit me. I had a bad feeling he had, but obviously remembering just the sexual abuse and the name-calling was bad enough. I didn’t want to imagine up anything he hadn’t done.
In my experience with rape, you’re never the first victim, and you’re never the last victim. And a man who is willing to rape you and hurt you and torture you, he will never stop. They always lie. “Baby I’ll change for you.” (of course at least the rapist didn’t promise me that) “I have to hurt you, you deserve this” “It’s your fault for being dressed like a whore” But yeah. A man who will hit you once, will do it again. I promised myself a long time ago that if I was with a man and he hit me, or one of my kids, I would leave him that day because these men do not change. Once that boundary is crossed, there is no going back. You cannot risk your life staying with a man like that.
So there I was shaking, crying, and holding onto the chainlink fence like my life depended on it, curled up into a ball (one time, senior year, I had a panic attack and I hid under a drinking fountain. I have to hold onto something to try to refocus and I’ll curl up and grab whatever I can so hard I hurt my hands, just to try not to freak out). And I watched centipedes crawl through the grass. A few girls tried to talk to me and calm me down. I’ll try to put this in a way you can kind of understand what was going on
ithurtsithurts“Can I do anything to help you, what’s wrong?” Ishouldanswerherwhycan’tImovewhycan’tItalkIneedtosaysomething raperaperape.rape.
“No, there’s…nothing.” raperaperaperapeatleastshetriedIcan’tmovewhycan’tIsnapoutofthis
Two other girls tried and I said “There’s nothing you can do. Please just leave me alone, I’ll be fine.”
I was not there. I was gone. I couldn’t move. Silently I prayed for God to send one of my boyz that I knew to help me because I couldn’t talk to any of the girls and I didn’t want to share my stuff with anyone else who would backbite. And then I hear a voice calling my name.
“Hannah, Hannah! Hannah, hey. Tcchh!” And it was my friend Ezekiel. He drove up in a car and he was calling my name and he was persistent.
Finally after he called me the Tongan way TCCHH I finally answered and he told me to come get in the car.
You know how people who’ve been whacked in the head with a frying pan walk? It took me a while to get up from the ground and let go of the fence. I stumbled into the car after trying to wipe the grass off my leggings because I didn’t want to ruin his car.
You’ll notice this about me, is that even when I’m going through something like that, I’m thinking about other people. Or at least, I’m trying to.
I got in the car and he asked me what happened and I told him what happened. “That’s how I got raped last time.” And he said “It’s just a game, he didn’t mean anything, no one here would do something like that.” And I said “I know, I just can’t help it. I get so scared.”
He parked next to the soccer field where we were having the activity. He let me just sit in the car “We’re going to go get water, you can just stay here.” And so I did. But I couldn’t sit up in the seat. I didn’t want anyone else to see me like that so I curled up under the dashboard in a little ball and cried all over the seat. I felt bad because I was covered in sweat and tears and I didn’t want to get his car dirty but I just held onto the car seat shaking and crying.
All in all it took the usual 30 minutes for me to get it over with. I think I trained myself to do that. 1 1/2 years ago when this started, I would time myself when I was crying in the girls bathroom. I’d be like “15 more minutes to feel like this and then you need to get back into that classroom and get your work done.” Of course that’s not including my 1-2 hour crying jags, but panic attacks usually last 30 minutes.
It feels unreal. I’m writing this on Sunday, and I still can’t process what happened. It’s all so unreal. I can’t really feel it. It’s like when you go into shock and you intellectually remember the events but it’s all blurred and you feel like it didn’t happen to you. It’s just a vague blur of memory.
“Hannah?” I heard his voice say my name and I didn’t respond and then I felt someone take my hand and close his hand around mine and start rubbing the back of my hand with his thumb.
I didn’t recognize the voice and I didn’t look up. I was too ashamed of crying and being curled up under my friends dashboard and basically I was ashamed of being raped. I was tired of feeling broken and sad and sick and I was crying because I was feeling very strongly, what I had missed because of my disability.
But there was this hand holding mine and it helped break through the clouds in a sense because to someone as touch-deprived as I am, someone rubbing their thumb in circles across my hand is about the same as a lighthouse through a storm. Once I noticed it, and believe me I noticed it, I couldn’t unnotice it. And it helped me pull through.
Only I didn’t know who the guy was. And honestly even though my guyfriends are awesome, we don’t walk around holding hands and being cutesy with each other for a reason. That being said, I had no idea who stole my hand or who the heck I was talking to. None of my guyfriends would be that brave/stupid.
Do you remember Bad Apple? That’s what I’m calling the guy who was so out of line with flirting with me. That guy. Because he was being so salacious with me when we first met, I fervently shoved him away because if there was anything I learned from the last guy who took advantage of a panic attack to do very sexual things to me, it’s that guys who find me sexually attractive, tend to be dangerous. Just because they take advantage of me when I’m hurt, and weak, and instead of actually helping, they do what they want to me and it’s not about me or how I’m feeling, it’s about their own sexual gratification.
And seriously, when a girl like me is that vulnerable, it takes a real son of a b*** to do that to her.
This was the LAST guy I wanted to see me like that. Curled up under my friends dashboard crying my eyes out because of the rape and just all the pain and stress within me.
And guess who walked up to the car.
That’s right. It was him. He was the one holding my hand. I didn’t figure it out until he said “Hey, look at me.”
I HATE it when I’m crying and someone says that because uh no, I am a tough girl. Tough girls do not cry, and when they do cry, they do not admit it until later when they can be like “Yeah I was crying because I broke my femur, but I’m good now.”
I look up and it’s him. I didn’t pull my hand away but I put my head back down in a hurry.
“I can’t talk about it.”
See, I am learning! I wasn’t planning on sharing about the rape with him because I do not know him that well and I’ve been burned before. HOWEVER he was persistent.
Finally I admitted it. But that was mostly because he was threatening to punch the guy who made me cry and excuse me I do not need a man to fight my battles. Look at this blog, I am clearly capable of beating impossible odds.
“Do you know the real reason why I shove guys away? It’s because I got raped back home, and like with you, when they try to touch me or they get too close, this happens.”
Remember I had that feeling this guy had a connection to sexual abuse? I was right. He knows someone.
And he was standing there, holding my hand. I wanted to cuddle with him really badly at that point but I held back. I learned my lesson from the last guy. Plus he’s a playah. But it was so strange, having someone hold onto my hand. Noone has ever held my hand that I remember except for halau when we stand and pray together and that’s different because they have to. It was so strange. I’m sure if it wasn’t so unusual to me, that I would have just enjoyed it instead of what I’m currently doing, obsessing over it and trying to figure out why the heck he was holding my hand and how I’m supposed to feel about it. But it was nice.
And after a short conversation with him and a short drive to get- Apples.
Hahahahaaa apples. That’s like a full circle from the first time I met him. When I first met him, I was offering him an apple for a snack, and this time, he gave me an apple to eat. I was in the car for about another hour and a half and he checked on me maybe twice. I finally got the point where I could sit up.
I wanted to go home but Ezekiel told me to stay because they had food. I didn’t want to be rude to him. Tongans are serious about their food. So I finally stopped crying and you know why? It’s because I was thinking I have done the impossible. I’m stronger than the rapist. And I can handle this. Finally I pulled myself together and then my buddy Money $$$ called out to me “Hey Hannah come join us.”
I sat on the bleachers watching them, but not really. I just relaxed against the side rail and closed my eyes, waiting for the activity to be over. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my guyfriends, but if you had seen a picture of me before my panic attack, and after, you would have seen a very dark, very empty look in my eyes.
And now I realized that I judged Bad Apple pretty hard and that’s one of the things I had promised to work on. Oops. Still, seeing that side of him, now I respect him. He didn’t take advantage of me and that shows respect and that is a quality in a man I admire.
I balked at the food. When I’m really emotional, I stick rigidly to my safe foods list. And they had white rice and that’s not on the list of safe foods. So I took off running and went back home to shower and get ready for the festival. My awesome roommate and my other friend and another guy Gyu-kakku, and another guyfriend came and brought his wife and sat in the front row, they all came to the festival to watch me perform and took photos and videos and were so wonderful. My hula sisters helped me put on my costume and the performance went so well. I was totally in the zone.
You would not believe that the same girl who was curled up under the dashboard just 6 hours earlier, was the same girl on that stage, performing. Perfect makeup. Perfect hair. Less-than-perfect haku (my leaves were too fat). Face focused. Hands perfect.
I think what makes me a good performer, is that I am always performing. Always filtering backstage from onstage. Portraying what I want the audience to see, gauging how they respond to me.
I respect bad Apple a lot more now. Because he saw me like that, and didn’t take advantage. His and Ezekiel’s reactions to my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder episode, were exactly en pointe. And at the end of the day, I performed my hula.
A year ago, I watched Moani Ke Ala. This year, I performed. Got your moose munch? Because here we GO.
“I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope”
The time of past, the time of future.
2 1/2 years ago I never thought I would be here, performing at Moani Ke Ala as a hula dancer, as part of a halau family. I had so many plans for where I would be, but the truth is God had a plan too, and so it’s come to pass that I am here now.
Looking forward to my life, I feel assured that yes, I have done the impossible. And yes, I have the strength to do it again. I’m not going to let my disability prevent me from living a wonderful life full of passion and fire. Rather my disability will be a part of my journey for as long as must be. Just look at today. Look at what happened and then look at my response. Look at the people who were the answer to my prayer. There is no coincidence here.
So look with me. Hear my voice. Listen to my story. Be inspired to live your best life and to never ever look back and want to change anything. It is all worth it to be who you are today and it can be even better, even when it is hopeless.
Even in this hula, the dance was the story of destruction, of the volcano turning over the land to black and ashes. Of Pele’s fiery dance. And then the turning over of the ‘aina to green, and lush forest. I know Pele’s story because this hula does speak to the experiences of my last 2 1/2 years. The kaona (hidden meaning) for me is that I, like Pele, have the mana wahine. The power of destruction and the power of life-giving. That I am strong, and that the overturning is another part of my journey.
I promise you, it was worth it. I have been up against injury, illness, death, loss, grief, mental illness, physical injuries, and risk to my own life. So many times I was moments away from a decision or someone else’s decision that nearly ended my life and my life was saved. Even in my birth, I was up against the brink of death. Death, and life. Are alongside each other.
I am coming to appreciate the bittersweet fullness of my experiences and my own story. One thing I say to myself when I read my own story in my own voice is
“No matter how many stories you read, the greatest story is your own.”
I would change nothing of my past.