On community. "I'm a retired middle school teacher, from different types of special ed children to the regular education kids, all mixed up together, and I've taught many different subjects. But I made it a point to tell them that we are not all that one piece of drawing paper. We are made of different textures, and different widths, different colors, different combinations... And if you roll out your life as if it was a roll of material fabric, we start off very impressionable, maybe white and clean, quite clean, but then we already have overlays of certain habits that we inherited from our families genetically. Then there are other colors or textures you’ve inherited because you grew up in a house where they always speak a little Hawaiian... There's color, there’s texture, there's thickness, there’s thinness, different widths of things that pass through... We have changed from something that's, you know, mostly white and clear. And then we keep adding our experiences, and hopefully when we grow up, whenever that could be, that fabric is stronger, is more resilient, is more glowing. And if you can glow you can touch the people around you with that glow of goodness, glow of people trying their best. Here in Hawaii we say glow, aloha, but aloha is practiced throughout the world in different ways. But it's taking care of the people around you, your community, being connected by different experiences or just by habits of mind...
You can be the happiest person traveling the world till you’re 68 or you can be the most miserable person, as you see sometimes, grousing about everything until you’re 68. Whoa! Who put you in that position? I think you did. So stop and think what is it that's gonna make me happy? What is important to me? How do I take care of it, me, others that are important to me? And so relationships with other people... We cannot live in a vacuum. Sometimes it'll be nice but that's not real life."
On long-term relationships. "I’ve thought about that and I don’t know how to describe it, but the person has to be nice. I don’t know how to describe it because nice is so vague. Easy-going, and accepting, forgiving. A person who can take you, handle you and accept you. It’s that. That is, that’s love. Really, that’s what it is. But in the end, you know, everybody can be an asshole. And it’s the effort not to be that counts. That’s what nice is."
On respect. "Well, my father used to always say to me, 'Listen, if you don't learn to respect others, the streets are gonna teach you that lesson.' I was born in Mexico and down there that’s how things are, right? If you don’t learn it at home, in the streets we’ll teach you how things are. Benito Juarez was the first and only indigenous president of my country, Mexico, and he put it this way, 'Respect for others means peace.' But us young people at the time we changed that. We had fun with that because we’d say 'Respect for others means you keep your teeth.' So that’s how it was, because it was rough there back then ... We used to fight it out in the streets because there was no choice."
On long-term relationships. "Well, I married my first boyfriend, that should have been a no-no. I was immature and I thought I knew what I wanted. You know, after two children the relationship went bad and I ended up raising my daughters alone. That was difficult. ... The first love you think it’s it, you know, but you have no experience in life yet to know any better. Yeah, so, yeah, there’s lots of fish in the ocean. 'This is the one, forever, for the next sixty years,' it doesn’t work like that anymore. Maybe that’s why young people are not getting married? It’s better off that way, than to go through that."
On money. "Well, this is one that I think about often and I’ve fought with in my mind over the years but came to appreciate more when I got older. My mom used to tell me this when I was growing up that her dad told her. And her grandma. Her grandpa. Her whole family told her. ‘If you don't have cash to pay for something, you don't buy it. If you don't have the cash, if you can't pay for it in cash you don't buy it.’ And looking back over the years, I see how many times, there were several times I got myself in trouble by not following that advice. ...
I just think that's great advice because when you're young and you first start working you get credit and the first thing that’s gonna happen is the credit card companies are going to send you credit cards and there’s so many things you think you need that you don't need like going out to dinner for a nice dinner once, twice a week, eating out for lunch every day. Buying stuff, clothes, expensive boots, whatever it is. It’s just so easy.
I've done that. I've done it twice in my life, overextended myself, and said, man, I wasn't gonna do that, but it happened again.
Then you're stuck, you're stuck. And how many Americans and how many people in other countries also? They're just paying debt.
Yeah ... that's a huge one. If it doesn't fit in that rule, if you don't, if you can't pay cash for it, don't buy it. Everything except your house. You can do it with your house, too, if you're really good."
On underestimating. "I've been thinking about that, for me personally, not like everybody. Okay. I think at 20, 25 I underestimated myself. You know why? Because I knew, I always knew what I didn't know. For example, for my profession (civil engineering). I always knew what I didn't know. I always felt there is something I have to learn, I have to get to be perfect in the end, you know? And this is, this is I think a barrier for you to succeed in life... But you are ready, you are ready and a lot of people around you have a lot less knowledge than you. I think this is a stupid mistake I made…
Another thing that I told you was that I underestimated the love that my dad had for me. Sometimes I was rude to him, but now I know why he was doing that (questioning my decisions). He was more experienced. And I made a lot of mistakes and sometimes he didn't like to interfere a lot because he didn't want to get into conflict with me. Now I'm a dad. I know what he was thinking about, the way he was thinking. This is another thing."