The cost of living in Hawaii is intimately intertwined with our lives.

It helps to decide what we put into our bodies. It shapes how we bring up our babies, and where they spend their days. It helps to define where we live and work, and how our children are educated.

It creates obstacle courses in relationships and for families that, in the islands, often live two or three families to a house. It has the capacity to turn our lives into a tragedy or even a farce — or both, sometimes in the same day.

If you live in Hawaii, you know how expensive the cost of living is for someone like you. What you might not know is what it does to other people around the islands: the pressures and limitations it places on their lives and potential, the absurd situations that it drives people into, and the novel ways that people face up to and overcome the high price of paradise.

That is why we are turning to people like you to share compelling accounts of your struggles. We are assembling a user-generated story hub where people can write their own brief essays — see the details at the bottom of this column — about how high prices and comparatively low incomes intersect in their lives.

Lanai rainbow

We are surrounded by natural beauty all around, like this rainbow over Lanai, but we pay a price for it.

Robin Kaye

We hope that people from various walks of life will share their diverse experiences and inspire other people to tell theirs. The collection of stories is intended to offer a unique window, simultaneously broad and intimate, into the human impact of the cost of living in the islands.

The collection of stories is intended to offer a unique window, simultaneously broad and intimate, into the human impact of the cost of living in the islands.

In the course of writing and editing much of the Living Hawaii series, I have spoken with a lot of people to discuss their struggles or those of their family members in a state where costs have risen sharply and salaries have stagnated.

There is clearly substantial interest in explorations of the ways this all plays out on a human level, especially when it comes to stories that highlight the need for business and policy-making responses.

We will continue to search out solutions to the Gordian knot of high costs in our Living Hawaii series.

Writing Inspiration

So, what sort of stories are we looking for? Here are some ideas to get you going:

We’re looking for personal stories from people in their 20s about the challenges of becoming (or remaining) independent on starter incomes. Or what it is like to return from off-island schooling and try to overcome the many cost-related life challenges.

We also want to hear from people of any age who have been jolted by some external force, like health problems, and how you have responded to that.

And if your rent is too damn high, tell us how you have made things work out. If you feel like the cost of living might force you off the islands you love, or if it already has, you can tell that story.

Are you looking toward retirement and trying to figure out how to face up to the challenges?

Have you dramatically down-scaled your life, perhaps by moving into small or even tiny homes?

The stories don’t have to be big picture. You can write about your efforts to understand your complex electric bill and why the power company charges so much here, or the lengths you have gone to lower your bills and get off the grid.

What personal and financial sacrifices have you made to be able to live here in the islands?

We aren’t just looking for bad news. We’d like to share your stories, ideas and innovations about facing off, and even beating the odds, in dealing with costs. These stories don’t need to be heavy; after all, happiness doesn’t directly correlate to wealth.

Many different stories will be welcome to get our cost of living story hub going, and to inspire other stories that will follow.

The Practical Details

Your story needs to satisfy certain basic criteria. Most importantly, it should add to the discussion of the cost of living and it must be true. We expect the same civility as we do in our comments.

No anonymous articles, please. We’ll need your real name, a photo and a brief bio. Feel free to send photos that help tell the story. Video is also welcome.

Try not to go over 800 words. Even 500 words is a great length to tell an engaging story.

Be clear on the story you want to tell — and why other people should care.

Send your stories to me at epape@civilbeat.com. I’m also glad to answer questions.

For further inspiration, check out the ongoing Living Hawaii series and feel free to join the social media conversation in search of solutions in our new Facebook group, Living Hawaii.

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