Nevertheless, She Persisted
If there's one word that comes to mind when I think of Lailani, it's American. Both sides of her family hail from a variety of heritages and ethnicities, coming together into a conglomerate of stories and backgrounds. When asked about those specific identities that make up her genealogy, Lailani mentioned the following: Hawaiian, Dutch, Indonesian, Scottish, Native American, German Jewish and French. Balancing all of those identities, turns out, is pretty challenging.
Although her birth father was out of the picture for most of her life, Lailani's mom raised her to value both sides of her parental heritage. She took the time to research and learn about her father's many identities, and teach herself its' cultural underpinnings and values.
Lailani was very active and fit as a kid. Her favorite memories during her childhood were being outdoors and exploring. She's nostalgic about visiting the stable with her family, and learning how to ride a horse quite early on.
But then cancer hit her, and unfortunately, it hit her hard. Lailani went through three and a half years of chemotherapy, underwent sixty different surgeries, and was even in a coma at one point. The result of her trials and tribulations: an amputation of her left leg.
Cancer took away most of her childhood, but Lailani fought back. She got back to horse-back riding. She still tries to work out every day, eat healthy and run. Chemo and cancer have left their mark physically on Lailani, but now she's more driven and resilient than ever.
Lailani's ordeal has also instilled within her a desire to give back. For instance, she is a counselor at a camp in Arizona for kids that have or had cancer, a camp that she also attended when she was a child. She is also a strong ally for the LGBTQ+ community both at her college nearby and for her friends throughout the Santa Fe area.
While she doesn't necessarily like the term "social justice warrior", Lailani does use the term to describe herself because she believes she is fighting for everyone's right to exist.
Her belief in equality and fairness informs her political leanings as well. Lailani considers herself left-leaning, primarily because she believes that many of those on the right are fighting for select interests and not taking into account the needs of the country as a whole.
Nonetheless, Lailani's story is one of struggle, persistence and belief — a belief in the possibility of the American experience. She works in filography, continuing to work towards making her life better, a quality that she believes is essential to be American.