Remember Becca? Well, she recommended Kecia to me. The funny thing is that I had already met Kecia through Betsy at a Community Conversations meeting. And I met Betsy through an assignment I got from The Source. I just love tracing connections back! And now Kecia and I have our own history. I am keenly aware of the access this project grants me and I feel very honored that so many lovely folks have agreed to meet with me - Kecia included. She's got a great laugh and a powerful mind. I get the impression that she's been thinking pretty hard about so many things for a long time. If you listen to the audio, you'll hear her take pauses while she's thinking of the right thing to say or the right way to phrase something. I love it when people communicate with intention. Thanks so much, Kecia!
Who are you?
Who am I? There's the statistics of: I'm Kecia Larissa Harumi Kubota, I'm 47, mother of two beautiful children, the partner of a husband. I'm a lot of things and have enjoyed seeing how I morph over my life. When I was little people would ask, What do you want to do when you grow up? and I said I want to be a peacemaker, I want to create world peace. I still consider myself a peacemaker. And it's morphed - what that means and how that looks. And sometimes I've had real identity crises over not because I didn't become a diplomat with my international relations degree. I'm not making world peace, which was really my goal originally. But along the way, I realized that really the only way we're gonna have world peace is, as cliché as it sounds, one person at a time. And that it has to start with our kids. That if they're not growing up to be positive expressions of themselves in the world, we're not gonna stop wars, we're not gonna end world hunger. So I really early on realized that you just gotta start one kid at a time. I really intentionally stepped back from... I don't want to be a diplomat negotiating! because that's when it's already too late. I shifted my focus in graduate school to youth development and see that as my purpose. I'm a talker, so I'm gonna go waaaay off on tangents from the questions. So, who am I? Right now, I'm Executive Director of Camp Fire Central Oregon and it's my way to try and help youth discover their spark and become the best versions of themselves as a way to create more world peace.
Where do you come from?
Born and raised in Hawaii. But lived a lot places. Come from a mother born and raised in Mississippi - and a lot of culture that came with that - and a dad of Japanese decent, born and raised in Hawaii. I feel very connected to my parents' heritage. When my mom left the South to move to Hawaii when she was 25, it was really choosing a different culture for herself. So, grew up as a hapa haole, what they call in Hawaii someone that's half white and half something else (laughs). That's a lot of shaping who I am. As is typical of a lot of ambitious people in Hawaii, I moved away for college. I've lived in Southern California, I've lived in Germany, I've lived in Vermont, I've lived in New York, back to California until Bend. And so Bend now for 15 years - feels like home.
What brought you to Bend?
Family. My brother's lived here even longer. My husband and I were down in Santa Barbara and when we were expecting our first, we knew Santa Barbara wasn't the place we want to raise our kids. We didn't want to live in a very tiny studio apartment to raise our kids, so we relocated up here to be near my family. And once I got here, my mother in Hawaii still said, Alright, both my kids and grandkids in the same place - and she's moved and since then, my husband's parents have moved here and then we moved my dad here from Hawaii. So we kind of all gathered to be with family.
What does community mean to you?
Wow. Well I've been involved the Community Conversations project and it's been really interesting to explore all the different levels of community and how we would define community. And I do see it on all levels and I think it's really important to respect how many different aspects of community we all are involved in. I think community should be affinity groups and whatever that means for a person. Sometimes that's physical location, sometimes that's areas of interest, sometimes that's political, philosophical, spiritual alignments - all of those become our communities. There's a community right here in this building - BendTECH co-working space, right, is a community. Eh, I'm somewhat affiliated with it. But community can mean so many different things and I think that's the beauty and the challenge of the word. And why some people can feel really connected and others disconnected. It's maybe a lot in the definition that we choose for what community means. I think there's the communities that we inhabit, physical or otherwise, and then I think there's really this ideal sense of a community that everyone sort of aspires to. It's a lot more nebulous, I think, to try to figure out - it's about longing for something that we don't have. And it's always gonna be somewhat idealistic, I think.
What do you appreciate most about this community?
It's interesting because I think when you ask a question like that, maybe it's just me, but I think it's probably most common to associate that with a physical, geographical community that you live in. What most top of mind when you ask the question and knowing that it's open-ended, what comes top of mind is just feeling that sense of community in a big sort of a How do I go in and out of my day? And so it's We are all floating through, whether it's you're on the parkway and you're like, Oh my gosh, there's so much more traffic now than there was five years ago! Right, this community is growing (laughs). Or walking in Jackson's Corner and, Oh, all these people that smile and they know my name when I walk in the door! Love this community, you know? So what do I appreciate? I think as far the physical community, I appreciate the love of the outdoors and how important that is to the majority of the community. I appreciate that there's an intrinsic goodness in the community as a whole. And that there is a lot of desire to make sure it's a very livable community. And it's not to say that we're there yet. But, you know, there's Bend2030 project, there's all these kind of different movements and collaboratives. That's really intentional. We want to make this place a great place to live. That striving to be conscientious about how we grow, be conscientious about where we're headed - is something that I really appreciate. Lots of things I'd like to see different. Coming from a community in Hawaii that was so diverse is something I miss here.
I'm having a hard time with the question! I'm trying to place myself. Which community am I talking about? Or which community do I associate with? And which community right now do I appreciate? It's hard, you know, not that there's negatives, but sometimes I think it's that sense of the placement of, right? I can have my family, with bringing so many people in my family to the community, and we'll have family dinners. I know it's pretty awesome to have a family community of 15 people in town! A lot of people don't have that kind of luxury. And then there's other times when it's so easy to feel so disconnected from other aspects of our community.
Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?
I was just thinking about this the other day. Is there... I'd be really curious about the sort of urban development - at what point in the size are there things that just end up? What is that point? I feel like there is this sort of this critical mass where you start to lose control. Or individuals start to feel less control of the ability to shape a community. I don't think we're there yet, but I was really thinking about that the other day. It's interesting from the nonprofit and applying for grants... Bend is one of those weird outliers where it's like there's rural money, right, and yet we're not rural, but we're not urban. What's Bend? We're kind of this little urban in the sea of rural. I like learning from others, so as far as Bend's growth, I do think it's inevitable, you know? Bend Sucks Don't Move Here bumper stickers is not going to keep people away (laughs), right? It is beautiful. And there is so much to offer. It's kind of interesting because so many people that say they don't like the growth, myself included - sometimes I'm just like I hate the traffic! - but man, I'm so glad for the variety of restaurants we have. And I'm so glad for so many things that would not be part of a smaller... we wouldn't have those things in a smaller community. Right? We wouldn't have this amazing symphony orchestra here if we were much smaller. There's so many things that only a certain amount of size can sustain. And we appreciate those things, then you gotta take the good with the bad. So, how do I feel about Bend's growth? I think I appreciate that there are a lot of people in the community that are very consciously caring about what it's gonna look like in the future and trying to develop it in healthy ways, in sustainable ways. And I appreciate that they're putting a lot of thought into making it more accessible instead of more exclusive, too. I think that it could be going in a really different direction and not being nearly as accessible or welcoming to... they're consciously thinking about transportation, they're consciously thinking about affordable housing. There's a lot of communities that that's not what they put as priorities in how they grow. That's something I really appreciate.
What do you wish for the future?
One of those big, open-ended questions! My future, the community's future? World peace? World peace comes back down to the individual. I was just having a conversation with my board of directors - everyone is so busy, you know? And everyone has the best intentions of the things that they want to do. Serving on a board as well as working hard at a job and being the best parent that's always at every activity for their kids. And the world is just like, Ughh. The technology and the pace of information that's just bombarding us all the time. It's scary to think, you know, that's a fast track train to the future. And yet I sometimes wonder whether... what I hope for the future is that we can figure out a better balance to that. To innovations in technology - doesn't mean that we're plugged in as much as we are as a society. And to slow down. It shouldn't mean that, Oh, now we can work 12 hours a day. You know? Again, bringing it back to I do think there is clearly a connection between world peace and individuals that are feeling so stressed out, so overworked, so on that treadmill rat race of I'm just trying to make ends meet and I gotta work more and more hours to do that and then I've got more and more distractions. I'm hard on myself, you know? I'm not the best mother that I want to be in my ideal world, in my ideal future. I'm not the best mother I could be. I'm not the best executive director of a nonprofit I could be. I'm not the best physical body that I could be. And I'm hard on myself about all of those things that I'm not doing well. Without focusing on what I'm petty damn good at, you know? Every single person's feeling that - okay so maybe not everybody, but it feels like the common man is. So all of that does start leading up to why an ideal community or society or world peace feels very unattainable. That's sounding kind of dreary. So what do I want for the future I think is as a very greater society feeling like we can come back into balance with priorities. And care for our physical and emotional and spiritual well-being. And how all of those play into the health of our communities, whichever ones we inhabit.