A couple weeks ago, Mana and I scheduled a walk in Forest Park. We met at the nearby grocery deli to snarf down a quick bite before hitting the trails. When we sat down to eat, a woman strolled by with flowers in one hand, and the leash to her golden retriever in the other. Mana asked the dog’s name and then the woman’s, next where she got the flowers, and who was to be the recipient. Forty minutes later we were sharing our table with a new friend; single, 70 year-old -who thinks she looks older than 70 years old- Debra, from New York, recent Portland home-owner, who found the flowers on the sidewalk and might put them in a vase on her bedside table.
Befriending strangers is standard daily behavior for Mana.
She lives for human connection and has this way of conversing, where I swear, her eyes seep through your skin and into your soul. When you talk, she listens. And when she talks, it’s like your family.
Because that’s what it was like growing up in her hometown Honolulu, Hawaii. She comes from a community with an untethered togetherness. And it goes even deeper than that. Mana inherited this compassion from the most influential person in her life, her father, Sri. As a child Mana watched with admiration as her dad treated his homeless surfer buddies with equal amounts of respect and enthusiasm as his multi-millionaire friends.
Although her dad recently passed, Mana carries Sri’s live-in-the-moment, follow-your-heart energy with her in everything she does.
Whether she’s scoring goals with the Portland Thorns, ripping waves on the coast, or befriending passerbys on the street, she lives with her heart. Everything else-the Forest Park walks and such-can wait.
Mana is an Arrow Liver.
Name: Mana Shim
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Profession: Professional Soccer Player
Years playing: 20 years playing, 4 years professionally
What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?
Check the surf. There was a big wave contest, I wanted to watch. They already surfed the final so I missed it. It’s okay though, I don’t follow the big waves tour as much as I do the regular tour.
What is your morning routine?
Wake up, and put on whatever clothes are most accessible and walk Kona (her dog), get home have some tea, make some oatmeal, read a little bit, feed the dog, cuddles on the couch with Maru (her girlfriend), then I’m off.
What did you love most about where you grew up?
The whole place. The mountains. The ocean. The people. I feel connected to the land and the place. I grew up feeling that these are my roots and these will always be my roots.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be here now. And another one, its a Hawaiian ‘ōlelo no’eau: Mai huli ke kua i ke kai….It means never turn your back on the ocean
Who is your definition of successful?
My dad for sure. He died with $50 dollars in the bank, no significant materials to his name. He just followed his heart and lived his passion and treated everyone equally with loving kindness.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I love human connection and magical moments.
Are you where you thought you would be at age 24?
Sure. Ya. In some ways ya.
How are you different than the average?
I am much more impulsive. And I approach life through an existential framework. And I think those are the only two things that separate me apart. Oh and I am not afraid to talk to people. Talking to people makes me so happy.
What habit contributes the most to your success?
My habit to follow whatever makes my heart sing. I’m happy when I’m doing something that I really enjoy. For instance, learning Spanish. In the moment I am learning, I am driven because I just really enjoy it. It makes the most sense to do it that way.
To me its the little things. If I choose to go surfing, it’s because I am so excited. I catch some waves and that’s a successful day.
How do you spend your free time?
Reading, walking in Forest Park, watching surfing, studying spanish.
What has been your biggest setback?
I don’t really see things as setbacks. It makes me think of life as a line that goes back and forward. I see it more of (she is making a circular motion with her hands) , theres not anything that can happen that can set you back. I also think that suffering is the greatest teacher. It’s all happening the way its supposed to happen. I don’t really set goals. I’m not a goal setter.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment?
Winning the 2013 NWSL championship because my dad flew out and surprised me. I got to share it with him.
Another time I think of, was when I was a kid surfing. There was this guy, Evan, who was a really good surfer. And I caught this incredible wave, and it was backhand whip, and I free fell and dropped and landed it. And that was, to this day, the best turn of my life. And I was beaming. I was by myself, and then Evan was like that was sick!! I literally thought you were Carissa (a professional women’s surfer) out there. A compliment from someone like that, who in my eyes is such a great surfer. I was on cloud nine.
What do you wish you knew as a kid?
That my dad was going to die when I was 24, because I would never have left his side. Literally. Hence my existential view on life. I would have surfed with him every day of my life. I just had this expectation that he was the one who was invincible. And that he was going to be the grandfather to my kids and meet them and take care of them.
What are your other passions?
I like seeing new places, but I don’t like the en route part, the actual flying,. I love sitting in nature, watching the sunrise and the sunset. I really love having someone to look after and be responsible for. I didn’t know that about myself, but having Kona, he keeps me in check, I need to always be there for him. He relies on me. I like feeding him, taking care of him, giving him love, making sure he’s okay. I also love runners high. I don’t like the first three or four miles before, but after that, I’m like yeah this is straight bliss.
What’s your dream meal?
Hawaiian Food. lau lau, kalua pig, poi, and lomi salmon.
Who are three people you’d ask to dine with you?
Probably my two sisters and my mom. At this point.
If you could trade lives with one person for an entire day who would it be?
Carissa Moore, just so I could surf like her.
If you could only keep five possessions what would they be?
A surf board, a pair of clothes to keep me warm, like shoes short, shirt, and a jacket. And my dad’s hydroflask, I need to have water for sure.
What skill would you like to learn and why?
Probably hit that free kick that Messi hit in the Copa America.