The Little Island Wanderer
At twenty, an age when most young adults are trying to figure out who they are, my mother gave birth to me. I grew up as an only child, being raised by a single parent. My mother was a young, black woman from a huge, poor family. She had thirteen brothers and seven sisters. My father on the other hand, who I later discovered had other kids, was a much older man. He came from a small, well-off family, had a Ph.D. and travelled often. In a real sense, I am the product of two distinctly separate worlds. At a very early age, I began to wonder who I would turn out to be. I was a talkative child, and always curious about everything around me. I was an observer; an over-thinker and most times, my imagination would get the better of me. I was the youngest of many cousins in my family. But as the “baby”, I often felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. I decided then that in order for my voice to be heard, I would write my thoughts down, and so my dream of becoming a writer was born.
To become a great writer, one must be a great reader, so I would read a lot. The further away these stories were from my reality, the more I enjoyed them. I gained a great likeness for authors such as Jane Austen, and William Shakespeare. I was captivated by the fact that these books took me to a different world. Playing outdoors was short-lived. Instead, my adventures were penned and my joy came from reading my stories to whoever would spare a listening ear. The older I got the more my writing developed. I observed my mother closely. I saw how hard she worked to provide for me to ensure I was not in need of anything; so I wrote about strong women. I watched how often my grandmother prayed so I wrote my views on religion. I listened closely when my friends spoke about their relationships, then I wrote about love and sex. I examined how my country developed, so I wrote about politics and culture, how I often rejected my own culture because everyone used the term “culture” as an excuse to get away with racism, murder, and paternal absenteeism. The more books and news I read, the more I realized, however, that there was so much more to life outside my tiny island, and so began my love and desire to travel. I am what you call a wanderer.
I don’t travel aimlessly however. I believe that God has blessed me with a purpose to use my writing to give a voice to the voiceless. Now, this hasn’t always been clear to me. It has taken me many years and a lot of detours to fully understand my calling. But, now at age twenty-five, my purpose could not be any clearer.
You see, when you grew up in a third world country with a small population and you tell others that your dream is to become a #1 New York Times best selling author, and journalist, they’re going to laugh at you. They’re going to tell you “you CAN NOT do it” and they’re even going to encourage you to “Give up!” However, I ignored them all and continued to dream as big as I possibly could, because I knew I could not spend my life being enchained by the circumstances, restrictions and lack of opportunity my tiny island imposed on me. I knew that in order to escape living an ordinary life, I needed to work hard and dream outside of my comfort zone. For years I would dream about discovering truths untold and publishing my writing. I was passionate, and believed it was my personal responsibility to report on stories worth hearing. This, however, would not be an easy task. I was only a small twin-island girl with a wild imagination and big city dreams. However, Mark Twain said it best, “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”. And so today I choose to do just that, as I no longer write in a little village surrounded by fruit trees and salt water. Instead, I now write from one of the many harbors of the East End.
To be quite honest, however, there was once a time, because of all the negative feedback I would get, I started to believe that I should just give up. I feared failure and proving everyone right. Then one day I got up and reminded myself that some of the greatest inventors of all time were often laughed at too. They were even ignored and some were considered crazy when they told others about their dreams. People tend to think that you are crazy when you have dreams of doing things that have never been done before. However, that never stopped them from pursuing their goals and it shouldn’t stop us either.
Last October, my best friend and I were involved in a car accident. Everyone that saw the vehicle couldn’t believe we survived. Two weeks later, two of my girlfriends got into an accident as well but one of them died as a result. Two years prior, my uncle passed away and it is going on five years now that my grandmother – the woman who raised me and taught how to pray, read and love –died as well. It is because of these extremely difficult experiences that I have learnt to appreciate life so much. This past year, I also left my job. I got denied from my university of choice and I moved away from my parents. Now the reason I mentioned all of this is to say that despite death, disappointment and rejection, I have continued to wander and pursue my dreams. My journey has now brought me to the legendary East End. Now one would question, how did a little island girl like myself end up here? Well the answer is, I decided to follow my dreams and it led me down the road less traveled.
I love to travel. I love meeting new people and visiting places unknown. I love being inspired by diverse backgrounds and learning about the history of cities. I spent a lot of time discovering myself that way. Today I visited a thrift shop and remembered what it felt like to be a kid in a candy shop, as I eagerly browsed through every shelf of the Ladies Village Improvement Society. To my complete surprise and amusement, I also discovered first edition novels written by some of my favorite authors. Now that’s the kind of joy wandering brings me. A few nights ago in Bridgehampton, I also had dinner at the same restaurant writers such as Truman Capote, James Jones, and John Knowles would frequent in the 1970s. Three months prior, when I first came to East Hampton, I also met one of the friendliest persons ever. Quite the opposite discovery to books and expensive restaurants, but still very fascinating, she inspired me in a way not many people have before. We met at Starbucks one night and she embraced me like if we’d known each other for centuries. I soon learnt that she was born in Mexico but hearing speak English so fluently; one would not have known that she recently learnt the language. She’s a single mother of three boys, a grandmother and a domestic violence survivor. But despite whatever hardships she may have faced in her life, her smile and hospitality never give it away. Now these are the things that make me know my journey is worth it.
It’s a far distance from the West Indies to the East End, and even further from where I want to venture next, but where ever I end up, I aspire to touch and be touched by as many lives and places as possible, because that’s what life is about. Every day I wake up with a new dream because I believe that no matter your age, ethnicity or background you can achieve anything you want in life.
I vow to always take the road less traveled. It is on this unpredictable road that I’ve learnt some of my most valuable lessons. I’ve learnt how to laugh at my pain, to overcome the gnawing panic of “what’s next?” and most importantly, to trust the direction God leads me. We all have different paths in life. Your story may not be like mine. But, if I can leave you with one thing, it will be to always believe in your own fairytale. Trust me, if this little island girl can reach as far as the East End and make it, then certainly you can make it anywhere too.