When my father plucked his entire family from Manchester, England and transferred us to the center of the island of Jamaica, he had no idea he was creating a lifelong dilemma for me. I am frequently pulled between two shores: the beautiful exotic island I grew up in and the severe, mysterious mountains of North Wales. Throw into the mix a little culture clash, a contest between languages, the added pull of family and friends separated by an ocean, and you may begin to understand my personal tug-of-war.
And the joke is that I live in neither location, but have settled for the flat swamp lands of South Florida, surrounded by a different group of family and friends. But the beauty of life is that I am able to relish both of my loves, and am able to visit both areas. I get a chance to top up my spirit and soak in the views, vibes and love of both regions, energized and revitalized. Perhaps it is because I can only go for brief visits that I appreciate them even more. And perhaps, as I try to capture as much as I can when I visit, it inspires those who live there to appreciate their homeland.
I know I am not unique in feeling this ambivalence, this yearning to be somewhere else. South Florida is full of people who started out their life elsewhere in the world. Many do not have the means to visit their homelands, and can only dream of the scenes of their childhood. When you move away from family members, you cannot be there to share in family occasions such as weddings and births. Also, you cannot drop everything when family members fall sick, you cannot jump in the car to be with a loved one who is dying. Although social media and the internet provide instant communication, we are still stuck with the reality of actual separation and the longing it can bring.
What makes my case different is this duality, this appeal of the two countries. Before we moved to Jamaica, my family would vacation in Wales every year. We would go back to a tiny seaside village (Borth-y-gest, where my parents retired to) and camp in a field near the estuary. The mountains of Snowdonia could be seen in the distance (on a clear day!). My family tree originated somewhere in the heart of this rugged land.
Across the world, I fell in love with Jamaica, learned to speak patois, to run up and down in the bush, and gaze out from the fifth form block of Clarendon College at the mountains that surrounded us. I made lifelong friends and eventually gave birth to children who could trace their roots back to Clarendon and St. Elizabeth, and beyond.
On this first Friday in January I am giving thanks for this duality that sometimes has me feeling schizophrenic. On one side of the world I look as if I belong, yet feel like a tourist. On the other, I look like a tourist, yet feel like I belong! Fortunately I do not have to choose between my two lovers, I can enjoy them both, dipping into each from time to time, savoring the different flavors and textures of both locations. I do not have to give up any friends or family, but can keep in touch with all through email, facebook and Skype. And here in South Florida I can appreciate the melting pot of cultures where I have raised my immediate family. When I miss the scenery or the faces of those I love, photographs can prompt the memories and feelings we have shared.
With all of the leaps and bounds in technological advances, perhaps we will be able to flit instantly back and forth across the globe before too long. A flight across the Atlantic takes about eight hours, in comparison with the weeks’ long voyages taken 100 years ago. But for the present, I will continue to give thanks for the decision that introduced me to my dilemma. I will rejoice that I have the pleasure of belonging to different worlds instead of complaining about the confusion and tugging on my heart strings. It is all about perspective, and how you view your life. Sometimes it is the loss of people, places and objects that brings about a greater appreciation for the things you have.
Have a great Friday, family, wherever you are! May 2013 bring you blessings and health to enjoy them. May you appreciate what you have, and relish the memory of those you have lost. Thanks once more for being part of my extended global family.