Travelling, I find, helps one discover, not only the world outside, but also the world within. And as this discovery develops for me, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself and my identity when mingled with so many others.
I was born in a little, but very well-known, island called Jamaica.
I lived there for the first 8 years of my life, then moved a lot more north with my family in the hopes of gaining a more advanced education which could provide me with a better future.
Now, while I appreciate my life to the fullest, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I am not so very grateful for the life I have been provided with by my parents and their hard work and dedication, I am constantly in an identity battle with myself and others around me.
I identify myself, essentially, as a Jamaican since that was my place of birth, where my roots have been sowed, and I am very proud of it.
Yet, every other day, it seems, I am being told that I am not a Jamaican (mostly by those that are not even of Jamaican descent).
They use stereotypical characteristics like the accent with which Jamaicans speak, the attitude with which all Jamaicans are supposed to exhibit, and certain activities all Jamaicans are supposed to partake in to classify a Jamaican’s true authenticity.
As a Jamaican thrust into the frightening diaspora of the young North American life, I could do nothing but adapt to my surroundings. Adaptation, which was subliminally imposed on me by some of my new neighbors and fellow classmates after I moved, seemed like the most plausible key to survival.
Still, what one comes to realize as he or she grows older and is exposed to so much more, is that when you adapt, you lose something that was once there before.
So a lot of my Jamaican habits and mannerisms that would give me a “better hand” at the Jamaican-authenticity test, were lost as I tried so desperately to fit in in order to feel comfortable with my new home and myself again.
And with that comes my ongoing frustrations with my identity and its unnecessary importance to people who really shouldn’t be all too concerned about it.
It’s amazing to see how swiftly stereotypes glide over seas and beyond borders, without so much as a question of their truths.
Still, I must remind myself that I shouldn’t worry about what others think, because they don’t do it too often.
I am who I am, and as Shakespeare says, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
The world is how the world is, and as I lose my innocence yet manage to gain some wisdom, I must learn to accept and move on from the things I do not have the power to change.
Music for the Moment: