I didn’t know where I was going, and I knew only one person. As you can imagine that is scary in and of itself…… I must say off bat, I could never have survived it thus far without my connections. Luckily, I had made sure no bridges were burnt.
At first, I was drowning in fear. How cold could it get? Could I figure it all out……where do I buy food? Where is the hairdresser, could I afford one? As I watched the train filled with commuters each morning and the cars going to and fro each day, I wondered if or how long it would take me? Where will I work? What will that be like? I literally was immobilized with fear and for those first few days I stayed inside, afraid of outside.
As the days passed, I got emboldened…….. enough to visit the mall and then I took the train. I started going to church and then I got a job- those two things changed everything. Aha moment……that’s how someone new, integrates and pass the days; but still, there was never a day I didn’t think of home.
Home for me is more than just a place, it’s where sunshine and warmth is, in more ways than one. It’s where my umbilical cord is, it is familiar turf…….I knew the places to avoid, how long to stay out, best places to eat, where to shop, how to get home, the genuine people, who to ignore, when and what to speak. Home means family and I don’t just mean the biological ones. They say……in prosperity your friends know you, but in adversity you know your friends. That was so true for me, because it was the transition that helped me to sift through the sands of friendship.
So now I have to make a new home…..especially because I don’t know when I will get to go home. The feelings that come from knowing that are raw and intense, there are so many things I long to do. Like just sit under a mango tree or go to a melon garden and eat to my heart’s content, listen to the storytellers who congregate in our thatch kitchen or under the ackee trees, go to 3 T’s and be entertained, visit Dee and get a belly full of laughter, hang with Fulhood and Blacks on the farm, visit Maria, Dawn and Millicia, jumping in the car to just go, visiting the sick and attending funerals, attending church and graduation ceremonies, shopping online to my hearts content, wearing the same clothes year round……….
Be that as it may, being away has been good albeit difficult, a paradox I know. I have to learn to control my life better and figure it all out, alone………..find things to do to that gives me joy, discover new passions, build financial austerity, find a new community not to replace the old one but to supplement and help me grow. Church has helped in this regard. I have signed up for seminars, courses and retreats, done bible studies and have had many many conversations……walking together and otherwise. I have been invited to lunches and dinners, given a ride to and from the grocery stores, picked up and dropped off on cold winter mornings and evenings, invited out to banquets and special events, offered furniture and clothes, taken to parks and fun activities………no we do not, we cannot make it alone.
I have had to put my foot forward too, had to reach out for it……I had to learn how to want/need something. I have learnt, re-learnt and reinforce many other things too.
1. Big splashy, shiny things, big events and big occasions are good to look forward to and does give joy, but don’t rely on those solely for joy. Joy must be found in the Small everyday moments that we CREATE, most notably when you serve others.
2. Not everyone who smiles and say hello is a friend, although it might feel that way in a cold and lonely setting. Take your time to figure things and people out. Its easier to stick to your own in a foreign land, that is good and bad. Good as you always keep a piece of home at heart, but bad as you miss the benefits of diversity. You may not learn or grow.
3. Learn to say No…….be selective, you cannot accept every single invitation, follow your gut.
4. Forgive people, the bigger the transgression, even better. The person who receives your forgiveness will almost never hurt you again.
5. Do not look back, keep looking forward. Looking back is good only to inform you on the future. According to Sheryl Sandberg, when Option A is not an option anymore…….kick the shit out of Option B and even C.
6. If someone, anyone even someone who is family, cannot find the time to say hello, well I wouldn’t waste any time on that person. Leave them be.
7. We are not only to be givers but also takers……give someone else the opportunity to give to you.
8. No one is indispensable……..you are secondary in neither person’s life………..even your parents. No one loves you more than God, not even your parents.
9. Timing is everything…..the right time will come and more often than not it is not immediately. Take time to clarify and prepare.
10. To quote a line from my favorite gospel song “never be too busy, to help a brother carry his load”.
11. God will give you new seasons, friends and opportunities but sometimes you have to be willing to make space for them. Learn to de-clutter…….and as Oprah says ” nothing happens until you decide” that’s what free will is all about.
12. Know thyself and be thyself……..if you don’t, then every shadow, doubt and situation will kick your butt. Don’t be like ‘ the man, the little boy and the donkey’.
13. Prayer is real and it works…….I don’t know about coincidences. Oh and there are many different types and forms of prayers.
14. You can form friendships without ever seeing someone in person, it’s trust that informs relationships. Love and connection are not spatially determined or time bound either.
15. A friend of mine told me this years ago, “bloom where you are planted”………. sometimes you have no choice.
16. You control your actions and reactions…..people do not have super-human powers, neither is blaming the Devil a good excuse.
17. Do not let others have to ask you for an explanation, preempt them and the sooner the better. Apologizing and speaking the truth on your mind are forms of therapy. And in that same breath, do not assume your assumptions are right…….just ask.
18. Be kind to self, forgive self, love self ……..start with self. Learn to laugh too.
19. No one is too broken to become whole again……..the world is replete with examples of people who have risen from ashes, who have been rescued from coal mines, and climbed out of dungeons.
20. Hope must never die………and we cannot live without faith. Suffering has a purpose.
21. Make the most of an opportunity, make the most of a day, even if it costs you a little more time and some more money…….do it. Everything is a cost benefit analysis.
22. The decisions we have to make are hardly clear cut…..you will always be weighing and measuring various options and scenarios, consequences and trade-offs……get over it that’s just how it is. Ask for help if you have to.
23. If you want to test your friendships…..stay together for a week or a month maybe.
24. Change is hard and we resist it……out of fear for the unknown. But change is also good, and the best part is if God leads you to it, just trust him. He can do way more than we can imagine or conceive (Ephesians 3 v 20) and he loves us. Furthermore in no time you will find a new normal. Just be deliberate and intentional in keeping the beautiful things in your life constant…..because if you are not careful those will change too.