There is a quote by Stephen Fry that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. He says that “temperance is wickedness”. The full quote is a commentary on life and how we should live it. He essentially believes that it is a shame to not try every fruit that life has to offer, and I couldn’t agree more.
I was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Jamaica is an amazing country, and you should definitely visit – but growing up there is a very stark contrast to visiting as a tourist. My mother had left school at 15 years old because my grandmother couldn’t afford to keep sending her. She decided to start working since school was no longer an option, and as it wasn’t legally possible for a 15 year old to work in Jamaica, she had some help from an aunt to forge her documents so that she could. She worked in factories and some brief stints selling clothes, flowers and carpets. And then at 19 years old, she had me. She continued to work in various jobs until around 23, at which point she decided that Jamaica didn’t have enough opportunities to live beyond surviving, especially if you didn’t have the money to get an education. Ultimately, she didn’t want the same future for me. So my mother left Jamaica many years ago, and landed in the UK to try and create a better future for herself and I.
I still have loads of memories of living in Jamaica, but as a child I didn’t see the full picture. All I saw was playing in the yard with my cousins, climbing the mango tree and eating gummy bears on top of a roof whilst we listened to the sounds of carnival. I didn’t see the sacrifices my mother had to make. She worked long hours and I didn’t see her often, my grandmother was my primary caretaker. And when my mother left Jamaica, I didn’t understand why. Everything seemed perfect and she had left me behind. I am grateful that I didn’t see the full picture when I was a child, because the weight of that would have been crushing. I am glad that I was able to enjoy my childhood innocence whilst it lasted because the world is not so forgiving once you get past the rose-tinted views.
Be grateful for the privilege that we have and don’t waste it. I am privileged to live in a country where there are so many opportunities. I am privileged to have a mother who was willing to leave everything she knew behind to go to a strange country and forge a life for herself and her children. I am privileged to have come from a place without many privileges, because without that it would be harder to recognise how goddamn lucky I am. And that is why I am always seeking out new opportunities and experiences. I could have ended up with a very different life, had it not been for my mother taking advantage of an opportunity which inevitably helped me flourish and thrive. I continue to endeavour to make sure her choice to uproot herself was not in vain. I put myself out there, and I say yes to new challenges because I am here to make the most out of the life I have.
We are so fortunate to be alive and kicking, especially in a time where it is possible to do so much and experience things that our ancestors could only dream of. Which is why I am such an advocate for taking advantage of every and any opportunity that presents itself to us. It’s important to go out and do things! – seize the opportunity before it disappears because there’s no guarantee it will come around again.
Open your mind to new possibilities, even if they are a little scary. Don’t limit your potential and say yes, because it is better to have regrets than wonder what if.