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THE IMMIGRANT LIFE:SHOULDA GONE BACK TO JAMAICA FROM LONG TIME

 

 

By Susan Andrea Warmington

 

 

Thursday, October 09, 2008.

 

As I continue to mentally prepare myself to go home to Jamaica, my thoughts are bombarded with all the reasons why I stayed in the United States for so long.


Apart from the real and very serious problems of crime and economic struggles that
Jamaica faces, these were not the true reasons why I overstayed my time in America. I may have convinced myself that they were, but they really were not.


One rationale as to why I made myself stay here was because other people told me that that was the right thing to do. I fed off of their fears and motivations and they would feed off of mine. So in collective moments of insecurity we would persuade each other that not going home was best.

 

As immigrants, we constantly exchange a communal panic with our fellow Jamaicans in the foreign places that we live in and with the Jamaicans back home. That dread of the happenings in the old country keeps us striving in our new one.


As immigrants we are always busily striving for something. We strive for a house, a bigger house, a car, a more expensive car. We strive for acceptance, belonging, college loans. I think all this working for and towards prevented me from pondering what I could have achieved at home if I had applied the same creative force there.


Most immigrants fuel their incentive to stay here with the acquirement of material things. I am no exception. In
America there is a ton of niceties to be bought. And you can buy them at all hours. I can get new bar stools at 3 AM in the morning. I had to assure myself recently that although that is convenient it is really not necessary. My family in Jamaica does not have such conveniences and survive just fine. They also have the time and social life to use their bar stools. Mine look nice, but remain empty props. Everybody is too busy striving here to come over for a visit.


One of my favorite reasons that I hear Jamaicans say they must achieve before leaving
America is winning Lotto. Do you know how hard it is to win the bloody Lottery? Yet some of us believe that is a legitimate reason to hang on. I am glad to say I did not get caught up in that particular one although I do on occasion take a gamble. After all, if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t have a chance…or something like that. Chances are however that while you wait unhappily for that to happen you could have been eating a nice fried Festival at Hellshire (Kingston, Jamaica).


This desperate need for something big to happen is a genuine threat to a Jamaican’s return home. Perhaps it comes from the need to justify why we left in the first place. We came here to achieve something great, and look, here it is…in your face! We have convinced ourselves that if we have not achieved astounding wealth or celebrity status then you cannot possibly face the folks back on the
Island. Lucky for me I am a household name…in my own household.


This frantic desire for attractive attainments, which may even be a reflection of others wants and not necessarily your own, is where the bigging up of oneself starts. As an Immigrant you may not have as much as people back home automatically assume that you have, so you struggle on to prove to yourself and others that you are indeed living the glamorous life, or so at least the place can look stush when your relatives come to visit. The relatives then can go home and brag about how well you are doing in Foreign. And the myth perpetuates itself. Never mind that you ran up some serious credit card debt, or returned half the things after they left.

For me personally, bigging up myself is futile. As a working Artist, I have resigned myself to having money sometimes and just getting by at other times. I will share with anyone in a heartbeat that the immigrant life is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Yet, I remained here so long. Why?

I realized after sorting through the multitude of incentives of why I stayed way past happiness and wasted 24 hour shopping, that one cause stood out glaringly from the rest.

I was waiting on people to tell me it was OK to come home!

Wait! …not me!…Susan Warmington who has always been strong enough to do exactly what she wants…waiting for family approval, friend approval… something in the news approval, …somebody’s approval for me to go back to my own country?…no way!

But there was the ground in all its dirty glory.

As this new awareness has hit me squarely in the face, I am determined to remain stalwart and not be unduly or subconsciously influenced by what others are saying or not saying about my plans to return home.

And when I start to feel a little nervous about living in
Jamaica again, I sit down on my bar stool and drink a Red Stripe.

Editor's note: To be continued. Susan Andrea Warmington is a Jamaica-born artist, she blogs at Francismove.

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