Jamaica

I challenged myself by taking pictures with only a disposable camera.

I have one essential piece of travel advice: enter without any expectations. This tactic will permit you to wipe your mind of any stereotypes and be more open to experiences. Naturally, before visiting a different country, everyone seems to have advice— mostly the places to avoid and things you shouldn’t do. All useful advice, that I often take with a grain of salt… not entirely ignored but at its core, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings and never put yourself in tricky places.

That being said, as I boarded my flight to Jamaica, accompanied by my close friend Idiatou, nicknamed Chum, I had zero expectations and loads of excitement. Contrary to the usual input, I had only heard positive stories about Jamaica, and after a particularly rough beginning of the year, we were in need of positive vibes. I sat next to a burly man, soaked in cheap cologne and dripping sweat. I said my hello and set up my nest, prepping music and pulling out my sweater. As I arranged myself, a gay flight attendant, who was sweet and noticeably flamboyant swooped down to our seats and asked if we needed anything. “No, thank you,” we all responded and resumed our activities. The flight attendant roamed around a few times and the snickering began. I began to hear comments about how gay he was and how ridiculous he looked/acted. The giant next to me tapped my forearm and pointed at the flight attendant and hypothetically asked with a heavy accent, “why is he like that?” a question that led him to chuckle and shake his head. I could feel my blood pressure rising at his ignorance and intolerance, and responded rather rudely, “who cares what he does?” He didn’t speak to me again. Many times before, I had heard Jamaica was an extremely homophobic country, often considered to be in the top ten of the world. I tried not to let this single experience spoil my mood and fell asleep rather pleasantly.

See you never.

Just my luck. At the age of 25, I have had my fair share of dating mishaps, but nothing beats my trademark— meeting a compatible partner, spending a glorious few days together (sometimes weeks, if I’m lucky) and then having to say goodbye because they either: live abroad, are moving, or were simply on vacation for a determined amount of time. When I was younger, the idea was exciting. You have two weeks? Let’s go to the planetarium and follow that by actual stargazing- late into the night. You’re leaving in a month? Why don’t we take an impromptu trip to NYC and you can meet my dearest friends- because my excitement of our seemingly deep connection prompts me to show you off. You only have a week… oh wow the options are truly endless. And I must say, every time it is exhilarating and adventurous, but the goodbye and the heavy trace left behind is emptying.

In my late teens and early twenties, this occurrence was thrilling; the idea of showing this being my particularly best qualities was a challenge that I always accepted with gusto. I knew the pain would come later, but— I would tell myself naively— the ephemeral happiness will soften the blow. And I do admit, after many years of being brainwashed by UNREAL rom coms and romantic teen novels, I always imagined my tenderness and caresses would overpower any pending responsibilities and by the grace of god the lover would uplift his life and be with me. Ha, how irrational right? Over time, slowly but surely, I began to accept this would never happen. I should never rely on a stranger to do that, because I myself would not. Yes, the time spent was nice (more than nice, excuse me) but never life changing enough to skew the course of one’s life. And why would I ever want it to be that way? Perhaps, the hazy cloud of the honeymoon period was too thick to clearly see who they were. And vice versa! They never get to see my impatient side, my insecurities, or even pick up on my mannerisms.

So here I am, at the age of 25, revisiting my relationships and questioning the wrongs and rights. Now that I have given this pattern some thought, I have concluded two things: 1. I am afraid of commitment but crave closure which therefore leads me to involve myself in these fleeting situations and 2. Long distance is awful and I am not built for it- guaranteed. Plus, a bonus 3. I have a lot of dating stories, which are often entertaining, but I am officially tired of this trek.

I am ready for someone to see the true me, not the idealistic cardboard cutout.

Ps: If you are thinking of advising me to date myself: I have technically been doing that for some time… and it’s wonderful! Every year I learn a little more about myself that always propels me to grow into someone better.

Pps: Being single is strengthening and stimulating in many ways and I highly recommend you spend as much time with yourself before your world gets a little more complicated with age.

Thought #11: Transition.

Excerpt from “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates:

“I was one wrong ticket from Vienna, Milan, or some Alpine village that no one I knew had ever heard of. It happened right then. The realization of being far gone, the fear, the unknowable possibilities, all of it -the horror, the wonder, the joy- fused into an erotic thrill… And at that moment I realized that those changes, with all the agony, awkwardness, and confusion were the defining fact of my life, and for the first time I knew not only that I really was alive, that I really was studying and observing, but that I had long been alive- even back in Baltimore. I had always been alive.”

Lately, I’ve been crying a lot. Silently, in solitude. I find pockets in my day and space to release the spillage of tears that build up from small reminders of South America. I constantly struggle with wanting to share everything with my loved ones and battle with fear of oversharing and borderline bragging. So I stay quiet. I quip about a few things here and there but not even I have encompassed the enormity of it all. 

I’m crying right now.