A Letter from a Jamaican Thinking About Returning
I have spent the last 17 years of my life working towards the American dream. By society's standards, both here and there, many would say that my husband and I have achieved it. The high profile careers with six figures coming in, the large single-family house, the cars, all tied in a bow for the family of 5 (3 children). Having now slumbered my way into dreamland, I find that I have awoken to the American nightmare many of us who took the same path that I did have come to know. I left Jamaica shortly after graduating high school. Not "in search" of anything, but because my father is American and I was moving on to higher educational opportunities which at the time (1991) were more abundant off island. I didn't know enough about "trying to make it" in Jamaica to dream of anything that would better facilitate that.
It was quite easy being lulled into the sweet sleep of corporate American culture and the daily frantic gyrations of American life. But what started out as climbing the corporate ladder soon became no time with the kids and even less with my husband. There may be those who say that American life does not have to be like that, but with expensive childcare, no helpers or limited access to anything of that nature, long commutes to and from work as well as family and friends… soon, routine takes over and quality of life goes down the drain… that is of course, if you ever had any.
Although I have the conveniences of a 24-hour Wal-Mart, the ever current Target. The massive malls with endless shopping opportunities and the wide highways with no potholes – a grand quality of life is still wishful thinking.
On my visit to Jamaica last year, as I eagerly debated living in Jamaica vs. living in US with some friends, one of them commented that Jamaica was "on the cusp of greatness". I'll never forget those words, because I strongly agreed with them then and still do now. The individual who made the comment was later shot by a thief who was attempting to rob his sister. Thankfully, he was not killed, however it brings me to my next point, which is the paralyzing effect that crime is having on the Jamaican dream. In effect, crime is the demon that has invaded the sweet sleep that was once Jamaica. And those who are feeling the poverty that hard life on this island inflicts find other outlets to meet their thirsty lips, hands, pockets… dream deprived sleep.
Despite the madness lurking on all corners, hillsides and gullies, I still believe that my Jamaican dream is yet to be realized. Maybe it's just the naivety of having not lived here for 17 years. Many Jamaicans who I have shared with that I am considering a move home have asked… "are you crazy?", "why now?"; the most positive reviews I have received seem to come from those who either have wealth enough to enjoy the higher points of life in Jamaica, or those who have placed their security in a higher power other than King Alarm.
And what is my Jamaican dream… well all the things that you spoke of in your article - better quality of life for my family, a challenging career, my own business, house in town and one on the coast… and much more. But to put it even more simply… give me a cool breeze rolling off a waterfall, a lush garden, sunrise on a beach and a nice water jelly from the man on the corner. I'll take that over a 24 hour Wal-Mart any day! I am a Jamaican at heart and that's where most great dreams begin. So let's start dreaming!