You are Here! Why are you here?
It’s been said that no one living in Orlando is from Orlando. The first time I heard it, blaring from my hop-scotch car radio, I thought I had misheard. Was it really true? And then I had a few months there where everyone I talked to, from wait staff to car dealers, to business types making their way perilously on cobbled streets, to those working in the pacemaker that is Orlando’s tourist industry, would all hail from elsewhere.
And as if to shock me many would say something like, my girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/mother/cousin—you name it—is from St. Croix or St. Kitts or some other familiar Caribbean locale.
As an aside, I’ve met so many islanders in Orlando, I wonder if there is still a place in the world that we have not ventured and survived.
Having done the college thing in NYC, I’ve never been closer to home in a US State than I am now. For better or worse, it’s where I’ve settled down in married life and a small measure of adulthood. So when a multi-talented friend asked me point blank, “why are you here!?” in the aisle of the Barnes and Noble, I could hear the unfinished, ‘…when you could be there.’
I didn’t take offense. How could I when it’s a question I’ve often posed to myself. Fact is, the question is one of those daunting ones that very well could presume to take a lifetime to answer. It can cut at the quick and chaff depending on the one asking and your own peace with the process. “Why am I here?” or the more apt “Why am I here, when I could be there?”
Why are any of us here, when we could be anywhere else?
I love that anyone imagines the Caribbean as the place to be. Regardless that their fervor is much associated with the old tourism tag lines of sun, sand and sea. In fact, I would venture that these are the main things that most folks from the region take for granted. These are not the reasons we stay and they most assuredly are not the sum total of why we leave.
We stay for love of country and we leave for love of country. We stay as a matter of choice as much as circumstance; and we leave because it is an option as well as an opportunity.
It is only important to know that these decisions are not entered into lightly.
I’ve already mentioned my love and longing for St. Kitts. I miss it, I miss it, I miss it! But I’ve always been a bit of a rolling stone–and then circumstances conspired, and love came knocking, and before I knew it I was hemmed up.
So I am here, but I am myself. And I am able to contribute to the health and wealth of another nation because of there, and on occasion, as with DASHEEN and in my writing I get the opportunity to give back.
Now, here’s what some lovely folks that I am privileged to read and/or know have to say about being here, instead of there:
Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik of the must-read Afrobella: “I miss Trinidad because of my family, my friends, the food, the weather. But I currently live in America because of the opportunity, and because I found my true love here. I know this may sound strange, but from an early age I knew that my destiny wasn’t in Trinidad. I didn’t have the capacity or ability to be a doctor, lawyer, banker, accountant…I couldn’t do any of the jobs that guarantee success in my homeland. I wanted to be a professional writer and work in a fun, creative capacity. I was able to find success doing that here. I’m not so sure I could have done it there.”
Juli Garriques who lives in NYC and gets home to Jamaica about once a year didn’t mince words and I appreciated her candid response: “I’m here to make a better life for me and my family. I think 75 percent of the people who are here come because of financial reasons. You will not find a wealthy person who just ups and leaves their country and come to the United States. We come to make a better life.”
All the more reason I found Roy Jainandan’s perspective so enlightening: “I am here because of the Lord’s perfect plan…It does not matter where we live since our standard of living has not changed. I served as a pilot and Director of Operations for an airline for twenty-six years. This provided me with generous financial and other resources, and requisite skills to function in my present role… I now work in an environment with the best group of people that I know. As a family, we enjoyed a great life in Guyana and still do in Orlando, USA. We remain debt free… My two sons have (been blessed with) wonderful educational opportunities — my older son is in Dental School in an Ivy League university (University of Pennsylvania). My younger son is an undergraduate junior in college as well. We are able to travel and have vacations as we did when we were in Guyana. This all just to say that there is no change from our Guyanese lifestyle.”
“Culture and heritage are direction to help you move forward… Culture is a rock in a hard place.” Iyanla Vanzant — Acts of Faith
So why are you here, when you could be there?
Photo Credit: Jamming@Lake Eola, Roberto Mirand
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