What do you call this?

My thoughts are scattered today so if my writing lacks cohesion and that irks you or causes dissonance of any kind feel free to step out of mind for now and return at a later date when I’d be more inclined to follow the rules of good writing and storytelling.

I’m a sceptic. I doubt things and people. I don’t believe anything is ever what it seems and I look at what isn’t being shown and listen to what isn’t being said. Scepticism has kept me sharp and protected me many times but there are days when I wonder what it feels like to embody an easy-going, naive existence. Today I’m thinking of death and deceit and celebrations I’d like to have but can’t because my resources are limited on this island. I’m conscious of my emotions and my capacity to wreak havoc with my words if should let them loose on those who are naive to my potential. Today I wish I wasn’t an emotional intellect. I want to be naive and do as I please with the protection of “I didn’t know that’s how you’d feel” to cushion the blow of any backlash my words would cause. But I don’t have that luxury. I’m too aware of myself and others to live such a reckless life.

Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death. Weeks ago I started writing a tribute to him but I can’t seem to finish it. I’m so angry with him for leaving us without warning. I hate that he fell in love and sacrificed his life for the woman he loved.  I wish she had died instead. I know that’s not what I’m supposed to feel. By society’s standards I should celebrate my brother’s heroic act and feel proud of him but I don’t feel that way. I hate that he drowned saving that girl’s life and I hate that his death corrupted the place where I’m most at peace. I hate that I don’t have closure because I couldn’t bear to see them pull his lifeless body out of the water so I didn’t go to see it, and now every time I go into the ocean I expect his body to bump into me as though he was never pulled out and never buried. I’m angry, bitter and sad. I want to scream at him and hit him so hard! I want to tell him how stupid he was to go into that water. I want to ask him if he thinks it’s fair that he broke his mother’s heart the way he did. I want to be the big sister that sets him straight and stops his foolishness but I can do none of these things nor be that big sister to him anymore because he left me. He loved a woman and chose to give his life for hers and didn’t care that he was shredding my heart to pieces in the process.

Today I’m tired and tomorrow will be worse. Wednesday, there’s a hope that Wednesday will be a better day (fingers crossed).

Beautiful Failure

Bullshit! I think it’s utter bullshit to romanticise failure; to paint it in some beautiful, nostalgic light which radiates hope in moments of disappointment and despair. And yes, I know there are hundreds of thousands of speeches and quotes and memes that tell us how great it is to embrace failure and I’m sure these concepts were coined by some ver brilliant minds, but I just can’t buy the whole “failure is beautiful” argument. I think if we were honest, truly honest with ourselves, we’d admit that failure is a stench we’d be happy to let our nose live without.

Have I failed at anything before? Yes. Have I learnt from my failures? Yes. Have some of my failures made me stronger? Oh, definitely. After answering yes to the last three questions do I think failure is beautiful? Absolutely not!, Hell no! NO NO NO NO NO!!!

I can admit that my response to my failures has produced beautiful results but failure in and of itself was never beautiful. Failure is dark and dismal, it has the potential to place you at the bottom of a pit and force you to find ways out or die. Failure is having your foot stuck in a bear trap with a pack of wolves quickly approaching and you feeling every thump of your heart in your chest while willing your lungs to intake air so you don’t faint from a lack of oxygen and succumb to what may very well be imminent death. Failure crushes you, even if only momentarily, and forces you into survival mode. So yeah, the results of bouncing back after you’ve failed, you being an overcomer and not allowing failure to define and determine your destiny, is beautiful, but failure, in an of itself, is ugly.

If I were to have my way I’d never fail, at anything. I’d be successful at every single thing I become a part of and I’d do a lot of great things because my successes would motivate me to do more and take on greater tasks than I did before. I know what you’re thinking:

“Akeela your failures can have that same effect if you let it. Once you’ve overcome failures you’ll know you have the power to overcome obstacles and that can motivate you to do better!”

True. Very true actually, but trying again after I’ve failed means focusing time and energy on accomplishing something I could have already accomplished if I hadn’t failed in the first place. And I’d never choose to continuously work on perfecting one thing instead of being able to focus that same time and energy on accomplishing something else, something greater even.

Am I saying it’s all doom and gloom after we’ve failed and we should never pick up the pieces and try again? Oh gosh no! I believe quite the opposite. I think when we fail, and our butts hit rock bottom, and we look around and only see darkness, and we feel hopeless, we should centre ourselves and try again. I think we should flip failure the bird and really kick ass at what we’ve set our hearts on doing. We should learn the lessons that failure teach, we should allow our journey to help develop our characters, but with all things being equal, we should acknowledge that failure is what it is, an ugly part of our human experience that we’d be better off without.

I’ve failed, I’ve tried again and I’ve failed again a thousand times over. I’ve failed, I’ve tried again and I’ve overcome a thousand times more. Failure has brought me both laughter and tears. Because of it, I’ve grown and evolved. I appreciate the potential for greatness after failure but I cannot, and I will not ever, regard failure as beautiful.

Vegan Vibrations

Can I tell you that I have no idea what the title of this post is really saying? I’ve learned that the best way to attract people to your online content is to give posts a catchy title and that’s where “Vegan Vibrations” came from. Don’t worry you’re not about to read a post that has absolutely nothing to do with veganism; quite contrary, I’ve recently become a vegan – more out of necessity than anything else – and I want to tell you about my journey so far.

First thing first, I hate this new diet! I am a food lover and a meat lover. I love eating meat, I love seasoning meat, I love cooking meat: I love meat! (almost as much as I love coffee).  But I love life more; I’m currently high risk for breast cancer (my mom has it and I’m currently waiting on test results for my diagnosis), and so it’s imperative that I change my diet. The funny thing is my diet wasn’t particularly bad before: Most of my meals were home-cooked, I hardly ate fried food, I ate a lot of vegetables and of course I exercised. Just goes to show that even when you think you’re doing enough there’s always something more that can be done.

So now I’m vegan and it’s tough. I should add some balance by saying it’s also a bit fun because I absolutely love cooking and trying new dishes so I’m enjoying that aspect of the journey. What I don’t like though, is the limited options I have when I go out to dinner with my friends. It’s so tedious having to settle for salads because there’s nothing else on the menu that caters to my diet. And yes, I could look for vegan restaurants but my options for that are limited and I’m a student on a budget in a foreign country.

On the bright side, I’m an optimist. So although I hate this change right now I’m anticipating that it will get better. I’m currently trying to find my niche – my go-to foods that I can make at any time – while trying to figure out which textures and flavours work well with each other. Hopefully, in a couple months my feelings of resentment will subside and I’ll be the all natural, vegan woman you can turn to for some great meal tips.

If you know of any great vegan recipe sites or if you have tips on how I can remain steadfast on my journey I’d love to hear them. Until then, it’s back to experimenting and adjusting through trial and error!

 

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One of my first vegan meals: Baby Spinach, Garlic Herbed Potatoes and Fresh Salad

 

Gracious Goodbyes

I don’t convince people to remain in my life. I don’t try to convince them to stay when they decide it’s time to walk away and I never turn leaving into a long drawn out emotional process. I simply accept that their season in my life is over and I let them leave. I know my position may sound cold and maybe even unrealistic, but my life experiences have brought me to this place and I’ve embraced it.

This wasn’t always my stance. Once upon a time I wanted people to like me, to genuinely like me and see me for the wonderful person, I think I am. So, I would work hard not to offend anyone and if someone pointed out a flaw in my character I immediately got to working on it so I’d be the type of person they could like. The problem with that though is how tedious it was. I could never catch a break because every time I “fixed” something or changed something, someone would point out something new that they didn’t like and I’d have to fix that too. God forbid somebody tried to leave me in the midst of “becoming a better person”, I would be devastated and depressed. That all changed a few years ago.

I had a friend that I loved dearly. She and I were friends for 17 years and we did everything together. I thought it was a perfect friendship; a space where I could be me and not worry about being judged or misinterpreted. I shared my joys, my sorrows, my shame, everything with this person. I let my guard down completely and I figured this would have been my best friend forever! Imagine my surprise and pain when one day I got an email from *Sandy highlighting everything she thought was wrong with me over the past 17 years and her analysis of how terrible a person she thought I was. I literally broke down. I was shattered and I believed every word she’d written because she was the person I thought knew me best. Words can’t explain the devastation and guilt I felt after reading that email. At that point, I decided it would be best if I let Sandy walk away because I was no good for her and she would be better off without such a terrible person in her life (me).

In devastation, I sprinted in God’s direction and I prayed, and prayed, and prayed to God for forgiveness for my wrong ways. I got up every morning and asked God to heal my friend’s heart before attending to mine because I genuinely believed I was wrong and that I’d been a terrible friend.  That continued for a while and it wasn’t until about 2 weeks later that God responded and showed me who HE thought I was. He reminded me of my growth and my heart for others and my intention behind my actions. It was only then that I realised that people will always have an opinion of me but that doesn’t mean they’re right. People will always want to leave for one reason or another but other people will come and life will go on.

That’s why I don’t fight to keep people around and I don’t force friendships or relationships to work. When the time is up I accept it, I embrace it and I allow life to continue harmoniously. Goodbyes are a necessary part of life and I embrace them. I allow them to happen and I respond graciously because I’ve accepted that some people are a part of my life for a season and when that season is over I can accept it and say a gracious goodbye or I could prolong it and risk the relationship turning into a toxic, bitter space riddled with resentment and regret. For me, I’ll always say a gracoious goodbye and leave room for the possibility of rekindling what we’ve let go of if we so choose later on in life.

Stop Licking The Cup!!!

 

 

 

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Me at Gatwick Airport, London; awaiting my flight to Thailand (2014)

I’m an avid coffee drinker. Okay, that’s a lie, I used to be an avid coffee drinker but I’ve been drinking less coffee recently (it’s no longer the first beverage I have on a morning) but I still enjoy a good cup of coffee during the day. In the past I’d have a minimum of 5 cups of this luscious drink a day with 3 of them being before 10 am, but now I’m down to one or two cups on a bad day.

 

My love of coffee transcends into my love of coffee shops. I make a point to visit cafés and coffee shops whenever I travel, much like persons who collect t-shirts or shot glasses on their adventures. For my trip to be considered successful and to say that I’ve had coffee in a particular country there is one criteria which must be met: I must have sat down and drank the coffee in the place where it was bought. Of course sitting down to coffee usually means it’s served in a beautiful ceramic cup, served by (hopefully) a perky but not too chatty person and ideally I’d get to sit close to a window where I can people-watch and savor the flavor of the hot liquid running down my chest.

Today, unfortunately, this desire has been challenged.

I visited Café Blue – a coffee shop chain in Jamaica – and I sat sipping a latte and studying for my final exam next week. Luckily I got a seat near the window on a high chair and there weren’t too many people at the shop to distract me. As I sipped my latte and tried to make sense of the information I was consuming I looked up and to horror I watched a lady lick the outside of her cup each time she took a sip! What the hell? Why would she do that? Why did I have to see?

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Wandered into a coffee shop in Frankfurt Germany for my birthday (2016)

I immediately started side-eyeing my own coffee cup wondering how many persons licked it before it got to me.

I know you’re probably scolding me inwardly for behaving like a germaphobe and some of you are pointing out the obvious – they wash the cups before serving other guests in them – but I couldn’t help it.

The thought of drinking from a cup that’s been licked by a stranger disturbs me. I honestly wish I never saw it because now I’ll probably only be comfortable drinking from “to-go” cups or I’ll become the weird lady at coffee shops who sanitizes the exterior of her coffee cup before consuming her begerage. This strange woman has caused me to revaluate what was a perfect relationship between me, coffee and coffee shops.

In trying to understand why someone would lick a cup in a public place I’ve concluded that maybe it’s as a result of force of habit or maybe she was so engrossed in her conversation with her companion that she did it absent-mindedly. All the same, I’d like to make a plea to public-cup-users every where; please, for the love of all things sacred, do not lick your cups!

Dutch Coffee

Coffee I had at a café in the Netherlands while working on position papers (2017)

Tap-Out Thoughts

I hate coming home. Not because home is terrible but because home is home and my heart is here and every time I sit in this airport waiting to board a flight back to Jamaica my heart breaks. Sometimes I simply want to stop – come home, write an email to my lecturers and tell them that I’ve changed my mind and I’m not coming back. My comfort zone is tantalising and alluring, constantly provoking me to abandon what I’ve started and return to the place where I’m happiest and unchallenged. I’ve put on a brave face for my family and friends, but my heart is completely shattered and my eyes have felt the sting of tears during this past week too many times for my comfort. This is my second trip home in eight months and just as the time before this, I’m contemplating tapping out.

I’m at a point in life where all that I’ve done so far can be compared to little pieces of a picture and while I imagine the final product will be something offensively beautiful I’m not certain what it’s supposed to look like so I can only hope that all the pieces will fit together perfectly in the end. I chased after academia because he seduced me and I gave in but now that we’ve laid together I look at him and question what about him was so appealing that I decided to leave home and pursue sleepless nights at his Cabana in a foreign land. Hopefully, this is a phase, and soon I would shake this sullen feeling and be back to my bubbly, energetic self; taking on new challenges and making my mark on the world!

For now, however I am sad and I wish I didn’t have to leave this beautiful island and my amazing family to go back to Jamaica.

Gov’t Bailout Feathers UWI’s Nest

THE EDITOR, Sir:

It is baffling that the University of the West Indies student body is celebrating the Government’s short-term solution of offering $300 million to final-year students being barred from sitting final exams. But I ask while the proposed bailout is much needed and graciously welcome, can we expect the Government to bail out final-year students every academic year? If the answer to that question is yes, let’s celebrate this accomplishment and give credit where credit is due and praise the JLP for answering the prayers of present and future UWI students.

If, however, the answer is no, I suggest we focus on the bigger picture and seek to find a long-term solution to this problem that has been plaguing students of the UWI for far too long.

The UWI is developing a track record for demonstrating that money trumps student welfare at the institution. In fairness, I agree that students should pay what is owed. However, the point at which the administration demands this payment clearly shows that the institution is more concerned with dollars and cents than it is with student advancement and development.

DELAYS

The cost to final-year students who aren’t allowed to sit exams because of outstanding fees greatly exceeds the actual figure owed to the university. Many of these students already have huge loans accumulating interest, and a delay in completion of their degree means delaying the chance for students to earn money – at least at the rate of a person with a degree, it means delaying when they begin to repay their loans and having to pay even greater interest on these loans.

A common consideration among many final-year students is to go on the travel-work programme and earn money to finish paying their tuition before graduation. The problem here is that the UWI has not taken this factor into consideration, and rather than withholding students’ transcripts or certificates, it chooses instead to act in a way that is detrimental to students.

The UWI’s solution to this problem is equivalent to wringing the hands of their impoverished students behind their backs while pressing them against a barbed-wire fence ensuring that they feel immense pain for even daring to owe the region’s premier learning institution.

REAL WINNER

So while the student body rejoices in this supposed win, the real winner is the UWI’s administration, which is now perched on a glorious throne, unconcerned about which students will benefit from the bailout, but resting assured that its bank accounts will definitely look healthier in the next couple weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, we applaud the Government for stepping in, but its involvement is putting a pretty bandage on a rotting sore. The system used to recover funds from students at the UWI is inherently flawed and there is the need for a better system to be established.

Akeela N. Marin

President, UWI Mona Debating and Public Speaking Society

 

The published article can be found here: The Gleaner