As of this weekend, I’ve officially lived in my community for one year. I’m not sure this is a significant milestone in terms of anything other than the earth’s rotation around the sun, but it does force a certain comparison. Specifically, how is the Sarah today different from the Sarah one year ago? Here’s some self-reflection for you, Jamaican tested and approved.
- I will sing out loud, no matter who’s listening. I wrote about how Jamaicans will sing out loud, no matter how polished the voice. One year in, every time I’m in a taxi and a favorite tune comes on, I’m 100% not ashamed to say that I sing to it, and not just in my head. Jamaicans usually say nothing, and sometimes, they even smile and join in too. And I’m not gonna lie: I want to take this practice Stateside, you know, just to see what people do 😀
- I wear clothing I wouldn’t wear in the US. Jamaicans often wear leggings as pants, even if they aren’t completely opaque. I remember a few years ago saying that I would never do that. Well, you know what they say about ‘never’…
- But I still have my comfort zone. I have a couple of breezy dresses that don’t cling to my body; they are flowy and fitted only at the very top. I used to wear belts with these dresses. I no longer do because sweat is a thing- a thing I don’t want all over me. Bring on the flowy dresses!
- I determine my health. Jamaicans often comment on my body based on what I’m wearing. If I’m wearing the aforementioned leggings, they will say I’m fat or that I’ve gained weight. The next day, I might be wearing a flowy dress, and someone will undoubtedly say that I’m maga* or that I’ve lost weight. The point of these comments is not to break me down or be critical; it is with love that they comment on my body, and a way to say that they notice me and my wellbeing. With this in mind, I have stopped trying to see if these comments are true or not. I know my size, I know my body, and I know my health. Jamaicans may see something that is true or not, but ultimately, I know if I’ve been healthy or not.
- I’mma be my motivation. I’m fitter now than ever before. With Reggae Half-Marathon, and Jake’s Triathlon, I have motivation to run, to do yoga, and to exercise in new and familiar ways. With mountains all around me, and time on my hands (feet?), I’ve pushed myself to new levels of fitness, by completing a half-marathon and triathlon! Goals for next year: beat a fellow PCV in the half-marathon, and have a faster time in the triathlon.
- My body is beautiful. I’ve written about differing ideals of beauty before, from the Jamaican perspective that curvier is better, to the global obsession with batty. Perhaps because I am more physically active, I have embraced my body in new and love-affirming ways. I love that my hips jut out from my waist. I love the freckles on my shoulder that I got from an ill-advised sun poisoning in Sydney at the height of summer. I love the bump in my nose that both my parents have. Though beauty standards and body shaming exist in Jamaica as well as the US (and everywhere else), in the past year, I’ve realized what an intangible, fluid concept beauty is. It is formed and shaped by so many forces that I will never be beautiful to everyone. But I can be beautiful to me, and that is the most important thing of all ❤
- In the end, it’s all relative. I’ve lived in different cultures before. I know that one country’s concept of right is another’s worst nightmare. I’ve seen people wait in line for a bus as if their lives depended on it, and I’ve been pushed off a bus simply because I didn’t elbow my way on. So much of life we cannot control, but then, we can always control our responses. So even though I may have loudly complained that, “the pickney** rude” when they prevented me from boarding the bus, I also took a deep breath, bought a chocolate milk, and waited for the next bus. I mean, really, what else could I do? And that chocolate milk was gooood 😉Irie Beach Bar, Trelawny
*maga: too skinny