"Every time I go back to Jamaica, I develop new eyes, new ears, and continue to learn lessons about my own culture and self."
I truly believe that travel is one of life’s greatest gifts. Change is inevitable when you immerse yourself into a completely new environmental context or way of living. Through cultural contrast, the steady process of self-understanding and self-identification begins. Every time I go back to Jamaica, I develop new eyes, new ears, and continue to learn lessons about my own culture and self. The things I found repulsive have become beautiful—I can now listen to the words I would’ve turned a deaf ear to for their true power and value. You truly underestimate the greatest aspects of day-to-day life when you simply know nothing else—crystal-clear waters, endless sunshine, the birds chirping at dawn and the crickets at dusk. Apples, mangoes, and breadfruit, all from your backyard trees, the slight noise from your ceiling fan, or the booming speakers from the “bashment” down the road. I feel life wasn’t as complicated, so how could I fail to recognize that I was living in paradise? These are the things I miss the most, but there is a lot of poisoning on the inside that is unfathomable to the outside.
The divisiveness between communities, due to color or class, is simply a matter of mental programming and social stigmas instilled in the youth from a very young age. It hinders integration, fuels ridicule and undermining of one another, and unfortunately sticks with most throughout their lifetime. These are the bridges that need to be burnt and are the barriers that prevent the unity we want to see in Jamaica. The way I once perceived Jamaican society has totally faded. I have a fresh perspective of my island through viewing the world from a wider angle. I am now free from the fear and preconceptions I witnessed and sometimes learned while growing up. This project enabled me to really analyse what I considered true Jamaican style to be—pure, unapologetic, filled with personality, and something of its own. It is not a tailored version of anything else. I drove around every day, sometimes walked, keeping my eyes peeled for looks that I felt really depicted Jamaican expression. The topic of style built a bridge for conversation, insight, laughter, and jokes between the subjects and myself. Living there for 19 years, I believed I knew it all, but living abroad has only shown me that identity is continued self-study. My arms are wide open to Jamaica with loving embrace, and I cherish my indelible, distinctive culture and home as the grand element of who I am.