My story is way too long to fit everything that has made me into the woman I am today into this small article, so I’ll compact it and speak only about how I got started. Give me your attention for a moment – I’ll keep it short. There is no doubt, that I have defeated the odds. I have proven many naysayers wrong, I have gone ahead and done the damn thing. My story is a captivating one – as most stories of people who have built a life from very little are. I like to refer to it as “From Nothing to Something”. I want to be a motivation to many young girls who are in my past situation and see no way out because all is not lost.
It’s a remarkable thing, to sit back and think of that “big forehead, dutty foot” girl from Big Lane, Central Village, you know, the one who surpassed all expectations and is out there now, striding her way through life. My mother’s words drift through my mind as I hold these thoughts, my heart bursting with the potential that burns in me. “What no dead, don’t bury it” she would say to me, because life is a mystery, you just never know where it will take you.
Growing up, I had many role models, many vibrant, adventurous people I would look up to and aspire to be like. My mother was one of these people. She is an inspiring person, and mother, one who has done everything in her power to ensure that her four children went to bed with warm, full tummies, and clothes against their soft, sleepy skins. This is something not easy to do when there is no father figure around. Her strength shines through, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is a woman who is loved and respected by many and is often referred to by them as “Motha”. This is the woman who I modeled myself on, one person I wanted to be like. I wanted to hustle as hard as she did, to reach, help and love as many people as she does. I wanted to be a boss just like her; to learn to hold my power, just like she does, like a constant warm glow.
It was graduation day, a beautiful sunny day. I remember the smiles, snapping pictures with our digital camera (in the days before the smartphone was a thing), and I remember all my friends and classmates asking each other, “So what are you going to do now that we have graduated?”
I paid no attention to these questions at the time because I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to hop on a plane and travel to the Cayman Islands to see my dad. And I did just that, experienced life in a submarine and had the vacation of a lifetime! But soon it was time to come back, and still, the question was waiting for my return. “So, what are you going to do now that you have graduated”?
Again though, the answer seemed so obvious – get home, and get to work! I had to find a job back home in Jamaica. The answer seemed predictable.
Upon returning to Jamaica and contacting my classmates, I was faced with “I’m going to college, I’m going to university, I am going to work”. Everybody seemed to have so many options yet this ‘work’ option was the only answer that was familiar to me. But the truth is, I had never begun to explore this realm of possibility. I knew nothing about universities; no one in my family had ever attended a university or college. I felt jarringly clueless – but only for a moment. Suddenly this prospect and I didn’t seem so remote. I thought, “why not go to a university too?”. My naivete was brought to a juddering halt. I learned that one has to apply a year in advance. A year? What planet had I been living on? Had I just never dared to dream? Where was I while everyone was talking college and submitting their applications? I guess I was too busy running my mom’s ever so busy restaurant and grocery shop. I often times rush home immediately after school to help out my mom, so there was not much time for chit-chats after school. Whenever I tell this story people find it unbelievable – how could I not know about college, but I just didn’t, that wasn’t the life I lived.
By some stroke of luck, I learned that Excelsior Community College was accepting applications. Unphased by the lack of preparation, I contacted my dad and told him my plan to go to college. He told me to find all the information I needed and that he would help me get started. And just like that, I applied, was accepted and started school. I was in college. Fate had again redirected me, in the strange motion of life, and I was not back home working a job – oh no, I was spending my days learning, connecting and building a new future. Or so I thought.
By the end of the first year, I had failed 3 subjects, I was dealing with a myriad of family issues and I was not going to ask my father for money to resit these subjects. So, I put my schooling on hold and started to search for a job. During this time, I encountered many difficulties, dealt with many perverts, and was even given the job as a manager or so I thought. That man had his ulterior motives and I was not with it. So, I signed up for the National Youth Service. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. This is where I met my mentor, a man I look up to, and who has helped motivate me to do well. This is where I figured out just how much I wanted to go to college, but this time, I knew what I wanted to study, I had found my internal motivation. Participating in the NYS program also helped me with 22% of my tuition fees, for all 4 years, which took a little strain from my dad.
How did I find my passion? After completing the National Youth Service, I was working at the National Works Agency, doing my six months internship. While working there, I was sent to the IT department, I was sent there for a specific task but during my visit, something intrigued me as I walked past the programmer’s desk. He was sitting at his desk doing something incredible, something I had never seen before. I was impressed. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was writing a programme. We chatted and I learned that he had studied at the University of Technology. Seeing my instant excitement and commitment, he told me to apply, and then wait to be accepted.
Today, I am happy to say, I was selected, I attended, passed and graduated in 2010. Immediately after graduation, I started working for one of the best companies in the world, and 8 years later, I am still working for 3M. I have also completed my MBA at Kaplan University, another major milestone achieved in my life. Two degrees for someone that knew nothing about university, quite an accomplishment I would say. A lot happened during this time. Tears flowed, sleepless nights haunted me, but determination and drive always ensure my success. I wanted to prove to all the naysayers that I was not just another young girl from the inner city whose fate was to get pregnant and have a lot of children and make nothing of my life as they predicted. Everyone had an idea of how my life would turn out. That was my push. Today I am pleased to say I have not yet reached my destination, but I am on my way. I am still hustling, and still trying to be as independent as my mom but until then, here’s to working for fortune 500 companies and leaving my footprints!