Updated: Dec 4, 2019
A photo series discussing generational traditions and setbacks experienced on the path of a young person navigating adulthood. Realizing traumas passed on and recovering from the mistakes of a conditioned mind.
Were you taught to-self love? How do you feel this has affected coming into your own as an adult?
"I was, but not in the traditional sense that most people think of. Majority of people think self-love is putting yourself first because "you're all you've got." I was taught self-love as a kind of survival tactic for navigating through society. In my parents' mind, self-love meant self confidence, and self confidence meant that no one would come for your 'gig" technically. Self-love wasn't necessarily knowing my self worth, and that's what I fell like I'm missing so fucking much coming out of my teens and being in my mid 20's. The fact that I lack love for myself, I searched for that love for other people to give to me. I was in a truly poisonous relationship that lead to me being sexually assaulted for two years. I sought comfort in alcohol which lead to my addiction and other self healing habits, and I had multiple suicide attempts because I felt I wasn't worth anyone's time, family included. Not being taught the true meaning of self-love in my early adolescence completely fucked me as an adult... But, I am going through sort of a reprogramming stage in my life, so there is hope on the horizon. I'm hopeful."
Do you feel like your cultural upbringing in America hindered your ability to feel confidence?
I kind of got both sides of a really bad joke. Caribbean people, especially Jamaicans are extremely judgmental. The worst part of that is the criticism isn't given in private. It's given in front of your siblings, aunties and uncles; kind of reminiscent of a public shaming. So getting that from your family is jarring, but not life-altering. Now the other side of that joke is me going to a predominately white school, living in Wellington that is 90% white, and being one of the only brown kids in school. The bullying was relentless. It's not what bullying is now where someone says something stank to you on Instagram and you can block them. This is constant, in your face harassment. Pulling out my braids and bubbles in my hair, pushing while being called a "nigger", comments about my skin color: "ugly", "unusual", "strange", "why are you talking like a white person?", "why are your lips so big and pink?', ape noises, everything. Growing up with that for the better part of a decade does something to you. I devalue myself. I continue to criticize myself when all the white voices stopped. I'm my own bully."
How has the expectation of growing up in a Jamaican household affected how you interact with love interest?
It's really strange. Jamaican self care, appearance, and upkeep isn't for yourself. It isn't something you do to make yourself feel fantastic. It's for another person's enjoyment, rather than your own. It's going to the nail salon for a man. Going to get your hair permed because men only like straight, long hair. It's using bleaching cream to look lighter and eliminate imperfections. You do everything to your face and body to either attract a man, please your man , or keep your man. I wore "Big Apple Red" by OPI for two years straight because Izzy said he liked it a handful of times. I was conditioned to think "I need to do this to be loved" and it's sick. Even when it comes to being intimate with Izzy, I'm self conscious if my belly looks bloated or if my stretch marks are prominent because I was taught by my culture that it's undesirable. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have a support system as an adult to alter that toxic way of thinking, but young ladies, especially people of color, need to know that self love is doing what makes you happy, regardless of who's looking. That's a gift that only you can give to yourself."
Do you feel like past mistakes have any influence on some insecurities you may feel today? How did you recover from them?
"My past mistakes haunt me every day. It's something that I have not yet recovered from and maybe never will. What I've learned is that is doesn't define me. It may influence my decision making, but they're mistakes that I am now comfortable with. Mistakes I've made that I've been forgiven for, have driven me to almost kill myself twice. I've come to terms with chalking it up as a learning experience, using it as a tool for when I raise my own humans, but in a way, it's things that will follow me until God calls on me. I'll never recover and that's okay."