Writer, speaker, change navigator, wife, mother, Jamaican woman embracing lessons in leadership, life, and love.
It can be a daunting task to talk about oneself. What do I share? What do I hold back? But I am embracing this opportunity with a feeling of gratitude. I am happy to share with you a little a bit of my story and one of my greatest beliefs.
So who am I?
The first thing that I will tell you is that I am a proud Jamaican.
I was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica. I was orphaned at a very young age so my brother and I grew up with my Grandparents. They provided a loving home and everything that we needed but… here is the thing…
My Grandfather was born in 1899 so he was OLD School. He was also pretty advanced in age by the time we were growing up with him so there was a lot of discipline. Children were seen and not heard. A woman’s place is in the home. Education came first.
We lived on a cul-de-sac and I remember during summer holidays when all our friends were playing on the avenue racing up and down the street my brother Arizona and I were inside the house writing compositions and doing arithmetic until noon when we would have lunch. Only after that were we free to play.
Grandpa also had very firm ideas about what boys were allowed to do versus girls. I was envious on Saturdays when my Grandfather would take my brother off into the countryside with him. But little girls stayed home …so I stayed home with my grandmother.
I went to the top all girls’ high school in Jamaica. It was a Catholic School and those nuns ruled with an iron fist. Girls didn’t run, we didn’t raise our voices, we crossed our legs at the ankles, we sat up straight. And we were guilty. Always guilty of some wrong doing.
My next stage of growing up was pretty dramatic.
My Grandmother died, my Grandfather fell ill and my brother and I had to leave Jamaica to live with my aunt who had adopted us. The only thing is that she lived in Santiago Chile! She worked with the United Nations and was stationed there. The first morning we got on the school bus to head up to the American International School, I sat in between a South African and an Israeli and answered questions from both left and right. It took some time getting over the culture shock. Chile didn’t have many people of my hue. Sometimes I would be walking on the street and cars would slow down, people would take pictures of me or touch my hair. The best part of Chile and that International School was the friends that I made.
But just when I had settled in and was having a great time, I was wrenched away from those friends. My aunt had been reassigned to Geneva, Switzerland. I was an angry teenager. “Who goes to live in Switzerland?” I raged. “Can’t you get assigned to New York?”
I grew up a lot in those two years in Switzerland. Teen years are tough years. You want to be like others. You want to fit in. You aren’t sure of yourself. You aren’t even sure of what you believe.
And good things have happened to me in abundance throughout my life so I never dwell on misfortune. I went back to Jamaica after I finished high school in Switzerland and I did my undergraduate degree at the University of the West Indies in Journalism & Spanish. I worked as a marketing executive promoting investment in Jamaica and then I decided to go back to Europe to get my Masters degree.
I went to Belgium on my own dime. My money ran out very quickly and I dropped out of the expensive Masters Programme in Communication. I was despondent, I felt defeated. I was ready to move back to Jamaica. Instead I switched gears and enrolled in a Belgian University which was more affordable. Meanwhile, the Jamaican Ambassador to Belgium offered me a job as an Assistant to the First Secretary in the Embassy. That’s how I paid my rent and my tuition fees.
I lived and worked and studied in Belgium for three years. And I travelled to various cities during my holidays. When I graduated a friend tried to convince me to stay…she said, “if you stay for two more years you can apply for citizenship.” I didn’t think twice, I started planning to go back home. She said “the economy is bad, there are no jobs there”. I said “I have a country to help build, I am going back to Jamaica.”
When I landed my aunt came to pick me up from the airport. We drove into that familiar driveway, it was a hot and sunny day and I was happy to be home. We walked through the door and the telephone rang. The call was for me and it was for a job interview. I had three interviews within the first week of being home and I started working two weeks later.
I kept on affirming that good things are meant to happen to me.
And they continue to happen. A year after returning home I started dating this wonderful man who became my husband. He gave me a long last name, a beautiful daughter and persuaded me to move to the United States of America while I was pregnant with our son, in the middle of a recession. I cried every day for two months. Then I decided that was enough and I found myself a part-time job so I could contribute to taking care of our family.
A friend introduced me to the Regional HR Director for Diageo Latin America & Caribbean in Miami. Six months later I had a foot in the door. Eleven amazing years and a fantastic career at a global company including a three and a half year assignment in London was more than I could have asked for. Then along came Covid with fresh challenges and lots of personal upheaval.
In July 2020 I moved to Toronto, Canada, making it the seventh country I have lived in, not counting multiple moves within each place. Some days I feel like a nomad clutching to any artefact from my childhood that has made the move with me, other days I feel like a perennial tourist, perpetually immersed in new cultures and unearthing new treasures in each city. It is exciting in one moment and both terrifying and exhausting in the next.
But I will keep on believing that good things are meant to happen to me and I know that they will.
It’s what I do for a living and it’s who I am. From fiction to fairy tales, corporate correspondence to creative campaign copy, I let the power of the pen come to life. Poke around my blog for more.
Give me a mic and a platform and my voice takes wings. As a trained broadcaster, award-winning Toastmaster, event facilitator, guest speaker or emcee, I keep audiences engaged and impart universal wisdom in new and refreshing ways.
Want to communicate in a way that delivers results? Or improve your Inclusive Leadership Skills? With years of global experience, I help leaders pave their way to success through clear and compelling communications. Let me know if you want to chat about how I can help you.
Let’s make something together.