More than once, I’ve mentioned what’s likely the greatest achievement in my adult life:
…becoming precisely the woman I envisioned, when I was only a teenager and dreaming.
I realise this is something not all of us can honestly say. And that most of us over the years have likely forgotten all the sandcastles we built in the air late at night, while we brooded over the dichotomy we faced as teenagers:
…too old to be a kid, not old enough to be an adult.
Building Sandcastles in the Air
But not me. I continued to dream long past my teenage years, and in 2015 when I decided it was time to quit my job and get the hell out of Jamaica, I was dreaming then too. I had offers for Germany, England, Australia and came to America to plot and think and decide what my next move would be.
Sometimes I wonder if perhaps my life would have turned out better, if I hadn’t allowed myself to become complacent in America, and taken the “easy” route out – i.e. to stay.
There are times when I wonder who I would become if I had chosen to run my friend’s hotel in Germany, help manage the personal trainer’s business in Australia, or partner with the architect in London.
Of course there is no guarantee any of these offers would have worked out, but still I wonder. I suppose the grass is not always, but often enough, greener on the other side.
Losing Sandcastles to the Wind
More true to the fact, however, is that I’ve had the best and worst year of my life. This might surprise some of you. After all, I’ve mainly ever focused on all the amazing highlights and travels of my quarter-century life.
Yet, I have endured so much behind the scenes; to the point where even my health began to fail in the past few months. My heart problems hit a low I hadn’t seen since high school. I began to struggle with migraines. And my parents became alarmed by the “zombie-mode” I seemed to slip into every weekend.
Why didn’t I post about these things? Oh, trust me. I thought about it. But you know what? This was never one of those blogs for ranting about personal problems. This was a blog to remind others to persevere and endure – and over the past year, it has also reminded me, so many, many times. Even now.
That brings me to the inspiration behind this blog post: Sangster’s Rum Cream. And don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how I became an alcoholic. I’m as sober as I ever was.
While living in Jamaica, this was my absolute favourite alcoholic drink; so much so that for every birthday, this is what I asked for. A bottle didn’t last more than a week in my apartment.
So of course when I moved, I brought this bottle of my favourite flavour with me. On arriving, I searched Pennsylvania, New York, and Georgia for another, but no restaurant, bar, or liquor store carried it.
“I’m surprised you haven’t touched that rum cream yet,” my Mom joked one day. “Aren’t you gonna open it so I can get some?”
“No,” I answered. “I don’t think I’m getting another bottle anytime soon, so this one is only for special occasions.”
Miraculously, I was somehow able to restrain myself. I took my first sip for my 26th birthday on October 9th 2015, and my last on October 9th 2016. During October, November, and December, I had more than my fair share of reasons to celebrate. January… February… more sips. And then afterwards: nothing.
Why? Because in March, my life hit a slump it would not climb out of until late September. During that time, I never touched that bottle. The dry spell went on for so long that I didn’t even remember I had it in my fridge.
A Second Bottle
Then on September 27, 2016, my grandmother appeared from Jamaica with a second bottle, as a gift. I was so excited, I ran down from the main house to my apartment, and slid it into the fridge.
As I did, I noticed for the first time in what felt like forever, the neglected bottle watching and waiting for me to find something to celebrate again.
I pulled the bottle out and laughed. I laughed at its emptiness and what that essentially meant. In spite of what was arguably one of the worst periods in my life, had there been nothing at all to celebrate all year, then I wouldn’t be holding a mostly empty bottle.
It had been so long since I touched it that it was sealed shut. But with my grandmother’s help, we lit fire to the cork and finally melted it enough to unscrew it. It was a good week for celebrations, and therefore a good week for taking celebratory sips.
I took a sip for the end of six months of hell, a sip for the permanent green card that had just come in the mail, and for finally seeing Bert McCracken live in concert. When my birthday rolled around two weeks later, I took the last sip in celebration of a fresh new start at 27.
If not to Wallow…
We often become so caught up in the pursuit of happiness that we forget to step back for a moment and appreciate where we are and where we’ve been.
We see a glass half empty and forget it’s also half full. Or in my instance, I ignored my empty bottle in the fridge for six months and forgot what its emptiness really meant.
So what, after all, is the point of this post? – if not to share that I spent half the year hating my life? What have I to tell you? – if not that there were times when I sat in the car and wondered why we didn’t just veer off into oncoming traffic and put an end to it all?
If it’s not to say there were times I stood on the balcony and wondered if I “fell” off headfirst what my chances of dying would be…
Reading the Message in the Bottle
The point is that I read the message in my bottle the second I found it tucked away in my fridge. And the message was that there was a time when I was happy and had big dreams and goals to fulfil, and it wasn’t too late to reclaim those dreams.
Once I got to thinking that way, it all became so easy. I’ve basically picked up where I left off in February before my life became a shadow of what it always had been.
There are definitely a lot of things I regret over the past year – people I wish I had never met, things I wish I had never agreed to. But I was the one who wanted adventure right?
I truly believed that I couldn’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result, so I completely changed my M.O. to find a whole new path to success.
The good news is: I found it. The bad news is: the biggest casualty was myself; and for a long time, my sanity.
But for the first time in my life, I guess I was a normal human being – not worrying about being the overachiever who did everything perfect and right.
I made mistakes and learned from them and can now move on having at least learned all the things I never want to do again. And isn’t that sometimes a better lesson than learning only what we want?
So here’s to another bottle of rum cream, another year of opportunities, and another chance at a fresh start. May you all find yours as well – however you choose to measure it.