In this installment of Our Stories, *Robin describes how losing her independence while at home helped her self-discovery journey.  For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!

Is it possible to know yourself while under your parent’s roof? Like technology, people are coded from the first day out of the womb by social norms that should guide us to achieve what we want in life. This programming often takes a while to be noticed by an individual and is typically addressed within more independent years. The transition of being a dependent adult that needs to adhere to rules, to an independent adult, usually takes place within ages eighteen to twenty-one. This is when young adults start questioning what their life goal/purpose is. They begin developing dreams and beliefs that differ from how they were raised. 

Meet Robin – a 21-year-old student of the University of the West Indies

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She began her journey after leaving home to attend the University of the West Indies. A budding twenty-one-year-old on the path of self-realization. That is until her journey came to a sudden halt due to the Covid 19 virus. 

  • Describe who you are in one sentence. 

I am a young adult who is coming upon some interesting self-discoveries and trying to accept what it is that she is discovering. 

  • What are some of those self-discoveries? 

Besides, what I’m willing to tolerate within romantic relationships. I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning. It’s so simple. (Laughs) But, I wasn’t always able to leave the house and go places and plan things. My mother is very strict. She was always worried that something would happen if I left the house. But then, when I got the opportunity to do so, I realized I loved the process of traveling before I even got to the destination. The process makes me happy. Planning and organizing and getting everything together, packing, making a list, and buying the things I’d need for the trip. 

I also never had people come to my house before. I realized that it makes me uncomfortable. My home is my safe space from the world and I don’t want anyone that will impact my energy negatively… within my space. In a sense, that was something I was taught growing up. My mother never really wanted visitors in her house but having the space to experience this allowed me to understand why.

  • Would you describe yourself as the same person two years ago? 

No, I would not describe myself the same way as I did two years ago. These two years have been pivotal in my life. I started University, and I got away from my family and things that directly influenced my life since birth. Because of that, I’ve been able to think on my own and rediscover stuff on my own. This made me realize that it’s not every practice that I’ve grown up in, I agree with, and I’m okay with that. Covid has affected me as well. Because I was at my height of self-discovery. Coming back home has slowed down the process, and I feel very much restricted and placed in a cage. I had to come home due to school going online, so there was not only no need for me to be on Hall anymore, but UWI actually demanded that we evacuate the premises. I didn’t even have the time to mentally prepare for reentering that space called “home.”

  • I appreciate your honesty. What are some of the practices at “home”, that you no longer agree with?

My mother has always been somewhat against shorts. (Laughs) I really like shorts. They’re so comfortable and convenient! Sometimes it’s the simplest things really. Like my family is very judgmental about LGBT community as most Jamaican households are. But I personally don’t care.  My mother also begged me not to cut my hair. Which really wasn’t that deep. It’s just hair.

  • Was church still a staple in your life while living independently?

My faith is still very strong. I do believe in my Christian religion. I did try to go to church while on Hall. But to be honest, it wasn’t a church I enjoyed. It was also a new environment and I knew no one. But the school work didn’t make it any easier. I was too tired to even go.

  • What do you miss most about living on your own? 

The independence obviously. But I miss going out and being around my friends. I liked getting up at 2 AM in the morning and cooking a meal if I wanted to. I miss not having to ask permission. I feel like when I was boarding I didn’t have to walk on eggshells. I got to be my true authentic self. Being on Hall felt more like home than home itself because right now I’m under my parents’ roof but I’m homesick. 

Currently, I’m questioning my degree of choice. I’m not sure what it is I want to do, which is concerning because I’m in my final year of university studying for a degree that I was initially very passionate about. But I’m very sure that I miss being who I was while physically attending school.

  • Have you tried seeking academic/career advice?

To be honest with you, no. UWI isn’t exactly the best at advising students, much less students that are clueless. It’s kind of something I would have to figure out on my own. I just think I need to fall in love with graphic designing again.  

  • Do you think making the switch to online school has affected your passion?

I never thought about it. Since doing online school, I haven’t enjoyed my classes as much. Classes on a whole just haven’t been enjoyable. Online school feels a lot like teaching yourself. So, I guess that, plus the environment I am in has really taken a toll on me. I’ve realized that I don’t feel like myself anymore. 

  • How has this discomfort at home affected your self-discovery journey?

I feel caged. There is no room to explore or to make my own decisions. I have constantly ask for permission instead of doing things on my own accord. Can I cook this?  Can I get that? But I guess it comes with being dependent.

  • What are some of the things you are currently doing to become independent?

I currently have two jobs. One thing about online school is that it makes you a lot more flexible. I’m working with one of my family members as an assistant and working part-time with a bank—more on an internship level. I’m hoping to save from this to be on my own when I’ve completed University. 

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  • What’s something that you’re currently reteaching yourself.

Something I’ve unlearned and taught myself is that life goes on. I was always taught that your public view is critical. Which it is, especially in your professional field. But I’ve had to relearn making choices for myself. In the sense that you want to make a choice, but you have to think about other people’s opinions and how someone else might feel about the choice you’ve made. And It has affected me to the point where even the most minute decision has me considering other people’s opinions and not just my own. But I think I’m doing a damn good job of living my life the way I would like as a dependent adult, because I still live under her roof, and I acknowledge that I have a long way to go. 

  • What would your advice be to other 18-21 year-olds starting their self-realization journey?

I’d advise an eighteen-year-old that something can seem extremely important and extremely hard now and like you can’t overcome it. But trust and believe that in the next two years, you’re going to look back at it as unimportant. I don’t want to say that it’s not that serious and be insensitive, but high school? It is not that serious. Half of the people you met in high school, including teachers, won’t be in your life later on. Just do what you have to do for yourself. A lot of people don’t know who they are at seventeen or eighteen. You have a far way to go, mentally, emotionally, physically. Life goes on, and it moves from positives to negatives. Debunk and decipher. 

Thanks for sharing your growth, Robin! Good luck on the rest of your journey.

  • – name change upon request