Life Not Lived – Guest Post Featured on The Saavy Reader

Life Not Lived – Guest Post Featured on The Saavy Reader

A few years ago my wife Sharon and I were driving along the island roads of Barbados, windows down, radio turned up. I remembered vividly the same scenes from when I was a little boy:  sugar cane fields, outcrops of limestone, stands of mahogany trees, pastures where I played cricket, in the distance white sand beaches and fading blue waters. But there was also change, lots of it — a major highway, housing estates, a spanking new seaport where Oprah, Tiger Woods, and other billionaires dock their yachts.

Most noticeable for me, returning home after more than two decades away, was the sound of the voices on the radio, particularly on the call-in programs. They exuded a new confidence, something attitudinal Sharon and I had also noticed in Jamaica a few months earlier.  They knew everything: the best politicians nationally and internationally, the local entertainers truly worthy of world acclaim, and they knew that someday soon their West Indian cricket team would once again conquer the world as it had almost two decades ago. This was the self-assurance of West Indians convinced that they were the makers of their own destinies. Indeed, as the Barbados national anthem declared, these were loyal sons and daughters writing their “names on history’s page with expectations great.”

But there was a crack in our hearts—the type that immigrants try to, but perhaps never, mend. Did we make the right decision to leave? Did we achieve the things we sought up North, or was our move a youthful indiscretion? Maybe we did not have the faith to just hang around with those who undertook the task of building new nations after independence. For as we visited friends from high school and university, we realized that they had become the leaders of their nations. What’s more, they had passed on their confidence to the next generation — to children who have grown into men and women in our absence; children who were taking up responsibilities in nations approaching 50th anniversaries of independence.

After I left, I had kept in touch with my native land through infrequent visits but mainly with my writing. My novels, a memoir, and some non-fiction were all about growing up in Barbados and the struggles of Caribbean immigrants to fit into North American life. But I was also having struggles of my own: a family to raise, a career in journalism, and bouts of unemployment, too. Eventually I turned to my second love after writing: academia, quickly becoming a full professor, winning acclaim for my research, and generally enjoying engaging with young minds in and out of the classroom.

Now I was back home just in time to hear about the exploits of Usain Bolt, of Rihanna and other Caribbean entertainers, of West Indian cricketers thrilling crowds the world over.

Independence, my first novel in twelve years, is my tribute to those in my native land who saw possibilities there that as a youngster I didn’t—who lived the life that I did not. With this novel I am offering, particularly to our children in the diaspora and to readers everywhere, a universal story of triumph — of hope, and the faith that there will always be a better tomorrow.

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