Rethinking "The Better Life”
I had grown accustomed to city life. The hustle and bustle, the commute to work, the shopping, the clothes, the friends of different ethnicities, religions, hues and political affiliations. I had grown accustomed to the anonymity, the independence and the fight for survival. I embraced options, for eating, for consuming, for stimulation, for travel. I was in “the better life”, the metropolis of the world. The city where I “found myself”, my newly acquired home, my London.
Nothing could compare to the sense of dread I felt as my visa came to an end. How could I return to the rock? How could I face living in a place with the horizon of the blue ocean, a constant reminder of the physical disconnect from a world that I grew to love.
September 2012 will be 6 years since I left the “better life”. Truth be told, I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would have been like if I had the opportunity to stay. I have had many a conversation with persons in the diaspora about the pros and cons of returning home. I thought I would share my own journey as a source of inspiration.
The problem with Barbados is that it is a developed country with a developing country mentality. Kind of like a young adult that refuses to mature.
To say I have not met my challenges would be a lie, for I have had many. We are all too familiar with the cons of returning to Barbados: the high cost of living, the mentality of the people, the time it takes to get anything done, the perceived lack of opportunity. By all means continue to have a ‘whinge’ in the comments section of this post.
I chose instead to focus on the opportunities for the entrepreneurial, out-of-the-box and adventurous types. If you do not fall under these categories, this post is not for you.
Firstly, there is an opportunity to create your own employment. Do you want to know a secret? I have never had a “real job” since I came back home. If you have key skills and an engaging personality, networking becomes your secret weapon to navigating this system. Yes… it is all about who you know and who knows you. Link with people who are in the know and you will forever be in the loop.
Secondly, with the Internet, who needs to go into the office anyway? The whole world is moving towards remote labour options, meaning there is very little need for physical presence when conducting business. This way you can maintain your contacts the world over and offer services to individuals and businesses globally from the comfort of your front porch.
Thirdly, there is much to be done to get the economy where it should be. Entrepreneurship and innovation are the buzzwords of the day. Do you have an idea/passion? Well, choose a sector (or in my case sectors) and just go for it. Most people here are too scared to follow their dreams and put in the work anyway. Just do it.
Lastly, you can become a big fish in a small pond. Yes, I said it and it is true! There are so many benefits to being from a small island trying to navigate a global landscape. There are opportunities available, newly signed trade agreements, business competitions, and grants available for novel projects. As the cliché goes, the world is your oyster.
In closing, I want to offer a point for consideration. It is about the perception of success and the notion of the “better life”. I was reminded today by one of the most important men in my life (my daddy) of the value of the extended family, oh how wonderful they are to keep an individual motivated and help with childcare (says the single girl). And what about those simple and free pleasures like going to the beach? When was the last time you had someone bring a bag of mangoes from their tree, or you could ask a neighbour for some limes? When last were you classified as the majority (yes I said it)?
All I know is that 6 years ago I was a mere Admin Assistant and now I am a freelance consultant, an associate of an international consultancy firm and a burgeoning social entrepreneur, amongst other things. Barbados has become my hub and I have travelled extensively working in the areas that I love. Have I arrived? No, not yet. Has it been difficult? Yup, definitely! Would I have changed any of it? Hell no!
So if you are holding onto the American Dream and the old concept of the “better life”, consider for a moment how the world is changing and where the opportunities are emerging. Or is it that you are scared of a little change and some hard work?“
This post was written as a contribution to the Barbados Diaspora Blog posted 19/06/2012