‘Fortytude’ and ‘fortyfied’ at 40
Y’all! Lemme give you a little background story. I was born into an extended, low income family. Our home was modest and small with numerous people and limited resources, and for the first eight years of my life we had no indoor plumbing. At the time, it was normal to me and I suppose as a child, one does not have the capacity to understand the implications and challenges of that situation. When I started primary school my mother enrolled me in the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), a programme for low income and vulnerable families. The staff at CCF were exceptional and supportive, and the program looked after us children by providing after school care, feeding us and providing items for school like stationery, uniforms and shoes. Critical to the program was sponsorship. We received financial support from our individual sponsors who lived abroad, and we communicated with them regularly, through letters.
It wasn’t all gloom though. Even if my family’s resources were limited, we always had food and love. And through it all, there were always angels reaching out to support. What I remember the most are reading and writing.
My mother, with her primary school education, ensured that I read every single day. (I used to borrow books from the public library). I remember hearing my friends’ voices outside and reading in a hurry to join the fun. What this practice did for me, even at that young age, was boost my confidence and help to form my character. From early on I became the family’s reader and writer (and teacher too lol). I was seven when I started reading in church, and I can still recall my first story that I wrote at eight years old. My mother’s daily routine created a passion for reading that still exists today.
Fast Forward to 2021
Fast forward to 2021, past my teenage years of working many odd jobs, trying my hand at arts and craft and singing. Fast forward past my twenties and thirties spent in the corporate environment and being a closet writer. Fast forward past failed relationships and a myriad of challenges and many triumphs. Fast forward to me being in the United States, in these tumultuous times, as a graduate student and single parent, being tested in unimaginable ways with no physical contact with other family members.
Y’all the journey is rough and winding but I AM ‘FORTYFIED’ because God is the source! He has cleared my path and planted people in my life to guide my children and me along this arduous journey and I am ever overflowing with gratitude. God has given me every grace and strength that I need to face all the challenges that come my way.
I believe that my upbringing has taught me humility, courage, faith, discipline, mindfulness, prudence, and love. I think it is because I understand the value we should place on security and family, that I became a homeowner so early in my life and I am continuously striving to stay out of that space we were when I was a child. Being on this new journey has deepened my understanding and appreciation of the importance of developing character and being true to oneself.
I wanted to glam up for my 40th birthday, to look outrageously captivating with a beat face, red hair, fancy clothes and jazzy nails. I was thinking about creating memories with elegant decor to feel that 40th vibe and post some jaw dropping pics!
Bondieu, Lanméwik mwen yé wi, where there is supposed to be glitz and glamor!
Well, I didn’t glam up. I couldn’t.
Maybe I would if I wasn’t a student on a tight budget or if I was an extravagant person. But those who know me know that apart from the fact that I véyé my pennies like a hawk, I also appreciate simplicity. In the end I decided to be myself, and bask in my own light. I am not bashing my glamorous peeps – I love your style and the flavor you bring to the world! I’m saying that I am content to be who I am – a simple soul.
This in itself, is clarity; because in a world where people are struggling to create identities, or fit in with a particular crowd, or present themselves other than who they are, being true to oneself is gold!
At one point, I was conflicted about my writing style. I felt that most people (Americans) would not appreciate my writing and I was thinking about changing my style in a way that would make my writing more accessible, so a wide cross section of people would understand my stories. However, after exploring different literary works and doing some introspection, I decided to write without restraint. I believe that my words will resonate if I remain true to myself, true to my island experiences, true to my colloquial and Kwéyòl language, true to my landscape, true to my culture, true to my people. I am confident that it is only through these unfiltered lenses, that my readers will come, whether they understand my culture or not.
‘Fortytude’ is two-prong: the attitude at forty to own my discernment and wisdom, and stand firm in my beliefs. It is also the fortitude to overcome challenges and withstand whatever curves life throws.
On this my 40th birthday, I am proud to say, I am who I am unapologetically, I write what I feel, unapologetically. I am light. I am fire!
To me, life is a journey of self discovery. When we learn to understand and embrace our authentic selves as individuals – undefined by jobs, spouses, children, religion – and continue working towards becoming better people, we experience liberation and fortitude!