The Problem with Having a Literature Degree in 2016

Recently I attended the Annual Job Expo at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Part of the aim of this event is to expose students, especially those in their final year, to employers who are looking for fresh meat and minds to come and boost their company’s development.


The environment is usually full of desperate (and sometimes immature) youngsters like me who don’t particularly like the idea of a busted A/C sputtering over their heads and being trapped at a boring desk decorated with loosely organized files. Everyone usually seeks out job offers that promise fun activities. In rare cases, some will succumb to the only companies willing to take them in, merely because those companies need more employees and are willing to pay despite your lack of experience. It’s in situations like these that a person with a Literature degree is likely to find themselves.

As I weaved my way through the crowd, visiting each booth, I couldn’t help wondering which of these companies would actually hire me. I’m in my final year, supposedly the final semester in the scheme of things (should I pass all my courses) but I still don’t know the answer to the traditional, “What are you planning to do with your degree?” So instead of drafting a satisfying answer, I set out to ask the representatives at the Expo what positions they think they had that could suit me.

The outcome was as expected. I got raised eyebrows and stutters of “Ah… well. Hmmm…”

The problem was not that there’s absolutely nothing I could possibly do with my Literature degree, but rather that employers themselves don’t even know what the degree requires from a person. Someone hears the word ‘Literature’ and they think, reading. Sure that is involved, but have you ever considered why a University would sanction a whole program dedicated to reading? That’s because it’s deeper than simply lifting the words off a page and committing them to memory. It involves critical analysis, and it demands self-development in the process. And isn’t that the kind of personality companies seek in their prospective employees?

I came across a booth at which a representative from my old job was poised. She said she remembered me, but she didn’t know what I was studying. When I told her, she admitted that she couldn’t understand how or why I got the job. This was a bank. She was there to promote, above all else, accounting. At least, that was her specialty, so she couldn’t perceive the scope of whatever I might have been doing while I was there. I told her the reason I was given when I met with the person who supervised me, as to why they needed a Literature student in the first place. Interestingly, they needed me (and my classmate) largely because – you guessed it – we read. As I came to realise on the job, a lot of the mistakes we encountered in their records were due to lack of reading thoroughly. Sometimes persons get so accustomed to the task they’d been appointed that they become complacent, sacrificing accuracy. This indirectly contributed to the company’s expenses, but we were able to help reverse that.

People also fail to realize that a Literature degree doesn’t confine itself to reading. There is journalism, communications, law, teaching, administration, human relations, and a whole host of random, seemingly non-related fields into which a Lit student can fit herself. But in 2016, maybe it takes the initiative of the student to step out and remind employers why the Lit Major is one of the best candidates for their companies.

Hamilton and the Issue of Racial Exclusion within Welcome

This post is in response to an assignment for my Critical Race Studies course.

Prompt: Prepare a project assessing the racial dynamics or diversity of a particular group or institution that you belong to such as a campus club, etc. The idea would be to note what kind of systems are in place that either welcome or exclude people of diverse racial backgrounds. You could then make recommendations for improvement, if they are needed, or identify what’s working well, if you’re impressed by what’s being done.

Crick? Crack.¹

And then the occasion arose when I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened me (258).

  • Franz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness.”

Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it…. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously… and then, instead of saying, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town…. (9).

  • W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” from The Souls of Black Folk.

Having free access to bus rides is a novelty to me, so in my introductory weeks in Hamilton, I took advantage of it. After a while, I started having what I would call the opposite of a Rosa Parks moment. Why do people, who are not of your race, stare?

You are new to this country. The sounds here are light and high-pitched. People dress in plain, solid colours. They let expression flow through their hair – pastel blues, greens, pinks, purple. You feel adventurous, and since there are no restrictions of movement to you, you set out to explore. You optimistically take a seat in the bus. You have studied the map, so your destination is clear. If you get lost, you will not mind because, what is an adventure without new, unintentional experiences? Then you feel it – the unnerving attention that seems to settle heavily on your locks, your nose, your lips, and your complexion. You look up, and the four people seated across from you quickly avert their attention to nowhere in particular. Ok, strange. Maybe you are being paranoid. Canada is a neutral space, right? It is just like Jamaica (from what you have been told) – a melting pot of diversity. Canada’s motto could literally be “Out of Many, One People.”² Why would anyone stare at you? You are not supposed to be novel or exotic.

But then, after you have completed your adventure and you are back on the bus, it happens again. This time though, you notice an old Caucasian lady who is seated at the front of the bus, whose eyes trail you all the way to the rear. Even after you have been seated and you look directly up at her (just to ensure you were not hallucinating), she stares back. You cannot decipher that puzzled stare. You wonder, Does it feel at all unnerving to her that you have met and held her gaze, the way she is unnerving you? Is it just curiosity or is it curiosity conflicting with animosity? Is there, behind that stare, the calculations of a mind figuring out how to welcome you, should you meet again, or is she intentionally shoving you out of existence with her eyes? To avoid this annoying feeling, you decide henceforward to always sit at the back of the bus, back in the shadows where no one will risk hurting their necks to examine you.

One of the earliest conversations I had with my landlady was about whether there were other people in the community who I might become familiar with. She constantly made reference to ‘the neighbours’, but never said who these people were. Were they the ones beside us, or the ones across the street? Then she named one family in particular, who, for some inexplicable reason, I sensed was African. Maybe this was because she ensured she listed the name of the head of the household, the number of young people there, and even included the fact that one of them had moved. This, of course, would have been no help to me, since I would never meet that person. I later found I was right, they were Africans. Up to today, I have no knowledge of the names of the neighbours who live directly to the left or right of the house. These families are Caucasian. I have a good friend in my landlady, and I understand that she is also not as particularly close to the people beside us, as with the aforementioned African family. I do think, however, that this lack of introduction is a subconscious form of racial exclusion. Why then, would she have scrambled to let me know that I have neighbours who resemble me, who I can always spend time with? I could say that she is welcoming me in a way that ensures I do not feel alone. However, though not intentional, I was also shut out.

As long as the black man is among his own, he will have no occasion, except in minor internal conflicts, to experience his being through others…. Consciousness of the body is solely a negating activity…. It does not impose itself on me; it is, rather, a definitive structuring of the self and the world – definitive because it creates a real dialectic between my body and the world (257-258).

  • Franz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness.”

Why do people stare at each other? It could be out of admiration, curiosity or even animosity. Specifically, why do people, who are of your race, stare?

The first week spent in Hamilton saw me curled away in the shadow of my veranda, watching the day wile; watching maple leaves flutter; readjusting sight to the kind of people I saw more often on foreign television than in reality. Amongst them were the occasional Asian and Indian. My school mate – who is staying in St. Catharines – and I, updated each other daily on whether we had seen anyone who resembled us, and how often that occurred. He had multiple sightings, but for my part, the only person who possessed familiar features nearby me, was me.

One day, while on the bus, some invisible force made me look up to see someone who resembled me, but does not. She looked slightly alarmed, maybe mirroring my expression. Finally, a sense of belonging.

The effect of racial exclusion is such that when one comes into contact with another who shares similar features, it is as if a void is stopped. Before that can happen though, there is a strange recognition of self in the other, even though they are strangers. This recognition, however, is not solely of physical features, but also of the feeling of isolation. It says to you both, You have been so lost amongst the crowd, you almost forgot what you look like. Each day when you return home and look in the mirror, you are also slightly stunned, having not met in your reflection, a semblance of what you have seen all day. It is a slight internal battle, the denouement of which is a relief.

Oxford, my god, I humbly come before you, robed A to Z

in the language you have graciously bestowed upon me

to (rudely, irresistibly) question your credibility and audacity

for injecting the blade of your word upon my tongue.

  • Excerpt from “Oxford” by Shanese Whyte.

Hamilton is apparently no match for Toronto in relation to racial diversity. Jamaicans are here in Hamilton (somewhere), but it is very hard to run into one. In Toronto, I have been told (on too many occasions to keep record of), I would feel perfectly at home.

“There’s so many Jamaicans in Toronto!”

“You should go to Toronto.”

“Have you been to Toronto? You should definitely go!”



The first time I visited Toronto was on a trip with other students on exchange. That was also the first time I heard my language coming out of any other mouth but mine, and it happened as quickly as we stepped off the bus. The accent however, sounded alien, mangled. It was as if, for a moment, the two speakers were in their own world, one in which they were not self-conscious of how they might sound to those around them, so that the first few words they spoke were in pure Patois, with that familiar heavy, guttural tone. But somewhere in the midst of speech (maybe it was the cold wind which whipped about their braids that brought them back to reality), their words became halting, tripped over themselves to float up again, sounding light, practiced, and automatic. I too was awoken from my reverie, and saddened by it. So they had been accepted into society, but conditionally. That conditionality was the sacrificing of their speech, since they cannot ever physically resemble the people here. If they must stay, they must imitate the voice of the land, maybe on the premise of reducing confusion; maybe, of risking exclusion.

Have you ever had to repeat yourself three times so that someone could hear your words and not your accent? Not understand your words, hear them, because they did not sound like words of a language both you and the listener speak? I have now been in Canada for eleven weeks. Seventy-some days. People hear the words I say now. I have felt my tongue twist in ways I thought was an exaggeration when others who have come before me have described it. I speak lighter but not high-pitched. At least I am not frustrated anymore. So I did not expect (since my lingual transformation) to have one classmate literally stare at me the other day – mouth agape, eyes wide – and say, “I’m sorry what? I didn’t hear what you said.” She was watching my mouth all the time. I spoke slowly, carefully. I thought I was in.

Inherent in the lack of hearing is a sort of reluctance to accept the difference that colours what one is told. It is not until your ears have heard the familiar inflections that you welcome the actual words. In a sense, this psychological resistance to the variations in speech can stand as a symbolic representation of racial exclusion.

Within these cultures, stratified hierarchical social organization crystalized. The ancient civilizations developed imperialism, partly because of the very nature of cities. Cities are obviously population concentrations. Most importantly though, they are places that must import the material needs of this concentration… (87)

  • “Spiritualism, The Highest Form of Consciousness” by Sotsisowah.

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions… (291).

  • “White Privilege and Male Privilege,” Peggy McIntosh.

As the fall sets in, you gradually notice that, like the leaves, hair colours are changing around you. You were prepared for this. Back home, you often saw pink, purple, and blue-hued tresses on North American television. Seeing the changes up-close is exciting. You think, you are in North America now, and that overused cliché about being in Rome comes to mind.

Every day since your arrival, every Hamiltonian you have met has told you to go to Shoppers Drug Mart for next to any pharmaceutical need you might have. You have seen at least four Shoppers outlets on your journey to school – which is not a long one – so you think, Everyone must be right. You walk into the nearest store and head down the aisle labelled “Haircare,” all the time reminding yourself that you may not necessarily find the brand of dye you are accustomed to. Yet, considering that the brand is American, and you are now closer to America than you were in while Jamaica, why shouldn’t you find it here? All too soon, you actually do find it… in only three shades. One shade of blonde, one of bronze and the other, of red. Is that strange, given the variety you know this brand offers? While thinking, you look up to find that the sign above the aisle next to you reads “Hair Colour.” Wait. Why is this brand not shelved there? You walk over to that aisle to find this:

The three selections of dyes are pictured in the centre. Compare to the succeeding picture.

The three selections of dyes are pictured in the centre. Compare to the succeeding picture.


You notice that on this side, each brand has its black dyes in multiple shades, namely ‘Very Intense Black’, ‘Soft Black’ and ‘Natural Black’. You think, How very different can either shade be anyway? Is that necessary? You thought shades of black only applied accurately to people.

You also notice that it is not for lack of shelf space why the three scrawny colour selections with black women on them have been shelved separately. At this point, you are having an internal struggle, trying to give Shoppers, Hamilton and Canada at large, the benefit of the doubt. There is a good reason for this. You think, There is always a good reason applied to bad actions. You deliberate, and conclude that since you are the minority here, it would have a negative effect on business to make too much room for everyone, especially when the majority is so… major, with all its needs.

You decide to try somewhere else, so you head to Pharma Plus. Maybe “Plus” refers to that extra you failed to find in Shoppers. You head down the aisle labelled “Hair Colour”, hopeful. You are let down. There is not even one shade of the brand you were looking for. You almost give in to buying a dye whose chemicals might have next to no effect on your serpentine coils, until you think, What if? You search and find another aisle marked “Hair Appliances.” You are relieved of your paranoia – so far you can only see pomades, shampoos, combs and brushes. Then, three familiar boxes, advertising three familiar faces.

How do you feel?

This is an example of white privilege, which in itself is a form racial exclusion. The Caucasian, or anyone with straight hair, is privileged here, because they may walk in and enjoy the freedom of choice. They would not have to worry, in this case, about whether the chemicals supplied in these products are too mild for their hair type. By setting limitations on the products that are geared towards certain racial groups, while ensuring that provisions are made for another group, the stores say to the minority and to me, “Yes you may come in, but you still may not blend with us.”

In her essay, McIntosh also notes that she was taught that any work done to benefit others was meant to help those others become more like her race (292-293). In my consideration of this incident, I argue that in a sense, I would have ‘become white’ had I succumbed to using that which was not geared towards my race. That is not to say that there is something wrong with using the products available. However, had I done that, I would be symbolically denying and sidelining the physical features which make me diverse. The act of buying the product which has been made with my differences in mind, is not only a show of support for the producers, but a sign that I acknowledge who I am and what constitutes my genetic composition.

It is also a demonstration of hierarchical social organization of which Sotsisowah speaks. Usually, the group that is positioned at the heights of social structures will have access to a mode of life which easily satisfies the human need to have variety.

From these examples, one can deduce that the systems that are in place to exclude racial diversity are not readily discernible. Instead, a deeper psychological construct has been applied to [Hamilton’s] lifestyle. The problem is that there is no one person to blame for creating such a construct. The fact is that the process of moving forward from colonialism’s ideologies does not come with a manual that outlines how to reverse the damage. Truthfully, the matter can only be assessed as one in which the descendants of history – having remnants of the idea that diverse races have something inherently corrupt at the rear of the psyche – are hesitating to be completely welcoming of diversity, because they cannot tell what that ‘corrupt something’ is. As a result, a milder, but still influential form of racism now exists. It is manifested within the pretense of being courteous to one another, with criticism embedded in every “Good morning, how are you?”

This project does not mean to imply that racism or racist tendencies exist(s) only in Hamilton, nor that the city of Hamilton is substandard because of it. It does, however, speak to the sluggish pace with which racial exclusion is being eradicated. The ultimate question is, does the minority population – though they have been ‘welcomed’ – have a right to advocate against welcome’s inherent exclusion? Also, is that advocacy something that can be done without seeming ungrateful? With that said, I cannot wholeheartedly complain about the effort to welcome diverse races. However, if I am to accept the mere fact that this effort exists, I would be actively participating in my own marginalization. It is the acceptance of the “at least something is being done” which causes that very thing to revert, or cease to improve. The concept can be linked to Sostsisowah’s observation of property: “Property is an idea by which people can be excluded from having access to lands or other means of producing a livelihood…. The acceptance of the idea of property would produce leaders whose functions would favor excluding people from access to property…” (105). In my experiences, my acceptance of Hamilton’s welcome included within the package deal, a limitation on how much property I would be able to share. The property to which I am making reference, would be the intangible property of security in belonging.

There then remains the need for recommendations. Racism, however, as evinced by the instances outlined, is not something to which a ‘quick fix’ can be applied successfully. The best way I can think of initiating change is to advocate for education geared towards correcting the misconceptions about diverse races. The difficulty here though, lies in the possibility of counteracting ideologies existing within every household. I believe that children’s most important life-shaping influences are manifested within the home. This is off the premise that a child recognizes – perhaps subconsciously – that they are copies of their parents’ and other relatives. As such, they believe that they are destined to emulate the ideologies of those around them as well, failing to develop individual perspectives of the world.

Jack Mandora, me no choose none.³


  1. ‘Crick? Crack.’ – A method of storytelling in the Caribbean where the storyteller pulls the listeners in by asking “Crick?” The question is intended to both signal to the audience that a story is about to be told, while also inviting their participation in the telling. This has been suitable for my method of switching from the first person narrative to the second, effectively situating readers within the experiences recounted. It is also used here as resistance to instances of racial exclusion outlined, since race exists in tandem with culture.
  2. “Out of Many, One People” – Jamaica’s national motto, meaning that the nation is a result of the fusion of the diverse races and cultures within.
  3. “Jack Mandora, me no choose none” – Used here in conjunction with “Crick? Crack.” By starting and closing this project with these cultural terminologies, I have symbolically enclosed racial exclusion. According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, this saying is “The first part of a formula traditionally used to end an ANANCY STORY: … the sense seems to be ‘this is not directed at anyone in particular’ – but with the implication that if the shoe fits, one may put it on.” (239)

Works Cited

Du Bois, W.E.B. “Of Our Spiritual Strivings.” The Souls of Black Folk. Eds. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Terri B. Oliver. W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1999. 9-16. Print.

Fanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness.” Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader. Eds. Les Black and John Solomon. Routledge, 2000. 257-266. Print.

“Jack Mandora.” Dictionary of Jamaican English. 2nd ed. 2002. Print.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror. ed. Richard Delgado. Temple University Press, 1997. 291-299. Print.

Sostsisowah. “Spiritualism, The Highest Form of Consciousness.” Basic Call to Consciousness. Ed. Akwesasne Notes. Canada: Native Voices, 2005. 112-119. Print.

——-. “Policies of Depression in the Name of Democracy.” Basic Call to Consciousness. Ed. Akwesasne Notes. Canada: Native Voices, 2005. 103-118. Print.

Whyte, Shanese. “Oxford.” ExpressMe!., n.d. Web. Nov. 10, 2015.

One Thing ALL University Lecturers Must STOP Doing

Everyday at the University of the West Indies, I pass a bulletin board at the Department of Literatures in English with the following article posted on it: “Qualified But Clueless – University Graduates Say Students Studying Only To Pass Tests And Not Learning”. Each time I see it, I think, accurate, but how so really?

I’m not going to lie, up until my 1st year at UWI, all I’ve been doing with my brain was stuffing it with enough info to be able to pass my tests. It always worked. It was one of the reasons why I was recruited to play on the School’s Challenge Quiz Team as well. The mandate was basically “Read and Recite”. So you could just imagine my shock when, one by one, all my Literature lecturers took a good 15mins to firmly point out that they expected us to employ analytical skills. That, YES, they wanted to read in our essays what we truly thought, even if those thoughts weren’t necessarily fit for public viewing. That it was a major mistake for their high school counterparts to not have taught us how to think critically about why characters said/did what they did. How analyzing the behavioural pattern of fictional characters could help us do the same in reality.

It took some time for all of us to master the craft. Some still are. But for those of us who – according to teachers’ comments thus far – seem to be well on our way, we have now encountered a problem that counteracts with our success. Now we’re being given great grades for work we know without a doubt could have been better done.

Now before you call me crazy, hear me out.

I could always empathize with lecturers who seem especially enthusiastic about their work, but just don’t get responses from their students, so I always tried answering their questions. I couldn’t bear the awkward silence that followed if I didn’t at least try. Can you imagine being pumped about something and dying to share it with others, but all you get is dead silence and blank stares? That’s got to be uncomfortable. But the problem is, once lecturers find that one person that they could rely on for discussion, they seem to be so grateful, that they start dishing out good grades, even when it’s clear you could’ve done more with your assignment. I’ve felt so many times that I could’ve read more, said more, dug deeper in my psyche and written a more eloquent piece, but still got A’s and B’s. Why?

“This was such a pleasure to read… This one essay has redeemed an entire class!!”

He's even having a conversation with the paper.. especially at points that I thought were'nt necessary O.o

He’s even having a conversation with the paper… especially at points that I thought weren’t necessary O.o

As it relates to the pictures above, I remember the writing process for that essay. It WAS NOT fun. The assignment question was intriguing, yes, and so were the theories involved, but ask any psychology major whether applying a theory to your own thesis [and successfully proving it] is easy. The comments throughout the essay were also slightly shocking. Of course I knew that what I was writing was relevant to the topic. I was addressing everything the question asked… but then I remembered the night before submitting the paper – propping myself up and trying to focus on the blurring words; my head bobbing back and forth; being surrounded by lifeless books in a cold library; the HUNGER!!! Conditions like those don’t contribute to anybody being able to write something sensible.

The feeling I get when I’m given such a grade is that I’m being rewarded for something other than this essay[namely, participation in class], and I don’t like it. You can’t be telling me that the point I’ve made in paragraph three could have been fleshed out more with additional examples; that my thesis could’ve been narrower, etc etc etc; making me expect a C+, yet giving me an A . What kinda logic is that? How am I supposed to judge my progress moving on from there? Am I supposed to then surmise that this level of performance [where I’m biting my nails because I KNOW I didn’t do my best] is acceptable? Am I supposed to settle there? If that was A-grade work, then are you telling me that there’s no more space to go up? But I still haven’t reached your level of thinking, so how am I gonna get there then?

And I’m not the only one who’s had this problem. Since like minds attract, I keep meeting people who reveal this issue to me, and I think, so what does that mean for the future? Because I’m easily a lazy person, so if you tell me that this standard is ok, and I end up having to teach a class 5yrs from now, I’m gonna be grading people worse than you’re doing right now. And I know that truly, a lot of persons think that this is absolutely no biggie, but I find that even in the corporate world, many of the persons on top aren’t critical thinkers, and even if they are, they don’t expect the younger generation to be. Most think we only know music and can’t even manage getting the simplest of tasks done. You’ll even find that they sometimes explain directives to you as if you’re still at the primary level of understanding. How does that even work?

Lecturers, all I’m saying is, keep pushing for your students to do more. This doesn’t mean you should discourage us, nor does it mean that you should make drastic changes to the way you give grades. But talk to us truly. Explain what is expected and why. Hint at the how. Even if we seem to be displaying the beginnings of critical thinking abilities, don’t automatically assume that we’re not still clueless.

“Uvinersity” and “Sciance”. Yes Those are Real Words

Besides ganja and Bob Marley [which are – weirdly – married terms in the mind of foreigners], Jamaican Creole, more popularly known as ‘patois’, is the most famous giveaway used by said foreigners to determine whether you’re Jamaican.

People around the world love Jamaican Creole. It’s fun to speak, it carries a certain vibe, and the accent? Très magnifique! Everyone wants to learn patois. They die just to land on our shores to hear “No problem mon” in that heavy Jamaican style (even though nobody really says that on a daily basis here).

I’m still shocked every time I come across a YouTuber for example, like IISuperwomanII [an Indian born in Canada] who has taken such an interest in dancehall and patois, that she actually sometimes incorporates Jamaican ‘bad words’ into her vocabulary – which is kinda funny to hear since we mainly use them when upset/actually cursing. I do like that she does that though, and I like that somebody actually likes our culture enough to amalgamate it into their own. But the problem is that we aren’t doing that.

I guess foreigners would be aghast at the immense insecurity we feel about our own language, but it’s really one of those after-effects of slavery. Amongst it being drilled in our grandparents’ heads that “anyting black nuh good” and you must “bring up your colour” by finding “a nice brownin’ ” [even if that person may be abusive, alcoholic, etc], is the accompanying thought that you shouldn’t speak patois because it sounds like “ya chat bad”, or you’re butchering di people dem good-good Henglish. You’ll often hear mothers and grandmothers scolding young children “fi talk propah” if whatever those children are saying sounds “brawling”, “ghetto” or plain “country”.

A prime example of this ‘mishap of English’ is found primarily in newscasts [popular ones are from Prime Time News on Television Jamaica], where Jamaicans are being interviewed about [usually] unfortunate incidents they’ve witnessed. I’m guessing that in the back of their minds is the age-old reprimand by mothers and grandmothers that prompts them to code-switch [switch from one form of a language to another] in the presence of mic and camera. After all, they have to look good on national TV right? But the switch isn’t always successful. In their attempt to speak this ‘proper English’, the real butchering begins, as syntax goes out of wack and words like “dying”  become “deading”. See footage below:

And I think this is ridiculous. Jus chat di patois freely nuh! Gosh. I too was always insecure about speaking patois in certain contexts, and even as I’m slowly accepting the Mother Tongue, I’m still a bit insecure about it. But thank God for people like Professor Hubert Devonish, who taught me that Creole is indeed an acceptable language, as evinced by its own unique syntax, grammar, etc.

So in this beautiful, diverse language that evolves everyday with a new addition to its vocabulary, comes words such as “uvinersity”, “sciance”, “skelintan”, “fooli-nish” and “mi-case”, all for “university”, “science”, “skeleton”, “foolishness” and “make haste” respectively. Of course, while some words are indigenous to the Jamaican tongue, you will find words that are really misinterpretations of Standard English. “Uvinersity” is an example. Obviously the syllables are rearranged, but you still get the gist. A very important component of what makes a language legitimate is its being mutually intelligible.

Right now, I’m in love with patois, and I can’t resist drawing for it in my interactions, especially when excited or worried. I even think in Standard Patois. Bet you [Jamaicans] didn’t realize you were doing that :p

Yes you might notice the irony that I’ve privileged English in my writing all this time, but that’s just a side effect of being reprimanded by a mother who’s insecure about her tongue. But I do code-switch, and I’ll own, sometimes not successfully… A jus suh life go. [See what I did there?]

Hopefully we can all embrace patois one day. It’s sad that the one population that doesn’t embrace it is the one where it originated. Picture the countries of the world as white patterns on the globe, symbolic of their acceptance, and Jamaica as that one red dot. Sad. Will leave you with a word from Miss Lou:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Guard!

I didn’t intend for this blog to be about my university experience, but I find that a lot of mistakes are being made by the people around me, especially girls, and especially where relationships are concerned.

One of those mistakes is feeling like since you’re at the tertiary level now, you can basically drop your guard, your expectations and your standards, to settle for any passing Joe who might compliment your hairdo. Ladies, please, nuh dweet.

Part of the reason why you won’t find the restrictive high school rules at a university is that administrators ultimately believe they are dealing with adults. As you may notice, you’ll actually have ‘adults’ taking notes beside you in class – as in, people who know what it means to have a 9-5, bills to pay, pickney fi feed, etc. In short, responsible people who really don’t have time for the childish flirtations you previously enjoyed at the secondary level. Being an adult at university means you now have this weird enlightening experience of finally understanding what the word ‘priority’ means, and how to apply it in life.

But (for a girl) the one thing that will draw you back from keeping your head on your shoulders and your hair on your head is it being tangled up in a young man’s fist.

In Jamaica, it’s clear that a lot more females attend the University of the West Indies as opposed to the University of Technology and vice versa, so since these schools are literally neighbours, in some cases, girls from UWI may choose to look over the fence for more options. But as a fresh high school graduate, the temptation is even greater when you’re exposed to a daily eye-feasting of well toned muscles, clean cuts, smart outfits and maybe a little bling. If you take the student bus, which is a service shared by students of both universities, it’s even worse. All too quickly you’re a naive high school graduate who hasn’t gotten used to college life yet, but thinks this guy who’s (probably) way ahead of you, is a safe option (because he’s experienced already so him can show yuh how things go). Before you know it, your focus on every lecturer’s face shimmers and transforms into his, di semester done, you’re blank in exams and yuh fail everything. High school habits. Again, nuh dweet.

It will be hard to resist though because you’ll hardly find a lecturer who’ll waste time to tell you to cross your legs and sit up straight. There’s no guidance councillor to advise you against being in a relationship until you know you’re ready (actually there is but with all this newfound freedom, you ain’t gonna have time for no guidance councillor) and basically no one to stop you from fornicating on campus. Part of being considered an adult is being allowed to do as you please because only adults can make their own decisions. Don’t think though, that that automatically means you should finally be the leggo beast your parents worked so hard to keep you from being.

It is still ok to be careful, to focus on work, and nothing is wrong with being single throughout your tertiary life. It’s only mostly 3 years, and those will fly by so quickly, you’ll be shocked outta your mind. You need the time to cope with how different things are before letting down all of your hair.

If, by chance, you’re actually starting university with a significant other, that’s even more tricky. You’ll both be exposed to a new way of life that might have you pulling in opposite directions of the leash. But being responsible at this age also means being able to acknowledge that you didn’t honestly come to university to bicker or get caught up in the hype surrounding your status. It means being able to cut ties (if necessary) and focus on studies.

Funny enough, I have a friend who is older than me but started UWI a year after I did. Though he’s more experienced, I did warn him to avoid a relationship, at least until he’s used to things, because despite knowing what being responsible and knowing what having a 9-5 feels like, one’s frame of mind will alter when in a tertiary school setting. Of course he forgot that advice, ended up in a relationship with someone who was not only fresh outta high school but very caught up in the hype of campus status, and basically didn’t do as well in his studies as we both knew he could have done. That kind of distraction is both unhealthy and costly. If he failed anything because of it, he would have had to pay to do over that course and I’m sure that girlfriend wouldn’t have contributed to the bill.

That said, be very wary of your decisions and please, give yourself time to adjust before jumping headlong into things. All the best.