tldr; I wrote about moving to Jamaica, and I decided to write about Sweden as well. Every step in my life continues to follow a nonlinear, winding road to self-realisation (not discovery) and brings me to spaces where I can better utilise my privileges to help others.
I Failed to Make it at Home
For those who followed me after my video and posts about leaving Japan and getting back to my roots, you're probably confused about my move to Sweden. A lot has changed in the world since October 2019, so much that it's a bit daunting. For other young adults trying to start their lives in 2020, I send my regards. We're truly on a rollercoaster.
Originally, I had planned to go home and start my life. Jamaica is a place full of opportunity, untouched land, and unknown bounds. There is so much to be developed there. I could be the first in Jamaica, or the random billionth person doing what I do somewhere else. Furthermore, I could participate in my culture, to my home- to the resurrection of our people after surviving the horrors of imperialism. I was eager, and excited and did my research. I planned to help digitise Jamaica and create a space for myself in the marketing and creative field. When I went home, I had 2-3 positions I had my eye on to get me started, and then I could develop my own brand from there. My partner, from Sweden, had come down with me planning to do the same.
Reality started to hit hard in the first few months already. The market for what I wanted to do was not only young but incomprehensible for the family-owned businesses that monopolised Kingston. They had customer base and they have been handling business their way their whole lives, why change? "Post one-two pikcha? Dat nuh tek nuh time..." a month's worth of marketing probably amounts to $100 USD, $200 if I'm lucky. Some one-tenth of what I'd make doing an internship (not even a full-time job) in another country.
Still, I was optimistic. I could live with my family and have very few expenses where I could spend time proving to people with results what social media and digital platforms can do for a business. How beneficial and leveling the internet could be, especially for a small island like us. I struggled to advocate the worth of my work, and network with people who could utilise my skills one way or the other, sending my fishing line out in every direction, including online work to give me more capital to invest in my own brand and show legitimacy to an ageist, conservative culture who sees my young face and hears silly inexperienced mumbles about business and marketing whenever I open my mouth to pitch.
Then COVID-19 entered my life, made itself known in all our lives.
Suddenly my optimism didn't seem to hold out. I was stuck in the house and could do no pitching. Businesses had too much to think about, the country had too much at stake to take new innovative risks. I quickly had to make a new plan, I had my doubts before, but now it was clear that my trucking through would bear no fruits now... I signed up for Italki and switched my focus to online teaching because I saw the whole world sign out of life and into their computers.
That worked marvelously for me, and I saw money enter my pocket for the first time in a long time. Everyone was looking for something to learn, something to pick up while they were stuck in their rooms. I got a boost from Corona, in a space, I didn't immediately expect. I had 200 one-on-one lessons in the first month, got wonderful reviews, and was able to increase my price rapidly. It allowed me to be self-sufficient, and save a lot, especially since I had nowhere to go and spend it.
Apart from the fact that my partner is Swedish and the US was certainly not an option, I have a lot of reasons for being in Sweden. One of my biggest complaints while living in Japan, and why I decided to leave in the first place, was the taxing lifestyle and attitude towards minorities (of all kind). Sweden, in essence, is on the exact opposite side of the spectrum to Japan. Japanese men are known to participate the least at home, with a whopping 2% while women do 98% of all home-related things. Sweden holds the most equal figures in the world with 50/50. In terms of social equality and support systems, no one scores higher than Scandinavia. With my strong opinions and high standards for the accommodation of all people- Scandinavia struck me as the right place.
The priorities for me as a 22-year-old were achievable in Sweden. I can finish a degree, support myself inexpensively, and work towards a stable and supported environment for my children in the future.
Some benefits to living and studying in Sweden:
- Cheap Rent: my rent here is one-tenth of what I was paying in Tokyo.
- Great public transport: I bought a bike to avoid contact during COVID-19, but still, transport is cheap and easy for me without a car.
- When I become a resident here, school becomes free.
- Emphasis on the Environment: This is something I care about a lot, but is really taxing when there is no infrastructure to buy second-hand, recycle, or whatever else.
- Nation-wide student discounts: and I mean proper discounts, often 40-70% off on every store.
- Maternal leave and paternal leave is 1.5 years each, even for parents who adopt.
- Emphasis on the workers, not the conglomerates. Hours and working conditions are set thinking about the workers first, not how much money the owners will make or lose.
What About Jamaica?
I have not given up my desire to participate in the growth of Jamaica. It just seems that my contribution will have to be in smaller spaces for now. I have settled with the idea that I need money and some bigger credibility to push through and forge the industry changes I want to see. Where I am now, it will be too difficult to sell a foreign concept to Jamaica's small businesses. I hope to build my portfolio and line my pocket to one day make a splash with investments in Jamaica's digital infrastructure and creative scene.
How I plan to participate now:
- I started a magazine on culture and language this year, and hope to expand it to support more Jamaican writers, artists, and academics. I also hope to promote Caribbean culture with depth, instead of simply tourist fishnets that portray our culture as subservient or one-dimensional.
- This September, I plan to launch an online store on this blog, where I will feature a Jamaican themed line that I will donate a percentage of the proceeds to some non-profits in Jamaica supporting the improvement of the art industry in Jamaica. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I hope to start directly donating within the year.
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