Three weeks ago I sat in my back yard reading The Power of Now as the sun began to sink behind the mountains. Buddy was blissfully asleep on my lap with four legs askew, Stella was swirling around my ankles meowing hopefully for another serve of fish. The two had reached an uneasy alliance, only occasionally broken when Buddy mistakenly assumed she would make a good play mate and Stella gave him a hiss and a swipe to remind him she is far to classy for his silly puppy games.
I remember wondering – quite against the book’s good counsel – what would become of us all, this little rag tag Jamaican family of mine? Would Buddy become starved and ferocious like all the other Jamaican dogs? And what of my beautiful Stelly Welly? My constant companion throughout this whole journey, one whose trust I had to earn carefully, who would soon have to protect and care for a litter of tiny helpless kittens all on her own? What about Tigger and Ninja, the other crazy cats? Would they too return to their neglected, distrusting former selves? And what would become of me? Once I returned home, would I have a clearer picture of what this had all been leading to, how it had changed me and what would come next?
But I knew even as I asked myself the questions that there were no quick and easy answers. If Jamaica has taught me anything at all it is that we cannot predict or control the next moment, let alone the next week or year of our lives. Before I left Australia, I felt like I was looking into an immense abyss of unknown ahead. That feeling has never really gone away, and nor should it – we are all constantly standing on the edge of that dark unknown, however much we like to convince ourselves otherwise. I had no power to make sure these animals were fed or protected or loved. I also could not possibly know for certain what the future held for myself. All I was sure of was that we were all on our own from here on in.
Fast forward to today, my very last day in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. And it comes with a truckload of mixed emotions. Relief is the biggest. However, there is also happiness: my Mum is here to experience a slice of this crazy experience with me. Excitement and gratitude that I will soon be travelling to Cuba and the Cayman Islands and Mexico. Pride in myself for all I have learned and achieved here. Sadness each time I say goodbye to one of the children and they ask me to please stay, please pack them in my suitcase, and when will I be coming back? Frustration that there is no one to carry on the work that I started, that the literacy program I created which saw 24 children go up a whole grade level in their reading skills in six months will most likely sit and gather dust now. Fear of that endless unknowable abyss called the future. Eagerness for all the joyful reunions with friends and family back home. Apprehension about returning to the first world when so much of the third world has become second nature to me.
So, in the face of this whirlwind going on inside me I will do what I have done for the past six months: I will keep calm and carry on. I will not seek certainty, because life without uncertainty it doesn’t exist. I will not strive to be fearless, because life without fear doesn’t exist. I will allow the unanswerable questions to sit with me as I pack my bags, say my goodbyes and make one last bumpy journey down through the windy mountain roads to Kingston. And as I get on that plane, I will remember that feeling every possible emotion all at once is probably a very good sign that I am living the width of life. And wasn’t that, after all, the whole point?