It was my first proper big life adventure. Leaving the familiar 46 square miles of St Helena, travelling for 2 weeks across 5,000 miles of ocean. I was stepping into my childhood dream – to study Fine Art at University in the UK.
It was scary not knowing how bank cards or mobiles worked. But being able to buy any kind of fruit all year round was new. Mostly, is was exciting. Learning how to develop photos, making prints, and learning about fashion. It was going well.
Then it happened. My grandfather died. He was my father figure. The man who taught me about family. Made me a football fan, and showed me why we need to be part of the community in which we live. He would no longer be there to guide me. Unable to travel back for the funeral, uselessly disconnected from my families grief. I was angry, confused and sad. I was a kid.
Back living back on St Helena, not quite a struggling artist, but a struggling designer instead, with a day job to pay the rent. Living with the love of my life, feeling like a grown up, learning about adult things like tax and getting to work on time. I was busy enjoying island life and love.
Then it happened. My brother died. We fought like brothers do, however, he showed me how to be a calmer person, how not to judge others too quickly, and the value of being clever. Being on St Helena now, I was able to help make funeral arrangements, able to be the one to tell our young cousins he had died, able to share in the families and friends grief. There to help and to support my mum. I was a teenager.
Now married to the love of my life, working as a digital designer, once again living in the UK. We had gotten to know our city and our community. Life was filled with friends love, energy and colour – with the occasional sunshine. Life in lovely Bristol was great.
Then it happened. My mum died. Travelling across air and sea for 4 days and 5,000 miles, I returned to St Helena to say goodbye and bury her. Our relationship was difficult at times – I struggled to always understand her motivations. But she did her best as a single parent, and she did alright. I wouldn’t be writing this if not for the determination she nurtured in me, the unknown sacrifices she made, and her love. I had to make every decision for the arrangements. I had to decide what to do with the remain’s of 56 years of life. I had to be the steadfast person, that focal point for whom family and friends directed their grief. I had to think of others before myself. And then I had to continue living life…. I feel like a man now.