As I reflect on the lyrics of Koffee’s song “Where will we go, when di quarantine ting done an everybody touch road?”, I ask myself – “when this is over and life goes back to some semblance of normalcy, will I come out of this a better person than when I entered the ‘oven’ of the COVID 19 pandemic?
Seriously though, we could not have gone through all of emotional, social, financial and medical ‘battaration’ for nothing, so how will the pandemic and all its arterial effects affect us? Where will we go, how will we grow? What new skills would we have acquired? What new attitudes and approaches would we have embraced to replace some of the old ‘sunset’ ones? It is also a good time to review personal relationships. Focus on what is really important. Too many have lost loved ones, and part of their hurt is that ‘ dem was kipping malice’.
Let’s face it, for most of us, our lives need a little ‘housecleaning’ from time to time and the pandemic gives us a chance to ‘wheel and come again’ – to pivot (pandemic buzz word), recalibrate, reorganize, gain new skills, retire or refurbish some old ones and identify new opportunities, new methods, new purposes for some of the old or modified skills – time to ‘sawt out yuhself.’
At 57 (despite my late mother, Miss Emma’s constant “why you always have to be telling people your age?”), I wear it as a badge of pride, because I am ‘saging’ … wiser by the moment. I am grateful to God that I have made it in relatively fine fettle. I have lived, travelled, gathered knowledge and skills along the way, and done interesting things, like riding on the back of a bike through parts of the Sahara desert and going to the demilitarized zone which separates North and South Korea.
I have met ‘important people’, like my helper who taught me much about child-rearing, and the young man who slept in an old car for months so he could attend his Literacy classes, and who ate crackers and drank water to be able to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend. At 18 years old, I was a news anchor on JBCTV, (distinction of being the youngest ever). Years later I broke all tradition by hosting a TV programme wearing nubian knots (aka chiney bumps), fueling a maelstrom which transformed the way many look at black hair. I have done a lot. Is there more to accomplish, more to do? Definitely!
I am using the period of the pandemic to pivot, grow, recalibrate and strengthen in the areas that need ‘a lickle help up’. Close to the top of this list is technology. My friend Mark Nelson once described me as a ‘techno peasant’ (wonderful coinage?). With my fear of technology I always asked younger, more tech-savvy peeps “do this for me nuh”, and most times, even while rolling their eyes, they obliged. Now everyone is busy, trying to organize their own lives and if you are not ‘up there’ with the technology, in a heartbeat, you are declared irrelevant, especially by the millennials … they are the future. Also, critically important to change, is the acceptance that “My way is not the only way, nor necessarily the best way”, and the openness to the process of learning, unlearning and relearning.
Jamaicans say “wah nuh dead nuh dash i weh” so I have chosen to get with the programme, converting the techno peasant hat to a tech-savvy hat. It not always easy but … I getting there and to use Jamaican parlance “mi a gwaan good.” Truth is, I pout a little when a ‘youngun’ seems too busy to help me with a tech issue, but this is soon replaced by the pride I feel, when I figure it out, on my own’. Sometimes we need to retire phrases like, “Back in the day, we used to this and that …”… we are now ‘front’ in the day, not ‘back’. Maximize the pandemic time people. Take advantage of the myriad online courses to shore up your tech creds, or to learn any and everything. Many are free. Make Google and Youtube your BFFs. Jamaicans used to say “Yuh kyaan go in like a fry dumplin and come out like a johnnycake (journey cake)”. In other words, let the pandemic to change you … for better.
When all is said and done however, there is still a place for soft skill training, like customer service and public speaking. With all the technology, a good public speaker can make the difference between a big sale or no sale, a deal signing or no deal, winning over a group /population vs losing them completely, and being seen as credible vs having nobody believing you. For artistes and entertainers, it makes the difference between doing great interviews, or completely ‘tanking’ and embarrassing yourself, and for professionals, it gives you the skills and ammunition to deliver dynamic, engaging presentations.
In the maritime industry, they say “you cannot adjust the wind, but you can adjust your sails” (not as many vessels still using sails, but you get the point). Now is the time to pivot, recalibrate or strengthen, to ‘sawt out yuhself’ or risk irrelevance. While you are at it, take care of your one permanent house, your body, so when “di quarantine ting done and everybody touch road”, we will do so in fine form and fettle, a version of self transformed for better.
About the Author
Joan Andrea Hutchinson is a Public Speaking Coach, Communications Specialist, Remedial Language Teacher, English Language Guru, Writer, Storyteller, Actress, Motivational Speaker and Teacher. She is also a producer and presenter for radio and TV. She has been writing poems and stories in the Jamaican Patois dialect for more than 20 years.