Finding the Boy, Accepting the Man:
[The Yellow Brick Road to My Emerald City]
By : Karlton A. Armistad
Date : 21/06/21
1. Wait a Minute, This Isn’t Kansas:
I lost my way at the start of writing this, only because when you live with severe anxiety and depression, you get those days where finding the smallest amount of motivation is like breathing through a pierced-up straw; if you don’t suck, you outta luck. But I got up and that crazy voice in my head that I have to fight with and protect myself from getting too wrapped in, lost this round so I went to dry my bed sheets out in the garden and my lovely neighbour, a wonderful older lady called Isabelle was out in her garden hanging her clothes out to dry as well.
We’d hardly talked since I moved into my little one bedroom bungalow six months ago, other than to introduce ourselves & I didn’t recall that while working at my first job when I moved to the picturesque little Village of Lochcarron and worked at one of the hotels here; that her and her friends were regular patrons at least twice a month. ‘You know when you worked at the hotel Andrew’ she said to me cheerfully; ‘my friends and I loved coming to eat your food, so tasty and rich with flavour, we miss that’. ‘Well now that I am your neighbour, when I bake or make a nice roast, I will take you some over Isabelle’ I replied, ‘oh now I feel spoilt’ she said, smiling happily at the thought, and as we both got on with the rest our day
I felt the urge to sit and begin writing and talking about my passions and what brings me fulfilment. From a very early age I had a connection with three things that still to this day are very much a part of my identity.
They keep me connected to the very heart of my being, links me to my ancestry and to family and friends say ‘that’s Drew’ always. Sharing these passions with you is a natural almost freeing emotion for me and I hope you may or may not connect with at least one of the four things below:
2. Stepping Stones Part 1:
The first passion that springs to mind has the scent of my Mother’s French Fried Chicken tied to it; I am laughing as I write as to elaborate on this passion, I know I will laugh and cry at points, but I’ll not spoil it for you, I’ll just tell it like it is.
My Mom, Sherry Nicholson made the absolute best French Fried Chicken in the world, and the family were treated to it once a month as a Sunday meal. I’d get up after my afternoon nap, and the aromatic smell of ginger, pimento, garlic, spring onion, malt vinegar and other Jamaican spices would permeate through the whole house and tantalize my taste-buds making my mouth crave a piece of the chicken, way before dinner, and that was a problem. A problem that would see my mother beating me with a large wooden cook spoon, hitting selected bones with eagle-eye precision so as to inflict maximum pain. ‘Mom, Mom I’m sorry Mom’ you could hear me scream, but I wasn’t, the satisfying taste of the chicken leg in my mouth was worth the temporary pain from my beating for sure.
Sherry realised quite early I had a knack for cooking and started handing down her skills to prepare meals and cakes as she did with my sisters. Boys were not traditionally trained to know how to cook and clean in Jamaica, that was seen as a girl/woman’s job for a very long time in society. My Mom would not subscribe to this at all, she wanted her children to have every survival skill going so that when faced with the harsh truths life would later throw at them like curve balls; all of Us would be able to cope and make her proud. She was right, and we did.
Forward to 4 decades later, I was working as the Head Chef/Cook-In-Charge for a small country Hotel/Pub and every skill I was taught by my Mom became more than handy; they helped me set a unique and respectable standard for a quality flavoursome Menu, which performed well amongst the Hotel’s competitors. People would travel from as far as Aberdeen to taste my Jamaican Stew Chicken and Rice n’ Peas or for a slice of my JD Honey Whiskey & White Chocolate Flapjacks; which gave me a sense of connection to my upbringing and my dearly departed Sherry, who Cancer had robbed Me of some 8 years earlier. Each time I created a piece of food and it was enjoyed by our patrons the spark in me was ignited and when they would ask to see the Chef to pay their compliments, I would walk out with that special smile, that said ‘Sherry’s boy did that, she has every reason to be smiling in heaven’. So cooking & baking are my 1st Passion; when I am in the kitchen and I have my music on and am creating/preparing a dish; I feel a sense of calm that tells me I am in one of my magical spaces, whether it’s making my signature coleslaw or adding the secret ingredients to my beer batter for Fish & Chips; every step is a yellow brick on my path to finding the Emerald City, and I walk this path happily.
3. Stepping Stone Part 2:
Caring for others is a passion of mine and I say it wanting no recognition as I have over the last 2 and half years realised that this is very much a trait, part of humanity lacks. As someone living with severe anxiety and depression, and a survivor of sexual assault, racial and homophobic abuse, if I didn’t have this passion, I would not be alive to write this story, true words, and I’ll elaborate. I had a friend who was also living with serious mental health issues and had been isolated from all her friends back to where she was born to get help with this, but being isolated back in the life-draining town she came from was making her worse, so I took her in.
I remember her arriving back to our City where we’d met looking half the person she was and very broken. It took me 4 weeks, some good home-cooked meals and just nights spent with her listening to where she was at and where she wanted to be to get her out of her shell, and back to doing things like seeing other friends, going out for a meal and smiling again.
Cut to present day and a her having to battle several demons, to find her path back to her own redemption, I am happy that I chose to stand by her and would do the same for anyone I believe needed it. In caring for her, I became severely ill myself, and had to move away from the City and into a quieter and calmer place so I could recover and heal, but that is what you do when you care and want not just a happy successful life for yourself, but for others as well.
The world we live in is filled with too many takers, and not enough givers, and I have vowed not to make my life apart of that rat race but to live positively, be kind and caring to others, value the planet and do what I can to keep it going, not destroy it. Most importantly acknowledge my humanity.
4. Stepping Stones Part 3:
Writing, be it Poems, Stories, Social Commentary or Movie Critiquing form my next Passion, being different to other kids from an early age, I found using my creativity helped me with making friends and shielded me from some people’s ignorance.
As a quiet and observant child, writing helped me, saved me and allowed me a voice at points where I felt I had none, as if I used the talent God gifted Me, I could be tortured and even killed like so many dear friends that this has happened to over the years.
See my country of birth and its society does not and I mean does NOT view members of the LGBTQi+ community in a positive light at all, in fact in my youthful years, I hid everything that was me so well, for fear of persecution that at points I didn’t even recognise who or what I was or meant to be.
I cried for so hard and for so long that my tears started to feel like stone anchors weighing my body slowly down to an ocean floor, preparing me for certain death. The 1st sight of the true me appeared when I boarded a flight to the United Kingdom in 1999, once I was here, I took in my 1st FREE breath of air and exhaled like the pain of ten years of captivity and fear had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be myself and not have to worry that I would be captured, old truck tires thrown over me and gasoline poured over me, then be set alight to burn like Joan of Ark.
But this freedom came at a price, and sitting here writing today, if I had the choice to do it all over again I am not sure I could, as the price was to never see my Mother alive again, not be allowed to set foot on Jamaican soil for over 25 years. The price was having a mother and brother die of Cancer and not be able to attend their funeral and say good-bye. The price was hearing your dying mother tell you how much pain and suffering You being away from her caused her, and knowing as she waited for you with all her heart to say goodbye neither of you would get that simple but basic right. No; I am not sure I could do it again at all.
Because for a son and mother that were each other’s light, I can’t begin to describe the suffering that came with the choice of staying alive and being thousands of miles away from those who had actually tried to kill me more than once just for being different to what they perceived it was to be a man.
See I want to tell you that the decades of hardship, abuse, struggle and cruelty and experience that followed in my new found freedom were worth it, but I can’t. Having to deal with being locked-up in a strange place and having others enact soul-destroying evil upon you in the name of greed, jealousy and spite, no it wasn’t worth it.
But it’s done now, and out of it I rose a stronger more formidable human being and a child living with the loss of a parent that was a huge part of who he is. Who’s encouragement and genuine caring nature is reflected in how I raise my daughter, and look out for those I love.
When I put pen to paper to tell life’s many tales, I know she guides my hand and watches over Me, and even though she isn’t here in the flesh, she still wipes my tears and strokes my hair to comfort me in my most challenging moments. So I write my poems, watch films and critique them with the same depth of emotion as when I used to watch the Jamaican TV soaps with my Mom brushing my hair and both us laughing and sharing the same shock-horror at a dramatic plot point. I try and ensure my Social commentary is balanced and leave room for the other person’s view, as she taught me life must never be all about me alone.
I dance and move my hips through reggae, r-n’-b, soul, hip-hop and ballads, so many ballads like when I use to belt out the high notes to Celine Dion’s ‘Only One Road’ or ‘Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ (the reason my Dad said he would never take me to a cinema to watch another film again), because as passions go, these ones have my past, present and future linked and can’t, no won’t leave me, even if people do. I am still living in hope of my ‘One moment in time, where the answers are all up to me, and all of my dreams are just a heartbeat away, and I am racing with destiny’ [Whitney Houston; ‘One Moment In Time’].
5. The Emerald City:
Fighting for the right to be treated ‘equal’ without prejudice because of race, gender, age, religion, sex or sexual identity; is my last passion. I would like to see all in the world have this right, as I had to fight tooth and nail for my access to this right.
In coming to the United Kingdom, I thought that I would be safe and that these issues didn’t exist here, and for a while I believed this to be true, but then as reality pulled the wool from over my eyes, events took my path down a very educational route.
The United Kingdom did in truth prove to be my Emerald City, and true to the story of Dorothy in the 1939 film; The Wizard of Oz, I had to fight my fair share of evil witches and hordes of monsters, gremlins and creatures. None of the struggles have been easy and I am still living through some of them as we speak, including a failed marriage, several painful relationships, people you thought were close friends that turned out to be scheming enemies etc.
Leading me to my audience with the Wizard who in his/her infinite wisdom told me ‘live Your truth, be kind to others and treat them as you would expect to be treated. Live not seeing only the colour of another person’s skin but the positivity and hope that lives in each and every one of Us. That and only that will lead you home’.
6. There’s No Place Like Home
The question was asked ‘how I could monetize my passion in a perfect world’; and thankfully in my moment of inspiration for this piece I found three things that could make that happen and one that is just for Me doing what is the right and true thing to do:
(1) Continue Cooking and baking, and if anyone reads this and wants to invest in a small Country Café’ and Information Point here in the Highlands of Scotland, please hit me up. I have an idea for a wicked business that involves making & selling great tasting food while tackling systemic racism, homophobia and other social injustice through providing information and cultural experiences to the local societies here in the Highlands.
(2) Continue writing and sharing my poems, social commentary, short stories movie critiquing and dancing with the world. I am poor with not much to give but my words and a look into my life, if I had wealth I would share it, if doing this saves a life, then I am happy as when I had nothing and no one even cared I was alive; these passions came to my rescue, and kept my faith in humanity going.
(3) Continue caring for others and the environment; the world has taught us through capitalism to be like stone, only focus on our own needs even if that means hurting others in the process. After going through some of the horrible experiences I have had based on this mentality, I am choosing to live another way. Do right by myself and others as best I can, help others in need expecting nothing in return. Treat everyone & the environment as I expect them to treat me, taking no act of kindness/care/generosity for granted. Say sorry or apologise when you are wrong, as it takes a truly honest soul to accept and live with their flaws.
Finally; after living and carrying the pain of the sacrifices that have brought me to residing in my quiet little picturesque village; I want to go back to Jamaica at least once and see my Mother & Brother’s graves and say goodbye to them so my heart-brake can end. I have never had the money to sort out my citizenship and be able to do it, as I would also need to have security, so I can ensure I am not murdered for the short space of time that I am there. Oddly enough even though I have not been back there in 25 years, people still are waiting to do what they tried to before, end my life. Even though I don’t live there anymore, I still need to see where they are laid to rest, tell my Mom I am so-so sorry I didn’t make it back to hold her hand and see to it that she knows I am ok, or as ok as I can be. Winning this challenge would be a chance to do this, but I know there are going to be better creators than me, so just being able to put my experience out into the universe is a huge start. I hope this didn’t bore you, the tale of guy, finding the boy he lost and learning to accept and love the man he has become. [END]
About the Creator
Carlton A. Armistad is the pseudonym for Andrew R. Little. I prefer writing under this as it allows me to look at any body of work I complete separate to my personal day-to-existence, and safeguards my relationships and family.