How my childhood neighborhood helped to shape the person that I have become today.

 

                “It is not the strongest, nor the most intelligent of the species who will survive but the one most responsive to change.” As Charles Darwin aptly stated, in order to survive one must be able to adapt. This quote has manifested itself in my childhood for within the first 12 years of my life I had moved through eight different neighbourhoods, two of which were on a different island. In order to endure the ever-changing scenery and personalities I was confronted with I learned to adapt to my surrounding s while keeping my core beliefs at heart and making the most of the experiences. Today I am 18 years old and I have lived in the same house for the past 6 years but the variety of neighbourhoods from my first twelve years of life have played a tremendous role in shaping the person that I have become today. Through living in different neighbourhoods different aspects of my personality were given the ability to develop along the way.  

                At my 1st birthday party my parents announced to my family that we would be moving to Tobago. Within a few short months we were living on the even more picturesque sister isle of Trinidad. The culture was mostly the same but with such a small population Tobago was a close-knit society with compilations of relations; everyone in Tobago was either: your aunt, uncle, fourth cousin or ‘pumpkin vine family’ as they called it, we were by all means outsiders.  Here I spent my formative years; going to nursery school,  playing on the beautiful white sand beaches and the occasional visit to my own uncle’s home. While growing up there I was commonly referred to as “Trini” by even my classmates at the neighbourhood prep school. Being ‘ah Trini’ made me the odd one out in my class, the majority of whom were Tobagonians. This was my first memory of being unique; while at the time I did not embrace it, I still learned the lesson being taught which was that I should not ostracizes someone because s/he is different because that was not what I wanted for myself .  Living in Tobago prepared me for life as through my experiences I am able to appreciate people of different cultures and backgrounds rather than stereotype them based on common generalisations. It also prepared me for primary and secondary school years where I towered above my other classmates. While I was often teased, especially in primary school, and many jokes were made, from my prior self –esteem building experience of living in the Tobago I knew that my height was something to be proud of just like being ‘ah Trini.’

                For a while after moving back to Trinidad from Tobago I lived at my aunt’s house. The house was nestled deep in the Diego Martin valley where the background music to our lives was always chirping birds, the hushed roar of the nearby river and the slightly unnerving yet enchanting sound of wind as it blew through the surrounding bamboo patches. Once again I was in a neighbourhood with no children my age but my little brother was born a year before we left Tobago and I had an older cousin, who loved soccer dearly, to go on adventures with. While most of our adventures never left the intense planning stages on the bedroom floor our aunt and grandmother often took us on walks along the rose beds or in the nearby bamboo patches.  This is where my love and appreciation for nature began and became instilled in me because the serenity of the area captivated me and the beauty intrigued me. I often think back to this place that taught me how to love and respect nature during stressful days and try to remember the smell of granny’s roses or the pride I felt in seeing my pea tree grow past the height of the back wall. This highly valued time spent with my grandmother, aunt, parents and older cousin most certainly developed my communication skills with adults, skills that as a teenager I have highly valued.

                From the valley of Diego Martin our next move was to the hill of St. Ann’s. Once again I was faced with the situation where there was no one my age to socialize with.  Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems my brother and I turned the house into our castle, fort and ship. With no other children around we were forced to develop our imaginations and to dream widely without any doubt so when we dreamed up building a pool in the front yard at five and six years old we only saw possibilities and resultant happiness ahead. Equipped with a tarpaulin, bricks and a garden hose our first pool was built. This neighbourhood which I had very little interaction with encouraged me to develop my imagination and taught me to improvise and so I adapted to a neighbourhood that otherwise did not seem to offer much to my development.

Life in the rural neighbourhood of St. Ann’s eventually became a brick of my past as we moved into West Moorings. This upper-middle class residential neighbourhood was laden with children of all ages, including mine who owned designer toys, bikes, skates and electronic games. Yet much to my disappointment the crime rate and number of kidnappings in Trinidad had increased by multiples at this time and I was not allowed to join my peers playing in the road by rule of my parents, a rule that none of my other friends had imposed on them. My new friends and I would play games with me on the inside of my gate and them on the road; once again I had to learn to adapt to the situation and develop a way that I could still enjoy my outdoor time with my friends. This arrangement also taught me something that I hold on to this day; we are all different and may not always have the same values as each other but we must find a common ground and work together here. Although I didn’t appreciate my parents’ rule it was for my own safety; I did not get to enjoy the same freedom as my neighbours but we worked around the problem and devised a solution.  

                This variety of neighbourhoods helped form me into the adventurous, optimistic, unbiased, nature lover that I have become. The experiences taught me how to handle change and adjust to different people while also teaching me interpersonal skills that I would use for the rest of my life. From Tobago to Westmoorings, not all of these neighbourhoods showed mounds of potential to help me grow or have very positive impacts on my personality. I did not have peers my own age in most of these neighbourhoods but I improvised and I adapted to make them suitable for my survival and existence. Some neighbourhoods I absolutely adored and others I cared very little for but at the end of it all each helped to shape me and gave valuable life lessons which largely contribute to the person I am today.

Rushell Rousseau

 

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