Have you ever wished that you could travel back in time and give your Past Self some tips, recommendations, or warnings? If I, for example, could travel back to 1997, I would tell my Past Self to avoid the denim on denim on denim… on denim: “Dear Past Self, there will be an unflattering photo of you that will circulate for years. At the very least, lose the denim hair bow.” I would warn my Past Self against stealing my parent’s vodka and replacing the bottles with water: “Dear Past Self, this does not turn out well for you. You will feel shame for years to come.” In addition, I would tell my Past Self to attend Social Studies class on September 25th: “This is the day that you will meet your future husband. Be there… and smile at the new boy.” And finally, I would tell my Past Self to be brave: “You will be tested, but you are much stronger than you realize. Stay positive.”
Continuing in this wishful thinking, if I could travel back in time to Fall 2014 – the year that we landed on our tropical paradise – I would offer myself some sound advice to help ease my transition into island life. I would write down these few tips/recommendations and slip them into my past purse to ensure that I did not fall victim to these somewhat embarrassing newbie errors:
1. You do not have Zika. You have a hangover, sweetheart.
My face hurt from smiling. Our voices climbed in decibels and pitch as we struggled to be heard over the festive popping of the Prosecco bottles. I alternated between bites of crispy bacon and Beef Wellington, stopping frequently to inhale my seemingly bottomless glass of bubbly. Chocolate mousse for the table? Why not? It was noon on a Sunday and I had drank and eaten to the point of satiation. What could possibly be the occasion for such gluttonous activity? Behold… the Sunday brunch. The complete brunch experience was new to me. Devouring the most delectable food and drink on a patio overlooking the turquoise blue Caribbean sea was my new definition of heaven. Stumbling home at 2pm, and in bed (passed out) by 8pm, I was certain that I would be mentally and physically prepared to head back to work on Monday morning. Alas, I awoke Monday feeling sluggish, achy, and foggy. After a few months of “difficult” Mondays, I suspected that perhaps I had contracted some strange island virus. Could it be West Nile? Dengue? Zika? Google revealed some terribly disturbing possibilities…
DEAR PAST SELF: You have a hangover! You cannot go boozing every Sunday and then blame your ills on some mystery virus. Save the Sunday brunch for long weekends. Go home, drink some water, take some vitamins, and do some yoga, girl.
2. Sanitize! Sanitize! Sanitize!
I wiped away the hard crust that had formed on my swollen goopy eye and whined, “Evan, the doctor says that I have pink eye. Apparently it’s very contagious amongst the school-aged kids!” Although it was difficult to discern due to the loss of vision in the infected eye, I detected a look of disgust from my loving husband as he responded, “Ok. Well go lay down… maybe in the guest room, hey?”
DEAR PAST SELF: You work in the schools with children. Children are a cesspool of germs. In addition, you will share your speech therapy space with iguanas and chickens. You will be exposed to lice, ringworm, fleas, and eventually be infected with pink eye… in both eyes! Carry that hand sanitizer with you everywhere. Bathe in it! Drink it if you must! Sanitize the hell out of yourself.
3. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
I stormed into the tiny hotel room that was presently storing all of our belongings along with our barking dog and anxiety-ridden cat who had now resorted to pulling his fur out in clumps. “Evan! Marguerite already got her driver’s license, Andrea signed a lease on a house, Lisa bought a car, Katherine has already gone on the stingray city tour! I only made 2 friends today AND we missed a happy hour at the Westin last night!”
DEAR PAST SELF: Calm. The Eff. Down. The first few months on island are going to be difficult. You will eventually transition into “island time” but you will need to relinquish your Type-A, high-strung qualities and channel your easy-going adaptable self. You will learn the true definition of “patience” when you need to obtain your license at the DMV, pick-up a prescription, and receive your passport stamp at Immigration. In addition, you will need to demonstrate patience with yourself. You will make friends and you will be successful at your job because you are are still inherently you, even in this unknown, foreign environment. Take a deep breath and go take a picture of the sunset (you will eventually accumulate thousands of island sunset photos, yet still cherish them all).
4. Tangerine is not your colour. Limit your sun exposure!
I slathered my SPF 15 sunscreen on my body, adjusted my bikini, opened up my US magazine, and settled in for a solid 4 hour shift by the pool. Awesomeness.
DEAR PAST SELF: Stay out of the sun! You will begin to turn an alarming hue of tangerine. Limit your sun exposure and use SPF 30 (at the least) each and every single day. One day, you will find yourself naked and face down on the Dermatologist’s examination table, asking her to investigate a suspicious-looking mole on your ass. The Caribbean sun is lovely, but dangerously strong. You’re not in Canada anymore, chicky.
5. Don’t be offended when you are widely referred to as the “white lady.”
I knocked on the classroom door and was greeted by the teacher, “Good morning, Miss Kirstie!”
“Good Morning! I’m here to pick up the parent consents for speech therapy.”
“Consents? But I gave them to you yesterday!”
“I wasn’t here yesterday,” I replied.
“Oh, well a lady who looked just like you was here and I gave them to her.”
Say Wha? Eventually, it was determined that a white visitor with blonde hair had been given the forms. Oops. So… ummm… we all look alike, you say?
DEAR PAST SELF: This will be the first time in your life that you will be a minority. In the beginning, you will feel uncomfortable and awkward when you are the only Caucasian in the grocery store or in your work environment. Don’t take offense to comments that you might initially deem as “racist.” No one has ill intent, they simply recognize you by your distinguishing features: “yellow” hair and white skin. Eventually, you will learn to simultaneously embrace your differences and their culture, showing fascinated children your blue eyes and saluting your co-workers with a “soon come” at the end of the day.
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What do you wish you could tell your Past Self in your newbie island days?