Day 274 - Grace (1st person I approached)
October 01, 2014 - Grace was sitting alone, reading on her phone when I approached her and asked her to chat with me. I started to explain about my project and she told me she had heard of it already. Grace was waiting to go to the gym for a fitness class and said she had nine minutes. We agreed to chat for the time that was available.
Grace was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
“I was the first child born to very young parents. My mother was sixteen, and my father was twenty one when I was born. When my mother was one month away from delivering her second child, my younger brother, my father went to England,” said Grace. Her mother followed some time after, leaving both Grace and her younger brother in Jamaica.
“They went to England to pull things together, their intention was to send for us when they got settled. My brother and I were raised by our (maternal) grandmother.” Grace’s paternal grandparents where also around as she and her younger brother grew up.
“At first we got packages and things sent from England. But after a while those dropped off,” said Grace. Her parents had four more children while living in England.
“I had resentment and feelings of anger about being abandoned,” she said.
Grace went to school in Kingston until she was fifteen years old.
“My grandmother moved to Toronto and took my brother and I with her. I finished high-school there,” she said. At seventeen Grace and her brother went to visit their parents in England, for the summer.
“It was good to reconnect with my parents and to get to know them a little bit. I realized I was lucky to have been raised by my grandmother in Jamaica and then Toronto. The other kids were great but things had been tough for them. Even my younger sister, who is the oldest of the four born in England, said she wished she had grown up with our grandmother in Jamaica,” said Grace.
After finishing school in Toronto, Grace went to Ryerson University and studied Journalism.
“It was a three year undergrad program. I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved reading. When I was growing up, if I finished the books I had from the library and didn’t make it back before the library closed, I would read the dictionary. I just loved to read. Maybe it was partially a way of escaping, but it was also just that I loved reading,” she said.
“When I graduated from university, I went back to Jamaica. I worked in a radio station and worked for a newspaper while I was there.”
Three years later, Grace returned to Toronto.
“I had jobs writing and continued in newspapers and journalism. When my grandmother passed away, I felt I could actually leave Toronto. I came to Vancouver. I had been here a number of times with my work over the years. The first time I saw those mountains, I thought to myself ‘Yes, I could live here.’ I spent a few years working here in Vancouver. I had a son during that time. When he was about four years old, I decided to go back to Jamaica. I took my son with me. His father and I had separated. I probably would have come back to Vancouver quite quickly, but a lot of my friends had said I wouldn’t last, and I wanted to prove them wrong!” said Grace, with a smile.
“I was working for a newspaper, writing for the lifestyle and food sections. The paper had a weekly supplement, and a women's section that was read by both men and women. I wrote for all of those. I also started my own magazine focussing on lifestyle and food,” she said.
“My son was about fourteen and I wasn’t happy with the way things were going for him in school in Jamaica. We had been coming to Vancouver for vacations, so my son could see his father. I decided that I was going to have my son come back to live with his father and go to school here in Vancouver. I thought I’d stay in Jamaica, but in the end, I wanted to be with my son, so I came back to live in Vancouver,” she told me. Grace has been back in Vancouver for about five years now.
“My son has been in graphic design and is now studying music at Douglas college. And I’m working freelance. Writing and doing any editing work that comes my way. It’s a competitive field to be working in these days,” she said.
Our time was over, and I walked with Grace towards the location of her fitness class. I took her picture and we chatted a bit more as we walked. She had mentioned that she had developed some stiffness and pain in her neck as the day wore on. I could tell by the way she was carrying herself that she was a little uncomfortable. I told her that I thought it was a sign of strength and determination to be going to the gym when feeling like that. I wouldn’t be going.
“Well, I’m committed to doing it. If I was feeling sick, or if I was overly tired, I wouldn’t be here. I like this class though, because it starts at a certain time, and ends at a certain time.” #notastranger