2022 Jamaica Essay Contest

1st Place Winner

Eliaejah Harris Essay

I have heard on countless occasions that no one knows you better than yourself. That notion apparently applies to everyone except me. I am sometimes perplexed about who I am. I can identify my interests, dislikes, fears, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, and other innate characteristics. I can describe myself with hackneyed phrases and overused adjectives, or be content with the compliments and accolades which others have directed at me. However, I firmly believe that these do not encapsulate who I truly am. I am a singular human being who, in a pluralistic society, morphs into the chameleon that circumstances and life experiences dictate. As I am still discovering myself, I am undeterred by the hurdles and challenges on this journey called life. I am a catalyst embarking on this lifelong voyage, intent on indelibly etching my name in the annals of time.
I am a gift from God. My mother always loved the name ‘Elijah’, but she prayed for a daughter because she “wanted hair to comb”. God listened keenly to the desires of her heart, finally gifting her a healthy baby girl one early January morning in 2005. Without hesitation, she named me Eliaejah, her firstborn and the manifestation of her answered prayers. She loved me with her whole heart and did everything in her power to protect and nurture me. That, among other things, proves that I am someone’s dream come true. I am living proof that God answers prayers. In a sense, I am my mother’s greatest accomplishment, but I view myself as so much more.

I am unbeatable. For the short period of time that I have been in this world, one thing has remained constant: my exceptional ability to excel. For as long as I can remember, I have been revered for my stellar academic performance. From an early age, everyone deemed me an undeniably brilliant child with untapped potential for excellence. As a result, I thrive on academic validation and the coveted sensation of triumph. I am an overachiever. I am a star student who will not settle for mediocrity. Maybe I am a perfectionist. Surprisingly, I am also a paradox. Everyone anticipates the best results and knows I am capable of great things, yet I never give myself enough credit. I am someone who tries her absolute best to get remarkable results, yet I prepare myself for utter disappointment. I am a leader who knows I am gifted, yet I am doubtful and sometimes unsure of myself. Such value has been placed on my cognitive abilities and the only thing I know is greatness. Consequently, I am a top student who often wonders if there is anything more to me than my academic prowess.

I am ambitious. I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I also believe that restraint gives way to curiosity. I have been told countless times to focus solely on my education, and now, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to becoming a renowned medical professional. As an aspiring obstetrician, I envision myself caring for mothers and newborn babies. I beam with enthusiasm and satisfaction when I imagine achieving that goal. However, I also fantasize about endless alternatives and things I have never experienced. I am a dreamer. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of the fun I never had, the chances I never got, the simple joys that passed me by. I am young, so I dream of pure enjoyment and happiness. I dream of travelling the world, pursuing my other interests like dance, music, sports, and art, and disappearing to focus on myself. I also imagine what my life would be like if I were raised differently. At times, I am torn between doing what I have been taught to love and exploring what I am truly passionate about. I am forever focused on building a solid, sustainable future for myself and my family. I am motivated, but I am worried that I will look back and have no memories. I am a young woman whose past makes her fear the future.

I am resilient and irrepressible. Throughout my life, I have encountered numerous hardships and disappointments. I have overcome events that no minor should ever have to experience. I am immensely blessed, but I am not exempt from adversity. From an early age, I have been impacted by external factors over which I had no control. I am suffering from the absence of an upstanding father. After several instances of abandonment, I am persuaded that I am part of the reason he finally left. I am sometimes consumed by intrusive thoughts that overwhelm me. Due to this stereotypical fate that has befallen me, I was deprived of the father-daughter relationship that should characterize every child’s upbringing. Additionally, I was robbed of the crucial influence of a father figure. I am in constant turmoil as I ponder the extent of the damage. As a result, I am a young woman with unanswered questions, conflicting emotions, and a gaping void in her heart.

I am uncertain. I live in a world where everyone is affected by events that are beyond his control. Global inflation impacts daily expenses. Innocent citizens suffer unfathomable tragedies. Dreadful diseases plague our population, disregarding wealth and status when choosing their victims. Unabated conflict among nations diminishes my hope for world peace, and invariably jeopardizes my future ambitions. I am counted among those affected by these worldwide crises. Innumerable factors give rise to disheartenment, leaving me to question my future. Having survived a pandemic, and on the cusp of another, I am grateful for God’s sustenance, but I am concerned. Due to dire matters that can easily disrupt my future, I am made afraid.

I am optimistic. I profoundly believe that God has incredible plans for me, but it is only human to become discouraged, to worry about the uncertainty of this life. In those moments of doubt, through silent tears and racing thoughts, I turn to Him. Though I am preoccupied with affairs of the future, I am confident that God will give me the victory. I remain grateful for what I have surmounted thus far, and I maintain a positive outlook. I have fought unexpected battles, and I am still at war, but I am thankful for God’s unwavering faithfulness. I am certain that He will give me the fortitude to remain positive, because I am destined to fulfil my purpose.

2nd Place Winner

Olivia Reid Essay

My name is Olivia Reid, a young lady who lives nowhere except inside her head. I am constantly evolving as I face life’s battles. As time progresses, I recreate myself anew. It sounds like a positive practice, however, it leaves me consistently pondering “who am I?”
The strongest voice in my head responds “I am no one.” I have been made to feel this way by the weighty words around me. I am a product of constant destructive feedback. I am no one but the precious abandoned daughter of a broken, confused father. I am a dreamer who
fears that dreaming, trying and failing could validate that strong voice in my head. I desire to
look in the mirror and see more than what I have always heard them say. However, this journey is more challenging than one could imagine.
Living in an unstable and toxic environment does not facilitate my growth. It sometimes feels like there is an enormous wall blocking my way. I can only wonder what is on the other side. I have a defence mechanism of hyper-independence so asking for help and depending on others seem impossible. Nevertheless, I am completely aware that I am not truly alone.
Unsure of myself, I live in my head because I continuously question myself without finalizing
or settling on an answer. I have been ridiculed so much, I have learnt not to trust my inner voice. I am not sure if I even hear it clearly anymore. My usual silence makes me a mystery.
I have searched the web and apparently questioning your identity at my age is a sign of intelligence. However, my perspective is that it is maddening. Perhaps intelligence is insanity.
I am perturbed by the fact that I am never quite sure who I truly am. Similar to a chameleon, I find myself adapting and even camouflaging within whatever context I am in. I have always seen it as a trauma response and defense mechanism, however, I am working on seeing it as a superpower. My ability to change and accept what is not seen as the norm gives me an
advantage. I will always be able to exist in different environments or even influence environmental change.
Nevertheless, it would be incredibly valuable to have a core sense of who I am that is consistent. As a product of abandonment and rejection, I try as much as possible to leave a positive impression to those with whom I have interacted with. Sometimes at the expense of my own needs, desires, and feelings.
While I may still be working out my understanding of who I am, I know exactly what I am not!
I am not a victim who will blame my circumstances on anyone. Instead, I will take up personal responsibility for my own success. I understand the principle of sowing and reaping
and as such, I will ensure I make the best decisions to be able to be an upright citizen in Jamaica. I know that I will not be a part of the problems but a part of solutions in my beautiful
island. I know God created me with a purpose and I have work to do for His glory!
Not knowing who I am is rooted in the complexities of my interests, personality and character. It is such a difficult question because of the multiplicity of potential answers. I am a dance enthusiast who has explored just about every genre. I am an older sister who has
made it her point of duty to protect her brother from the things she has seen. I am a teenager who was required to grow up extremely fast. I am an aspiring computer scientist, who also loves to explore visual arts. The list is unending.
I believe I can never be defined. As I reflect, I no longer feel unsettled by not having a response. I am still on the beautiful journey to self discovery. I am not just a black woman,
nor am I just someone’s daughter. I am much more! We mortal beings are so interesting, so
small, yet have an existence that can impact the way the world works.
Therefore, let me reintroduce myself. I am Olivia Reid, a young lady on an intentional
journey to discover what it means to truly love herself and love others. I am Olivia Reid, a
young lady seeking to victoriously unlearn dysfunctional tendencies to have a happy family
of my own some day. I am Olivia Reid, a young lady who is a life-long learner. I am on my
journey to confidence, competence and good character.
Where am I going? I have set my eyes upon a goal to become a software developer. The
small steps leading towards that big goal have led me down many colliding paths. It feels like
I know where I envision myself to be in the near future, but in the present, my direction
seems disoriented. So where am I really going or where will I end up tomorrow? I truly don’t
know. I want to make history. Whether this is in my community, country or the world, I desire
to positively impact others. It is a goal many people want to achieve, but yes I too want such
grandeur. With my line of sight turned towards the stars, I may end up anywhere tomorrow.
One thing is for sure and this is that I am an overcomer. I jump over barriers like hurdles and
remind myself to be grateful in all things.
Embarking on my journey to self-improvement, the likelihood of excelling is high. There may
be times where I brood on past events and wish I had other experiences, but this is not the
best mindset. Sometimes I feel like my growth mindset collapses and the memories of
failures surges in my head. The sense or need to attain perfection may bring about
heightened self criticism. The compass that was once there to navigate me to my personal
goals feels broken. The light at the end of the tunnel flickers until it diminishes. This is where
I feel like I no longer know where I am going. I may have tendencies to self-destruct. Instead,
I find the source of the problem, unlearn toxic behaviours, forgive myself and heal.
Martin luther king jr once said “ upon the mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. I accept all
emotions, negative and positive and feel them completely. This is just a part of my human
experience. My passion for seeking change keeps me going, keeps me solutions driven and
reminds me to never forget my goals. My challenging experiences keep me resilient and
push me to give my all into my future. I know there’s a place for me in this world, because
there are problems that have not yet been solved. To a girl like me with her head in the
clouds, a challenge only looks like a stepping stone to self-mastery.
All in all, I am like a novel with amazing plot twists, endless chapters, the main character
dies at the end of the story and the readers are constantly wondering if the next volume will
be released. I have a colourful personality with a thrill for the climb. On the outside, people
may doubt me but my inner voice is learning to build my confidence daily. The road is long
and the distractions are many but I am determined to discover the best version of myself.
Looking into the mirror at myself, there are different dimensions, all filled with great meaning
and purpose. So who am I? I suppose the simplest answer is, I am me.

3rd Place Winner

Trishelle Gooden Essay

Knox College
Title: “I Am”
The question “Who am I?” is one that I have asked myself for years. This uncertainty that I have had of who I was bothered and perplexed me as it seemed as if everyone else around me knew exactly who they were and what they wanted in life. From a young age when I started school, all my peers were certain of what they wanted to be. Doctors, lawyers and teachers were the expected professions that children were to choose from. However, I knew that I wanted to be on a different path. I knew that I was different. Lamentably, being dissimilar has never really been celebrated in this society and this led me to ask myself “why am I different? Who exactly am I?”. Searching for answers, I have embarked on a self-finding journey. The following discourse encapsulates a delineation on who I believe that I am.
“What do I want to do with my life?” was one of the first queries that bombarded me as a child. I know for a fact that I want to set attainable goals for myself, spend my life giving back to others in any medium that I can and find a way to play a substantial role in the building and prosperity of my country, Jamaica. Hopefully, as the months go by, I will be able to solidify what specific career path I desire to be a part of that encapsulates this very ideology. I know that I aspire to be a person that is able to give back wholeheartedly without expecting much in return. I want to partake in actions that make a difference in someone’s life. It is from these desires that I know that I am selfless. This altruistic trait can be proven as over the years I have donated to several children’s homes such as the New Vision Children’s Home in Christiana, Manchester. Clothes, books, food items, toiletries and even toys were given to the boys and girls at this home. Additionally, my involvement in organizations such as The Red Cross Society Jamaica, Key Club Jamaica and even Sign Clubs of Jamaica allows me to carry out acts of such nature as we advocate and donate items to persons who are a part of the deaf community and others who may be in need. Our contribution evidently plays a significant part in improving someone’s life situation. Moreover, I have made it my duty to tutor children in my community the subjects History, Social Studies and Literature for their upcoming CXC examination. This attribute is one that I have grown to understand and love about myself as there is no better feeling than knowing you have made an impact in someone else’s life. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.
Just like many others, I have not had an easy life. Several disadvantages and complications have been thrown my way. These include the lack of funds for educational pursuits and even the hardships of the ongoing Corona Virus pandemic. When faced with adversity, I ensure that I do not easily give up. I am most definitely persistent and resilient in all things that I attempt to do. A significant example of this has been displayed as during the onset of the pandemic and learning was mostly online, I was unable to join most of the classes due to the lack of technological devices and internet connection. Undoubtedly, these were extremely challenging times as I had upcoming CXC examinations. However, to ensure I would succeed, I did a lot of self-guided learning and put an immense level of work into my studies. Due to this persistency, I was able obtain ten grade 1s in my examinations. Moreover, there were many persons who tried to discourage me from attempting to do so many subjects during such hard times. Thankfully, I believed and pushed myself so that I could unlock every ounce of my inner potential. This astounding accomplishment can truly display the high level of tenacity that I encompass especially when I am faced with obstacles. This taught me that regardless of what anyone says, I should continue to set goals for myself and do the best that I can to achieve greatness.
Don Miguel Ruiz once stated, “Find yourself and express yourself in your own way. Your dreams will become a masterpiece of art”. This profound quote is one that stuck with me for years and continues to inspire me even at this very moment. I have always desired to identify an appropriate outlet for my feelings and thoughts. It was through the arts that I was able to unlock a different and more creative side of myself. This was the main reason that I was drawn towards learning how to play various instruments such as the piano and the violin. Over the years, I have improved significantly and I can say without a doubt, the ability to create music is a feeling like no other. I can attest that music is indeed food for the soul. Additionally, I have also found solace in other actions such as painting and drawing. Through mediums such as this, I have found a way to express myself and my various feelings. It is a sufficient outlet that displays my creative and artistic mind and aids me to understand myself and what makes me happy. Furthermore, I am extremely imaginative as I constantly attempt to find different ways in which I can express my creativity and how I can impact or inspire others. This very trait had made me believe and understand that I am extremely unique.
Upon final analysis, it is fair to say that most of us have asked ourselves the question “who am I?” at least once in our lifetime. It is just up to us to find that answer through self-evaluation. The entire journey is one that is not easy. With time and learning what it is that you really enjoying doing, you will be able to unlock and discover your passions and what you want to spend your life doing. For me, I have found that I, Trishelle Gooden, am a selfless, persistent, creative and promising adolescent of tomorrow that has the potential to make a real positive impact in the Jamaican society. With the support of others and continuing to believe in myself, there is no doubt that I will be able to accomplish the most amazing of things. My attributes are what makes me, me and I can now confidently say that, I have finally answered one of the most mind-boggling questions. I am me.