Diary of … a girl without a country

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Michaela Greer is a sophomore majoring in both communication studies and art. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, volunteering for different causes, writing and drawing. She hopes to continue traveling to new and exciting places while illustrating each place’s through words and art.

Typically, when getting to know people, one of the first questions you ask, especially if they have an accent, is “Where are you from?” It’s a simple enough question, but somehow, when people ask me that, I always find myself entangled in the grips of a white lie. Without fail, I say that I am from Montserrat, a lush, evergreen, volcanic 39-square-mile span of land affectionately dubbed the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean.”

Most times, I am met with a confused expression and a barrage of questions usually relating to Montserrat’s proximity with what seems to be the best known island in the Caribbean: Jamaica. Rarely, I get a question about Haiti instead of Jamaica. Rarer still, do I find someone who actually knows about Montserrat. I generally find myself whipping out the now dog-eared map of the Caribbean that I started to carry around with me during my freshman year and give a short geography lesson, identifying other islands as I go along, which have also been “home” at one point or another.

Of course it feels great to tell someone about home. Who doesn’t like representing the place that they are from? Only for me, after leaving the conversation, I feel as though I have committed a crime of stealing a country and passing it off as my own. A quick glance at my birth certificate would reveal I am not actually Montserratian, despite what I feel inside.

Technically, I am Crucian and I should call the beautiful tropical island of St. Croix “home.” But, I moved from St. Croix when I was an infant, and I haven’t had the opportunity to visit my birthplace since. How could I identify as Crucian if I do not even know the first thing about St. Croix?

This leads me to wonder what makes home, actually “home.” Perhaps, I am wrong, but I decide based on how I feel, despite what my birth certificate says. I am not denouncing any part of myself, but if home is where the heart is, Montserrat is home.

I have moved on average every three years. Besides other factors, I think my mom liked the excitement of a new job and new surroundings so it was common for us to move. I have lived in St. Croix, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, Antigua and Florida; sometimes multiple times in these places. This is my second time living in Florida and although I spent many childhood summers here, it still isn’t home.

There’s just something about going back to a place where people know your name and you know theirs in turn — where greeting people is normal and reciprocated instead of getting strange looks and being ignored. Montserrat is where I spent most of my life. It is where I played barefoot and climbed trees for fun and delicious snacks while gaining my “trophies,” which are what I call scars from rough outdoor playing. Instead of shoveling snow on snow days, I remember shoveling ash randomly deposited by our Soufriere Hills volcano and just as these memories bring happiness for some, they do the same for me.

Although my passport does not read Montserratian, that’s who I am. It is what I know and I forever carry its unique rhythm in my heart. In the end, “home” for you may not be what is scrawled across your birth certificate and that’s okay. Home should be where you feel safe, loved and the place that you love. I don’t know about anyone else but I know who I am. I am a proud Montserratian and that is certainly not a lie.

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF M. GREERG

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