Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | December 29, 2013
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Life lessons from Tessanne
Emily Crooks, Contributor

There is more that is right about Jamaica than what is wrong about Jamaica.  The problem is that what is wrong can be so wrong that it appears to overshadow what is right.

It is not by accident that a nation with 0.038 per cent of the world's seven billion-strong population living on its soil has shown such brilliant glimmers of sheer genius.

We gave birth to a Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Louise Bennett; our average daily temperature is 27C, yet we had a bobsleigh team competing in the Winter Olympics of 1988.

Jody-Anne Maxwell, at 12 years old in 1998, won the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee competition - the first non- American to win.

At the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, we had four finalists lining up in the male 100-metre finals - Usain Bolt, Nesta Carter, Nickel Ashmeade, and Kemar Bailey-Cole.

For only the third time in history, two athletes from the same country won the IAAF male and female Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards - Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

We are said to have the best marijuana, which could be made good use of for its medicinal properties.

And there are a million more that could be added to this list. The point being we have the best of many things.

Our most recent euphoric moment is with 28-year-old Tessanne Chin's winning of NBC's 'The Voice', a competition where voice is the main deciding factor, but Tessanne gave so much more.

Tessanne was all things Jamaican.

Product of a father of Chinese descent and a mother of English-African ancestry (as now described by Wikipedia), Tessanne represents 'out of many, one' - humble, vulnerable yet confident, kind to the contestants yet a fierce competitor, unpretentious (music is "mi bread an' butter" and the gem "wi have di worst roads in Jamaica").


My takeaway from Tessanne's win - a challenge I wish all to internalise and ponder: Perhaps it's time for all of us to evaluate where we are in life. Ask of ourselves: Are we fulfilling our life's mission and being the best we can be?

Why are we confining ourselves to a tiny space in the vast expanse of the world when maybe there is a larger market out there awaiting us?

When will we stop being afraid of the unknown and just embrace the challenge and the newness of just walking out and doing something different and probably major?

When will we learn to listen to the ever-so-soft voice of a friend who is nudging us to do something else - that friend for Tessanne, we are told, was Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell.

When will we realise that very little is possible without the love and support of family and close friends? (I watched with admiration the love and devotion of a doting husband, Michael Cuffe Jr, to Tessanne's every move; the support of her parents who though, by her admission, are separated; the enviable bond between Tessanne and her sister Tami who, though established as a singer, has never had a platform so large as Tessanne now has).

When will I just have the confidence to be ME? - whatever that 'me' is. You would be surprised at how much the world would love you for just that.

When in doubt, remind ourselves that politicians may be necessary for some things but unnecessary for most.

There is power in the collective and the collective usually begins with one or a few. The social-media campaign waged by Deika Morrison, Terri-Karelle Reid, et al, caught on in very little time. Mainstream media were forced to log on to #TeamTessanne.

Finally, sometimes we must submit to the moment. Nothing happens before the moment. The moment cannot be rushed, cajoled or coerced. The moment is just the moment - submitting to it would be good to learn.

Tessanne's came at a good time. Just before Christmas, with a new year right after. She has given us a great platform for introspection. Not all of us will succeed if and when we make the move. But the greatest failure would be in not allowing ourselves to move out of our limiting comfort zones.

One of my uncles used to say, "It is better to kiss and miss than to lose a kiss." I am only now understanding what he meant. I hope you do, too.

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