Food, Faith and Love in WA is a nine-piece video series that has captured the stories of an incredible and diverse group of West Australians surrounding three of the most basic human values. This series was created for the Office of Multicultural Interests for Harmony Week 2017.A man spends 20 years and travels 15,000 kms to find love and build a family in Perth.
Copyright © 2016 Osric Powell
This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.
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Right, so my story starts 15 000 kilometres away and is over 20 years in the making, and it began in London where I grew up to first generation immigrants from Jamaica. And what I remember about my childhood for the most part it was a happy childhood but there were kind of three things that I recall. One was that we never had any money. I grew up with three sisters and there was never any money to do anything. The second thing is that I was quite interested in process, in structure and stuff like that. I don’t know why but that just was something that I was always interested in how things work and the structure of things. And the third thing was my mum and dad’s marriage. They’d been married for over 20 years at that stage. There was a lot of statistics in England, and I always remember feeling proud and that my mum and dad weren’t part of that statistic, and that was a real sort of point of comfort for me I guess.
For the most part, school didn’t work for me, I couldn’t get my head around academia. So, I left school with no qualifications, and I figured, all right, well, I just need to get that money. I’m gonna put some structure behind it, I’m gonna go and study something and figure it out. So, I studied computers, and I started working as a computer salesman, and I’m about 17 now, 17, 18 years old. I’m on my way and everything’s going great and I’m thinking this is the path. And then my mum and dad got divorced. I can’t even explain to you the impact of it because I don’t, all I remember at the time was a lot of anger and it completely, it just changed everything. All my beliefs, all my, everything I thought about life was embodied in my mum and dad’s marriage. So, when they divorced I really took it pretty badly. My dad moved back to Jamaica, and in the process of my mum trying to rehouse us, we ended up fragmented as a family for the first time. Some of my sisters went and lived with my cousins, one of my sisters lived with my friend, and I lived with my other sister out of a suitcase in her flat while I was trying to get off the ground. And I just remember it being a time of emotional trauma and a lot of upheaval.
You know, as I’m working things out and I’m thinking about process and structure and how I’m gonna get through this, I decided that to need to get myself a place. Because I’d earned some money and I was doing really well, by the time I was 19 I bought my first flat. So, I moved out and I moved into my own property, so I’m on the property ladder, I’m 19 years old, and now I’m thinking, “Right, okay, the way to get through this life and get past this kind of pain is to have some structure. So, by the time I’m 25 I’m gonna have a bigger house, and then by the time I’m 27 I’m gonna have the wife, and by the time I’m 30 I’m gonna have the kids.” And all mapped out, perfect. I just started, as they say, head down, bum up. Worked really hard and was earning good money, but I kinda got to about 24 or so, and I had the girlfriend, I had the car. Everything materialistically, lots of ticked boxes. I’d done what I set out to do, but the emotional satisfaction that I was supposed to get from that wasn’t there. I was just like, “This isn’t it, is it?” Wake up, go to work, eat, sleep. I’m like, “This can’t be it.” And I wrestled with this feeling for quite a while, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I needed to make a dramatic change in my life. I figured that I’d come through adversity, I’d come to this point, and everything seemed to be going well, so I needed to find some adversity again. I needed to just switch it up. So I had two choices at this point, I was 24, 25 and I figured well, I can either go see my dad, who is back in Jamaica, I haven’t talked to him for eight years, that was the fallout from the divorce, or I can go see the world. And that dilemma, that fork in the road moment, I just, I processed the thought and I just thought I wasn’t ready to see my dad. I emotionally wasn’t at that point, so I decided to go and see the world. And I figured if I’m gonna go see the world, I need to get as far from London as I can because everything that’s happened to me has happened here. So, I’m like, “Alright, let’s get a map, let’s look at the furthest place from England. Oh, Australia, what’s this place about?” and that was how I decided to come to Australia.
As part of my preparation I need to try and chill out, so I got some really non-stressful jobs. I started working in a bar which I’d always wanted to do, and I became a postman. Which was cool, I loved it. And while I was working in a bar I met this guy Mark, and when you get ready to travel, a lot of people are, “Ah, if you get here see this person, and here’s a phone number for this guy,” and all the rest of it. Mark had said, “Look, if you get to Australia, you know, you must look my mum up, here’s her phone number.” And I said, “Yeah okay, cool, Mark,” with no intention of really looking her up. And then I left, I went travelling and I just had the best time. The thing with travelling is that all this structure I’d built for myself, all of that disappears when you go travelling. No one cares who you were, what you earned. They’re taking you on face value, and I found that really refreshing. By the time I’d got to Perth, which was my first stop, I had no money whatsoever, all I had was my backpack and my pride, and my backpack certainly weren’t worth anything and my pride by now was like ha, that’s not gonna get you anywhere.
All I had was Mark’s mum’s number, her name’s Ross. I phoned this lady up and I said, “Look, you don’t know me, but I met your son in London and he said if I got to Australia I must look you up so I’m looking you up and I got no money. I need some help.” And she said, “Okay, hold the line,” and she put on Sir Roscoe. Roscoe was her husband, I called him Sir Roscoe, and Sir Roscoe comes on the phone and he says, “G’day, mate. I understand you need some help, where are you?” I’m like, “I’m at the airport.” And he’s like, “Okay, what’s your name?” I said, “My name’s Ozzie.” He said, “Okay. Are you a pom?” I said, “Yeah, I’m a pom, mate.” And he said, “You’re a pom called Ozzie.” I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Okay, what’d you look like?” and I said, “I’m five-foot something,” and I said, “I’m bald and I’m black.” And he went, “Right, so you’re a pom from England called Ozzie and you’re bald and you’re black.” And I said, “Yeah.’ And at this point, I’m waiting to hit (buzzes). “Alright, wait there, I’ll be there in a minute.” Sir Roscoe pulls up in his giant ute and picks me up and he took me back to their house, and all I remember at the time was they didn’t have much but what they had, they shared with me. And they had one TV in the house, they put that in my room, they made up the sofa and they turned that front room into my bedroom. I’d never experienced kindness like that, it completely changed my worldview and ultimately it changed my life.
My two weeks stay in Perth turned into a year, and I started playing football, I got a job, I started working back in the technology industry, and I’m like “I ain’t going anywhere, this is great.” I had the time of my life, the best years ever. And then the structure thing came back, and I’m like, “Hold on, what are you doing? This isn’t part of the plan.” I didn’t have a plan, but I knew this weren’t it, right? So, I went, no this ain’t it, I got to go. Almost as quickly as that I shut everything down and I left. And when I got back to London, everything that was great before I left, was ten times greater. I earned more money, I was more emotionally mature, I was more stable. It was like, I’ve done it. I’ve sussed this out. I know what love need to look like and I know how to do it. I moved in with my childhood sweetheart, we became engaged, I was in love. I went to see my dad in Jamaica, I fixed that relationship and we’re done, I’m good. Now I can get back to that plan and we can have the kids and so on.
Things started to unravel, and within a few years my childhood sweetheart and I had split up. That broke me almost as much as the divorce. I became disillusioned with work, even though I was doing well at it, I just, the money didn’t matter. Something emotionally still wasn’t right. So, I stopped working and just chilled out for a while and tried to figure out what was going on. And in that time, I lost touch with Ross, and her son Mark had tracked me down and said, “Look, I’ve got bad news, unfortunately Sir Roscoe’s taken his own life.” I was obviously pretty devastated about that and I got the first flight back out to Australia. And I sat down with Ross, and it transpired that with all of that and everything else, Ross is in a–she’d fallen on hard times, and I said, “Look I’m in a position, I can do something about this and I really wanna help you.” So, I built a house for Ross here in Australia and Ross lived in it. And it just, that was my way of paying back the kindness they’d shown me, and it felt great.
A few years passed and Ross, Ross’ son Mark was getting married and he invited me over for the wedding, and that coincided with Ross leaving the house. So, I came over, I took care of the house, I went to the wedding, had a great time, and I’m like, “Okay, you know what, this is a nice way to end the love story with Australia.”
Two days before I leave I meet someone, and I hit it off with this lady, right? We get on like a house on fire, and she’s like, “Look man, I’d love to see you again.” I said, “Well, I don’t actually live here, and as a matter of fact I’m leaving in two days.” And she’s like ah, and she said, “You know, it’d be great to see you again but just so that you know, I’ve been divorced, and I’ve got a couple of kids.” And I said, “Oh, okay. Look this is great because I’ve got some rules and one of my rules is I don’t date women with kids. So, it’s been great, thanks a lot. Bye.” And we left, right, and I left, and I got back to England. And you know, I’m in my 30’s now and I’m kind of like thinking about love and thinking about my life and my position in it all and I’ve had a good life and I’ve just thought, okay, I’m gonna be one of those guy that gets to his whatever age and I’m just gonna be single my whole life. Am I good with that? And I was like, “Yeah, I’m good with that, but I do want kids.” So, I’m wrestling with all of this, I’m trying to, again this is a little bit of the structure, but I’m trying to like, what do you want the rest of your life to look like? And I’m like, “Okay, you know what, I’m gonna open myself up emotionally, I feel like I’ve got capacity to love. If it happens, I’m gonna let it happen, but for the most part if it doesn’t happen, I’m gonna be cool being single.” So, this lady’s coming back into my mind, we’d stayed in touch, and I’m like, “Look, I’m really enjoying the company of this lady, but she’s breaking my rules. We have to let go of the rules if you wanna embrace the happiness.” Okay, and I had a big birthday coming up, and I was going to India. And she said, “Look, I’d love to join you on that trip.” So, the next time I saw her was in Kolkata Airport. That was the second time I saw her and–bizarre, but I was like, “She’s here.” We went to the end of an island, had the most amazing trip. It was just, I felt like I had emotionally let go of a few things, I just let it flow and we just had a great time, fell in love.
And we got to another fork in the road where I had to make a decision about a few things and I decided okay, I’m gonna do what I’ve done before and I’m trust my instincts, I’m gonna trust life to just guide me, and I said, “Okay, let’s try this out, let’s make a relationship with this.” Which meant me moving to Australia, which I did. And we now have two young children, she’s the mother of my two young children, I have a boy and a girl. And unfortunately, the relationship didn’t stand the test of time but now I feel like I have found the purest embodiment of love through my kids.
What I find ironic and maybe this is because of my computing background, because everything is logical when you talk computers and my brain works in a logical way, and I find it ironic because I spent a lot of my life making sure I didn’t have kids in an illegitimate way. I wanted to have them in exactly the right setup and the irony now is that I’ve had kids in a situation that was exactly what I was trying to avoid. And I’ve managed to find love in a way that was the opposite of what I was trying to do. I guess the lesson is, you can’t programme love, you can’t plan love. And the universe has shown me that all of these plans you had, well here’s what love’s gonna look like to you, and I’ve found it in my two kids.