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A memorable 2019 into a Ukiyo 2020

By Jamila Cross


A recent experience at an Open Water Swim meet that I participated in got me thinking about what 2019 has symbolised for me. I signed up for an end of the year race at Las Cuevas and was keen on practising my newly found love for the open water.

I arrived early for the race briefing only to find myself one of only three adults participating in the 1000m, 3000m, 5000m swim. I took the opportunity to take selfies with a group of five young girls all who appeared to be under age ten and would be competing in the 1000m swim.

With broad smiles and well-toned young athletic bodies, I said to myself, “Lord, so you want me to get licks from some seven-year olds today? That is your plan? Not today Lord, not today….”

Never daunted by a challenge, I would be in the 3000m swim so they would not have the opportunity to embarrass me; it would be their fifteen-year-old counterparts instead!

Nonetheless, the race started, and off the youngsters went. We were to make three laps around the buoys to complete our swim. An elder gentleman and I were left behind in a flurry of kicks once the race got started; then began my comedy of errors. We were to go around six markers to make one lap (1000m), and this we would repeat three times.

The technique to move from one marker to the next requires skill to stay on course. I would look ahead, or what is known as “sighting” and see the marker right in front of me, and move towards it, yet every time I would find myself doing a zig then a zag, going off course, invariably swimming more metres than necessary.

But I kept thinking to myself I am seeing the marker, why am I completely off my path? I felt like the children of Israel going around in circles for 40 years for a seven-day journey.


Eyes on the prize


When I was on my final lap with about 500m to complete my race, after having been lapped by my younger competitive swimmers, the referee blew his whistle and waved his flag vigorously to suggest that I had to come out of the water.

My race was over – so close to the prize, yet I could not finish the race.

As I finally came ashore, an empathetic Guyanese coach asked me how I felt and proceeded to give me some solid coaching tips.

He said that my stroke rate needed to increase and that I breathed on my side instead of making a few strokes then looking forward, which he said is what was throwing me off-course and making me swim much more than necessary.

I began to think about this analogy, when we have our eyes on our markers – our dreams, goals, and aspirations – we can quite often go off track, looking to the left and right to see if our “stuff” has shown up.

The 2019 Life Lesson: stay on course, especially when something greater is guiding us!

My most memorable moment of 2019 was completing a video documentary on my personal story as an athlete for a Facebook series called thepositivesintnt. The page features positive stories of our national treasures, community icons, the beautiful things and people that make up Trinidad and Tobago.

I’ve never experienced filming, then seeing myself on camera. The video is so professionally and beautifully narrated and I must thank my friend Trevlon Hall and his company, Vision Abode for a job well done. It is a story that I hope inspires young women, mothers, friends, and families to commit themselves to self-care by taking ownership of their health and well-being. Doing Right for their Health!

It’s been three years since the editor gave me an opportunity to write and I’m eternally grateful for the guidance and encouragement.

My most memorable article for the year from a highly subjective standpoint was my Mother’s Day editorial. It was authentic and perhaps the most candid I have allowed myself to be with my readers.

In 2019, I had the pleasure of featuring national athletes, fellow columnists, and sportsmen from the refugee and migrant population in Trinidad.

It has been a year of many beautiful moments, sharing powerful personal stories every month with my readers.

I want to share my word for 2020. Ukiyo (u-key-yo) is Japanese for living in the moment, detached from the bothers of life.

Merry Christmas to all and a Ukiyo 2020!


Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes.