Kimberley Brown: “Moving to Toronto meant stepping into a place of no control”

Not many people can say they’ve lived in two different continents while still in their early thirties – but for Kimberley Brown, she’s been fortunate to spend her childhood in her native country, Jamaica, grow up in London, UK and now she is forging a new path while living in Toronto, Canada.

“At a young age I saw that my dad moved to England and then sent for me and I thought ‘ok you can just move to another country’”, she says. 

“There are so many countries in the world, and I thought at some point I’d definitely move again because I knew it’s possible.”

Kimberley was born in May Pen, Jamaica but spent much of her childhood in the Portland parish of the island, where some of her fondest memories were formed.

“The things I remember the most about growing up in Portland was just how close the beach was and I always loved the water,” she recalls.

“I would run outside and play in the rain, play in the back garden with the animals and climb trees. I was living that country life that you don’t know you’re living until you live somewhere else.”

During her upbringing on the island, she would frequently spend summers in Kingston, where she would visit her siblings and help out in her brother’s mum’s food shop. 

Kimberley moved to London, UK at 10-years-old

“My family is huge but they are so spread out that at times I’ve grown up with different siblings,” she says. “Then my dad moved to the UK and I went to live with him there when I was 10-years-old.”

From the relaxed island life of Portland, Jamaica to the gritty cityscape of east London, the move was a stark transition from the world Kimberley once knew.

“During my time in the UK, we notoriously always lived in east London. Even when we moved, we moved from one street to another two roads away,” she says.

“When I first moved, I think I was trying to marry both sides of growing up British but also having such strong Caribbean roots.

“At home, it felt like little Jamaica, but I was trying to learn things that were symbolisms of being British.”

IDENTITY

Many first, second and third-generation Brits can understand the duality of trying to balance assimilating into British culture while still holding on to their cultural roots. This dichotomy of balancing her Britishness with her Caribbean heritage gave way to friendships which also occupied this same space as they developed their Black British identity.

“Growing up in London allowed me to see friends who were born in the UK find an identity that is between their parents and their own which creates this hybrid,” says Kimberley.

“It’s the best of both worlds. We have customs and traditions as Africans and Caribbeans and then we can have our banter and elements of ourselves which is synonymous with Britishness.

“As I’ve grown, it’s also made me more appreciative of Jamaica history – our food, culture, where we came from and why we’re so proud and resilient.”

This pride in both her Jamaican and London roots became even more evident as Kimberley set sights on another country and culture to embrace. After 18 years in the UK, the east Londoner decided to make her move to Toronto. 

CHANGE

“A couple of years ago, I decided to do my research and see what my options were. I thought about moving to the US but I wondered whether I’d even want to live there now. To be honest, what really solidified Toronto for me was the process.

“The visa to move to Canada is not overly expensive. Applications are very simple and there’s not many restrictions or limitations. You just have to apply, pay a small fee and you can live and work here for up to two years if you’re from the UK,” says Kimberley.

On 17 April 2018, Kimberley packed up her life in east London and made the move to Toronto – one of her bravest life choices to date as she embarked on her new life with no job, no home and no plan.

Kimberley in Toronto, Canada

“When I first moved, there were a lot of things I was thinking about. Like how was I going to find a place? How was I going to find a good job? Was I doing the right thing? What does this mean for my future? I had all these questions and it was about stepping into a place of being unsure and into a place of no control.”

Embracing the unknown proved to work out for the 30-year-old. After waitressing and occupying various roles, she is building her career in marketing and well and truly settling into Toronto life after celebrating two years in the city.

“When I came here, I wanted to pursue my career as I had been doing in the UK. I just tried to network within my industry and reach out to anyone I knew in the media.

“I now work in marketing for film and television and I’m progressing in my career.”

Beyond her work life in Toronto, Kimberley has a strong support network of friends, many of whom are also from the UK and she continues to have a growing appreciation for the city.

“I would say my favourite thing about Toronto is the summer. I know this sounds really simple, but the city transforms in the summer,” says Kimberley.

“It looks completely different. Every restaurant has an outside area, the sun’s out, you can go to the beach or to the mountains for hikes. The vibe is just always there and it’s really chill.”

While Kimberley is content in Toronto for now, who knows where life will take her next.

To find out more about Kimberley, follow her Instagram: @runaway.bae

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