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To play mas or not to play mas?

To play mas or not to play mas?

It’s Carnival in T&T..soo special to all ah we...like we need blood in we veins...that’s how we feel about Port-of-Spain!
— Destra Garcia (Soca Star)

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is a beautiful celebration of colour, unity, and just pure freedom, and revelry. It's two days when the country comes together, and all differences fade away. I am a Carnival baby..a term coined for someone who was either conceived during Carnival, and/or who will not let the mas miss them. I'm the latter kind of Carnival baby. However, it's Carnival Tuesday, the official day of pretty mas, but instead of being in a beautiful costume, chipping down the road, I'm at home writing this blog. Does that mean that I've given up my Carnival baby status? Well..maybe, but the gut wrenching tabanca I feel for missing it makes me think it's alive and well.

So then...why didn't I play mas this year? Well..Carnival season starts earlier and earlier every year, with the band launches starting in July of one year, for the celebrations that will be held approximately seven/eight months later. Last year when it was time to decide which band to play with, and which section to play in, I paused. I've played in backline (the less elaborate) costumes for many years, and I didn't want to do that this year. I wanted a new experience, to step up my Carnival costume game...in a frontline costume, with an abundance of feathers, wings, and massive headpiece. I wanted that added glam, and anything else felt like settling, and Carnival is never something I want to associate with settling. But then...I looked at the cost of this added glam (TT$10,000), and the pause turned into a fullstop. I looked at the options I would gravitate towards, and they were simply more costly than I remembered. Even the cost of the backline costumes had gone up as they do every year, so this year the minimum it would have cost me, with a backline averaged TT$6,000. This may or may not have covered the other Carnival necessities of boots, accessories, Monday wear, makeup artist services, and so on. Yikes! 

So, I made a choice to forgo my beloved mas this year, and instead do some travelling. This didn't necessarily mean during Carnival weekend (but geez that would have been easier!). Instead of spending those two days resplendent and reveling, I'd travel. I'd invest in a new experience in a part of the world I've yet to visit. This decision made me feel great, because travel is the #1 thing on my agenda for 2017. I made that choice in August/September last year, and took it as a done deal. Did that make the urge to buy a last minute costume go away? No! Did it make me doubt my sanity for CHOOSING to not participate in something I truly love? YES! But...I stuck to my decision.

I stuck to the decision because my resources are finite, and choices need to be made. I feel somewhat douchey even writing this blog about the definition of first world problems...to play mas or to travel? I am aware that there are people who have real problems..real reasons to be sad, depressed, and scared about where their next meal is coming from, but I don't believe that me choosing to live my life in a way that makes me happy is wrong. It definitely doesn't mean I'm a bad person. I believe that I can do a ton more for those less fortunate than me, and that's also in the works for this year because it's something I believe in. I don't know why I have more than anyone else, the same way I don't know why I wasn't born into sufficient wealth to afford to play mas in a frontline costume, AND travel the world. But this is the hand I was dealt, and I'm always grateful for it, and I do believe it's my duty to make someone else's life a bit better. That being said, most of the choices that I make are going to be selfish. Selfish, only because by definition it means "lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure". However, I refuse to feel guilty for my choices, that are not harming anyone else. I've seen so many posts on my news feed from persons condemning people for the way they chose to use their own hard earned money for their personal activities (going to an expensive fete/playing mas). Some persons even went so far as to call these persons hypocrites, or bad persons with misplaced priorities because they're not helping people in need. Wait...what!? Truthfully, everyone makes choices and unless you live a life of bare necessity, and give every additional cent to the less fortunate, you are basically the same as they are in choosing wants over needs. And you know what? That's okay. You don't deserve to be judged harshly for that, and by that I mean judged at all. I'm just so tired of persons not just with comments about others, but with constant negative comments. Why? Just be positive, and helpful, or keep it to yourself. Don't put all of that negativity into the universe. I definitely don't want it in my space.

While I was writing this, I did a survey of my family (five siblings, and two parents), and asked them if they would ever play mas (no one else in my family is a Carnival baby apparently), and while there were mixed responses of both yes and no...none of the negative responses were because they thought it was a waste of money or was stupid, etc. So of course, I had to ask the follow up question of do you think any differently/negatively of the persons that do participate in mas? To which I got a resounding..why would we? The key that came out of that discussion was the statement..."Just let the people live!" I swear I've never been more proud. They always say choose your tribe, and while I may not have been able to choose them, as God gave them to me, I can safely say I choose to be around them because they are good. They're good people, with good vibes who make me a better person. 

As I sit here, not being able to look at the livestream or news coverage of the festivities for more than a few minutes because it does make my heart hurt a little bit, I would have thought that I would be adamantly saying never again will I miss mas! But truthfully...I don't know. My goals remain the same, and while I'm not making any decision right now re:Carnival 2018, I am certain there will be a time when I don those beautiful costumes again because this love affair will never end. The difference is that I'm not stressing about it. I am just cultivating a different mindset, where I look forward to things in a positive way, and I'm constantly trying to remember that when it doesn't work out as planned, it's only a detour, and not a fatal crash. I am just very committed to having new adventures of all sorts this year, next year and every year, and that's an extremely exhilarating feeling.

So, tell me...what difficult choices have you made recently in picking between things that you love?
What are your goals for this year 2017, or even the next?

Let me know...

I've found that speaking it aloud to yourself, or to supportive persons reinforces your resolve, and sometimes we just need that external reminder that we're doing great.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Carnival, and if you've never experienced Trinidad Carnival, I truly believe it's something that should be a bucket list item. But...again, it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's fantastic too...Always do you boo! :)


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I am 29.