Daily we come to crossroads. Every second there comes a choice to follow the road more or less traveled or to opt for the common fare; to do your work reluctantly or gladly. As I think back now. I have made some really good and really poor choices, but I think they always turn out for the best…even more so now that I make an effort to do what is right, generally and that I strive to see the positive in each situation.

Today I am thinking of the good things that have happened to me and it comes to a crux. August 6, 1981, I was born to Vivienne Antoinette Rahming Davis and Ancil Walter Davis. Throughout the rest of my life this single event influenced me more than anything. Well of course. Mommy and Daddy both have their own way and their forms of love and discipline. I got a beating from Daddy more times than I care to remember, though some of them I remember distinctly. I got beaten exactly twice by Mommy for being a danger to myself and for fighting with Bovie. I remember my dad telling me he loves me once before 2012, but many more times since. I remember feeling mommy’s love and I know she tell me she loves me often when we speak on the phone, but I felt her love throughout my childhood.

Now I am able to look at people as products of their environments and other influences and I see that they both did their best. I am thinking today of how I came to be on an airplane coming from Jamaica, returning to the USA to continue my PhD studies. I am a Director at Large for BirdsCaribbean (donate at http://www.birdscaribbean.org) since 2012. I was introduced to the organization through the bird monitoring workshop in 2009 at the Bahamas National Trust (donate at http://www.bahamasnationaltrust.org). I was working for The Nature Conservancy then coordinating The Blue Project (www.blueproject.com). I was able to start with them, because I was employed at The Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island as a SCUBA diver when the Blue Project began and The Kerzner Marine Foundation was able to have me dive with them through their relationship with Atlantis. I also had a SCUBA certification and three Biology and Environmental Science degrees and Eric Carey and Eleanor Phillips knew of my work and drive.

Among other things I vacuumed sea lion poop and scrubbed the pools underwater at the Atlantis for about a year before this opportunity.

I was first encouraged to apply at Atlantis by Cordero, Damien and Dario who were working there when I worked on a short term contract with Scott Higgs of Marinewerx to clean some of the pools. I don’t think Scott really needed my help but gave me the chance. He was my mom’s next door neighbor and a good friend that I was speaking to about the difficulty finding a job.

Before that, I could not find a job at home in the Bahamas. I had three degrees and I was overqualified for most every job I applied for, The College of the Bahamas had told me I should get a PhD before coming to work for them and conservation and government agencies had no positions or funding available.

I got my dive certification because, while at COB in Verona Seymour’s class a guy stood up and said there was a chance to get a SCUBA certification through a program with Stuart Cove’s dive South Ocean (check out the coral nursery we started in 2011 http://www.stuartcove.com). The certification cost $50 and the program was coordinated by Valerie Cooper who worked at the shrimp hatchery on Potter’s Cay and supported by Stuart Cove. And I was able to catch a ride to Stuart Cove with Devonia Bonaby, whom I met through Gareth Hanna, who lived around the corner from our house growing up and with whom I sang in the Royal Bahamas Men and Boys Choir.

I was able to be in that class at COB because of a partial scholarship from the Lyford Cay Foundation, the Marilu Tolu award Mrs. Cheryl Carey was instrumental in this. I worked part time at the Bahamas Humane Society $4.15/hr. I remember hitch hiking and catching the bus to work between classes and after school at COB the bus was 75¢ one way then, so two hours take home pay could be $3.40/hr on average. My weekends featured ushering and concessionaire work at the RND theatre where I learned a lot about the stories behind the service people you meet day to day (someone just like me may be cleaning up after you when you leave the theatre). I was introduced through friends of my big brudda Jamison. And finally, my income was rounded out with baby sitting, tutoring, and chauffeur services for Cheyvonne Bethel who eventually even got me a car to perform my duties and get to school.

I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees because Eric Carey (now executive director of the BNT) told me I needed something better to do with my life and offered me a position on the Kirtland’s Warbler Research and Training program, which lead to a position on the Abaco Parrot Project where I met Dr. James Wiley who offered me a scholarship for my Bachelor’s degree at UMES, where I met Dr. Madhumi Mitra who offered me a position as a Master’s degree student on the MEES fellowship.

So throughout my life preparation has met opportunity. People have seen me trying and made the chance available, and I will be forever grateful.
Still, I chose to go to COB. I made the choice to speak honestly about my challenges to Scott. I made the choice to work nights, weekends, holidays and on my birthday for RND; to study while the Titanic was playing in theater 4; to bum a ride whenever I could putting my success above my pride. I took that chance.

To every person that I mentioned here and the hundreds more that have given me a chance, thank you. I am forever grateful.

If you are reading this I want to leave you with this. Life is chance and choice. All of it. Prepare for every chance and make the best of your choices.

Ancilleno Davis, PhD candidate.