I’m writing this blog post differently compared to others. You will be reading an actual story I created about a friend named, Daniel. He took the time to answer questions about his childhood and I was able to formulate it into a story so it’s easily understood and you can have the opportunity to walk through his shoes. Here it is:
My back was hurting from the heavy textbooks in my Nike backpack. After a long day of school, I had to wait for my second train ride. One train ride is tiring as a 6th grader, never mind waiting for a second to then rush to the bus stop if I ended up snoozing. Walking home, I wish I could daydream and enjoy a beautiful scenery but instead I smell body odor from the person next to me on the train and my face had a partial dent from being squished next to the train window.
Once I got off the train, I walked home alerted and at the same time with my head down (to avoid eye contact and to watch my step for dog feces). I also didn't want to scuff my new Jordans I stole from the mall the other day. Yeah I’ll admit it, I stole a few things and vandalized a few places but come on, who doesn't around here? Let’s face it, people around here do worse things than that. There are times I would see street fights, robberies and overall chaos that I didn't want anything to do with. I was scared to even look them in the eyes because I didn't want someone to get the wrong impression. So I just focused on the tall buildings and pavement that surrounded me until I got to my 14 floor apartment.
Fingers crossed, I wasn't sleeping on the floor tonight and that it wasn't going to be a noisy night like last night. Last night, a gunshot woke me up causing me to feel extra fatigued today. I was quiet in the elevator on the way up to my apartment room because I didn't want to get involved with the couple fighting next to me and also the elevator had a foul smell that made me want to vomit.
When I got home, I was so happy to see my mom! I quickly took off my Jordans before she could see(she’d be so disappointed if she knew I stole them!) My mom is the main influence in my life and I know if she knew some of the things I felt peer pressured to do she would feel let down. Letting down your mom is a horrible feeling, at least where I came from. My mom had high hopes and dreams for me and that’s when I knew, I needed to change my influence and change my actions. To be honest, I didn't want to live a life of misery and crime even though that was what surrounded me.
It was the next morning, I had a great night sleep and I was ready to tackle another day at school. I was that kid in class who was obnoxious, loud and thrived on attention. I loved bringing my high energy to class. Once I arrived at school, I did the daily routine of walking through metal detectors to ensure I didn't bring a weapon . Unfortunately, it was a lot more common for a classmate to bring a weapon than you would think. It’s kinda crazy to think how that was normalized. Therefore, it’s important to know how to fight with your fists. There was a minimum of a brawl a day. School was tougher than usual today because a good friend of mine moved. I wish I can say that’s uncommon however, it wasn't. The feeling of a friend moving never got easier either. That's why I tried to limit close friendships to limit feeling hurt.
Speaking of feelings, men shouldn't cry and women had to be tough to get by no matter their circumstance. My mom is a prime example coming to this country and working her tail off to get by and raise her children. Men who cry are weak and childish. Even as the child I am, I do not want to be called a child. Can you imagine if I cried in school? I would be bullied and put into shame. The harder I would cry, the harder they would laugh and to be honest, I wanted people to laugh at my jokes and not my tears. Therefore, no one ever saw me shed a tear or feel my feelings.
My walk from school felt quicker than normal. Maybe because I wanted to rush home because I felt my emotions kicking in and the last place I want them to kick in is on the streets. When I got home my mom wanted to sit me in the kitchen because she had to share important news with me(I really hope she didn't find out about the Jordans!)
She expressed,” Daniel, we are moving.”
Now let's fast forward to the transition! What’s the opposite of night time? It’s day time and that’s exactly how the transition felt. I’m not even just talking about the location either. Everything was different starting with the people, community, cars on the road, the peace of mind walking on the streets. It was a paradigm shift in my life mentally and physically. The fact that vandalizing, getting in trouble and not seeing empty fast food bags on the ground was shocking. I thought that was normal to be honest until I moved. Don’t get me wrong, I was so used to transition because I moved up to 4 times and went to 3 schools within 12 years. However, this transition was quite different. This transition was a different area code however, it felt like a different time zone.
I see grass! I smell clean air. I hear quiet. I feel at peace. Is this normal? Do I belong? Am I going to fit in? Will I be judged? Will I make friends? Are my old friends going to envy me?
Gardens, parks and beaches are within 2 miles. How is this place only 25 minutes to my hometown? I didn't even know it existed! Is this place too good for me? Do I deserve to live here? I kept thinking that there is no way I would fit in because this place was way out of my comfort zone!
Is it normal for the nights to be so silent? It’s as if everyone had a 10:00 pm curfew! I was so used to a bus stop on every block and now the closest public transportation for me was a 20 minute walk. My pants would even sag to a point it was slowing me down! Should I invest in well fitted jeans and a belt?
It felt like a culture shock seeing young adults driving around in nice cars and not struggling to parallel park in the street. It amazed me to see them have assigned parking spots in their driveways in front of a beautiful home. I was truly in awe, inspired and that’s when I discovered that the impossible is possible.
Thankfully, I’m an open minded and curious individual which came to my advantage when I moved. Was it difficult at first? Of course. However, I adjusted and adapted to my new surroundings. I stopped feeling guilty about leaving my old association and accepted adding a new association to my life.
A decade later, my association is filled with my family and the sister I adore, best friend who I consider a brother, mentors that I look up to and a handful of life long friends who I share lots of laughs with. I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel my emotions and if anything, it makes me a stronger individual because I’m not afraid to be the person I am. I needed my past in order for me to feel appreciative, humble and eager to grow. I’m forever thankful for my experience with living in the ghetto because I have a perspective that many people cannot relate to. I learned from both sides of the street. There’s ugly things in life we experience, yet the opposite is also true as there are beautiful things in life we are meant to experience.
I want to end with this, growing up in the ghetto is a huge part of my story yet, it doesn't define me. I have now grown up from the ghetto and admire my emotions, my thoughts and yet, I’m not afraid to be the person I’m destined to become. I hope after hearing a part of my story, you are inspired to share yours.