My relationship with the hood has always been a conflicting one, of hate and social empathy. I have been in it all my life, grew up there, live there now, yet I have never felt a part of it. I respect it for what it can teach a person; that you must always be aware. That there is a seedier part of life that can and will sharpen you if you are surrounded by it, in a way that those who are not exposed can never be. I guess most would refer to those people as “sheltered.” Now I’m not saying I used to sling rocks back in the day or anything, but no one would refer to me as sheltered.
I’ve always felt that I have rejected the hood, from a very young age, and it, me. I’m not sure which occurred first. I’ve never felt my mind and spirit was in a similar realm as those around me. Not in a sense that I was above anyone, but in terms of many having the mindset that, doesn’t place someone in the hood, but allows them to stay there and become a product of it.
A friend and I talked of our thoughts of that mentality the other day. We were discussing how people can be so stuck and so seemingly stupid, as to keep repeating the same mistakes, committing the same crimes and senseless violence that allows them to remain trapped in a monstrous cycle. It was then that I had, I suppose, somewhat of an epiphany. A bunch of thoughts and observations and knowledge that I had been gathering since I was old enough to gather them all started to come together. I wouldn’t have been able to have such a thought 10 years ago, because I was still a child who only knew a resentment of this place I had grown up in. This place I had never been a part of and from which I could only see negativity erupt. I’m not all-knowing and as wise as can be, but I have gained more knowledge since then.
I realized that, for the most part, the difference between those people and me was that options were not imaginable to them. I once wanted to be an archaeologist, only to realize it wasn’t a promise that life would be as exciting as that of Indiana Jones. I attended a science and engineering high school with the thought that I would pursue passion and profession somewhere in those fields, only to realize that’s not where I was meant to be at all. But to those who may be trapped, these things are not even in their spectrum of reality. They see amazing things being accomplished on TV and in movies, but because of whatever circumstance has brought them to where they are, none of it is an actual possibility. They are separate from those worlds. They have been reached by the negative forces in this place and have literally had their dreams stolen from them. Generations of passed down drug abuse may have brainwashed them into believing that all they are meant for has already been presented to them. Some people may overcome. Some manage to hold on the dreams one dreams as a child, all while the place that envelops them and surrounds them with plight tries to make them believe that all they are born with is all they have, all they will ever have. And the bad place is right. All that you are born with is all that you have, all you will ever have. But the bad place will have you believe that only consists of the money that isn’t there, of the poor education provided to you and the city that tosses you aside like its garbage. Of the violence. The truth is, however, that when you are born, infinity is there. Boundless, endless possibility. Sometimes, those who overcome don’t even know this, don’t even see it. They believe that somehow their God or some outside force has given them the courage to do the difficult things they know they must to rise up. But that’s not true. It’s been there the entire time. Their God or the Universe or whatever you must call it has only just allowed them to see. And those who don’t overcome never see. They never find the strength and courage and answers that they seek, that are lying there within themselves for all of their lives. They are looking for a way out, for happiness. And they believe that way is monetary, as most people do. And when you have had to go without food for lack of money, it’s not hard to give in to that belief. When the bad place around you has succeeded in robbing you of dreams, they become separate from your reality and impossible, and you never discover the strength and courage within yourself to rise above, the perfect storm occurs. You use the elements around you to try and escape, because you think it’s the only way. You believe you can use the violence that happens around you as a means to gain what you need and want. You may choose to push those drugs back into your community to get the things you always thought would be denied you, not realizing that you are helping to murder the dreams of another child. You become a part of the problem. You’re helping to keep the monster fed, making it stronger. Thus the cycle continues.
I think the most frustrating part for me is that I don’t have the answers. It seems to be so easy for me to clarify the problems, but never the answers. And it has always been so hard for me to reconcile my feelings of annoyance and judgment of the dudes posted on the block or the school children on the train who are loud and ignorant and disrespectful and seem lost, and whom I sometimes guiltily believe are already gone, with the fact that there is such a larger socioeconomic plague that has placed us all here. I don’t know what I will do. But I do know that always striving to be the best person I can be and trying to touch people with only positivity whenever I can could never be a bad thing. And selfishly, it makes it easier to sleep at night.