Neighbors

I lived the first eighteen years of my life in the same neighborhood.

While some never leave their original neighborhoods (I imagine a great percentage of Americans fit this description) quite a few do.  To the latter eighteen years sounds like quite a long time, the former thinking that’s nothing.

Regardless, eighteen years in the same community.  The community changed, of course.  Mainly because the friends I was surrounded by- the other boys and girls roughly my age- were mostly either thrown in prison or dead before graduating high school.  Some got as close to the two options as possible.

That last paragraph might lend you to the idea that I was raised in a rough or dangerous area.  I guess it depends on how you look at it.  My part of town is definitely not considered dangerous or rough.  Some nearby cities, even the west side of my city, have shadier reputations.

Nevertheless I was surrounded by drug dealers, gang bangers and all around delinquents.  I hung out with them, skateboarded, played video games and watched wrestling on television.  Somehow I managed to (mostly) stay out of trouble.

I smoked a little weed, watched some movies I shouldn’t have watched, maybe stole some gum from the local gas station.  But never got into any real trouble.

I can’t say the same for my best friend, Michael.

Michael was raised by a single mother, had no discipline, and embraced the habits of the older kids with both arms.  He would literally pick up cigarette butts off the ground and try smoking them to be cool.

The craziness of my situation wouldn’t be very apparent until I was removed from it.

It wasn’t until years later, maybe college, actually, that I realized my neighborhood friends weren’t typical for middle class white kids.

My mom was stressed out, as you can imagine.  I couldn’t understand at the time, of course.  But now I realize why she always got those massages.

Now that I have a daughter I can’t imagine how stressful it would be if her friends were as crazy as mine were.  I have a good friend who runs a mobile massage business in a nearby town.  I’d be keeping her in business with my stress alone!

I’m thankful I didn’t come out more scarred than I am, and definitely hope to surround my daughter with better people.  I guess it contributed to I am today, but I don’t know if I’m willing to risk her getting pregnant or addicted to drugs before she finishes junior high.

Parenting.

That’s a whole other story!

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