In my neighborhood there are a lot of makeshift memorials with candles, teddy bears, pictures, RIP signs and flowers in memory of loved ones. Why? Is it because youth don’t want to have a life or a future to look forward to? Or because they never had a positive role model to guide them? Are they just living day by day? Most youth want to make money, so they start selling drugs and get caught up in the streets. But you have to be bigger than that. You have to tell yourself that you don’t want people coming up to you and asking where their money is, or trying to rob you because they know you are selling drugs and have money. There is also the risk of getting locked up.
Most kids I know don’t have the training to get a job because they dropped out of school, so they try to make money by selling drugs. There are some who play both sides of the fence: they have parents who love them and food on the table, but they still want to be cool and follow their friends in the streets, which sets them up to fail as well. The followers are usually the ones who get shot, stabbed or killed. Why? Because they do whatever their street friends tell them to fit in. They don’t realize that a real friend would tell them that they have a family who cares about them and that they could end up in jail or dead if they stay on the street. The followers tell the real street kids that they are ready to kill for their buddy, but the buddy would not be willing to do the same. So basically, the street kids look at the followers as crash-test dummies because they would do anything the gang asks, just to impress them.
Most of the time I chill by myself and am not involved with that type of life anymore. When I was in the streets, I was stupid, too. But I was the one to diffuse a situation before it got worse. I was the one who did not want problems so I tried to avoid bad situations, but some just couldn’t be avoided.
This is the truth. When my older cousins or my father was growing up, they had respect for people and things. What they did, they had good reason for doing. They didn’t do things just for the sake of doing them, they always had a valid reason. Kids today, though, don’t really care if they live or die. They don’t value life because most of them never had a positive role model to teach them what being a real man is all about. For the most part, they can’t afford the designer clothing they like or the bling they want, so they start selling drugs and put themselves in situations where they either have to kill or be killed, or get locked up for a long time.
But we all have a choice. We can either give in to the negative influences around us by living the street life, always looking over our shoulders to keep from getting hurt, killed or arrested, or we can choose to better ourselves and do something positive and constructive with our lives. We can go to school and have a career or go to a trade school to get a good-paying job.
This is my message: stay in school. The streets aren’t for everyone. There is nothing cool about living your life in jail or in a wheelchair.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.