"It takes a village to raise a child."
When I heard that phrase back in middle school, I began to reflect my whole life and what kind of environment I grew up in.
It wasn't the cleanest.
There would be abandoned furniture, puke on the sidewalk, ruined murals, and unkempt grass. But that hardly bothered me at some point -- it was part of my daily life.
It wasn't the nicest.
That time someone came up to me ripped my gold necklace and ran off left me stunned and paranoid for most of my life (even today). You'd walk down your street and meet the nice old people or your neighbors with whom you bonded with over music, but you'd also pass by predatory eyes.
But I'd be lying to you if I told you that I didn't learn anything from growing up in the hood.
So I've decided to write 4 things that I've learned from the area that I grew up in: South Central LA. While I could go on forever on the lessons I've learned, I think these 4 main points stick out the most to me. (While most of my articles include gifs and images, I wanted to have this article be serious and word-based.)
I've learned that even with all the locks and bars in my house, the chances of me getting hurt (in any way) is plausible. Whether it's by someone in my family, someone on my block, or some stranger who's walking near me. I learned this at a very young age, but since then -- you can never prevent something from happening. You can try. But that's all you can do.
2. Money is a Necessity.
Many say that money isn't the key to happiness. While I do agree with that -- it's only to a certain extent. Money was the root of my housing, food, and clothing. I'm sure I can say that for most people. But without it -- there was anxiety in the house. Anxiety in my mother. In me. My father. Siblings. I envy those that don't need to worry about finances. What a privilege it must be to not decide whether to buy clothes or food and not both.
3. "Things Could Be Worse"
Yeah. Things could be worse. Yeah, I had to live in my living room with my 4 siblings, but at least I wasn't starving. There's this ideology within families similar to mine (low-income, first-gen, POC), that we should be grateful for what we have. And while I do appreciate what is in my life -- I can't help but want more. And that's ok. It's okay to want more. I'm not entirely sure if this was a good or bad lesson. I find myself forcing appreciation and gratitude more than I find myself striving for better things. A better life.
4. You Don't Have to Be A Statistic
Even though the hood isn't always the nicest or cleanest, there was always someone who proved that wrong. A kind soul, dressed like a cholo (will matter further in my writing), spoke to me when I was crying my eyes out. He came up to me and told me that I'd be okay. That I would get out from these streets and have a good life. He asked me if I wanted to give back to the hood -- I said, "Yes, of course." He said that that's what life is about. Doing well in your life and sharing that wealth with others.
Harmony. Unity. Compassion.
And it was from there on out that I realized it doesn't matter what you dressed like (my mother often told me to stay away from people dressed in a specific manner/colors), looked like, or what area you lived in. You can have a better life. You don't need to be stuck in this cycle of a "terrible" life. I learned this at the age of 10. And this lesson has always stuck with me. And now I'm here. Studying English Literature at a prestigious 4-year university. Studying so that I can give back to my community and create this new cycle of student flourishing and understanding their worth in this world.
Because that's what life is about. Doing well in your life and sharing that wealth with others.