It’s a mix of jealousy/envy and pity? I don’t really know what the second emotion is to be honest. In the past year or so A LOT of old high school friends and acquaintances have contacted me via various social networks. All of their lives have gone almost the same way at each other. No one really moved away, almost everyone joined the army and almost all of the women had children at a VERY early age.
The city that I grew up in was declared a city when I was in 8th grade. Before that, it was considered a very large and quickly growing town, but not more than 30 years before, it had been mostly farm lands and orchards. The nice thing was that the people who my mother went to school with did not leave the area, so when I, my siblings and cousins went to school, we were going to school with the children of the people whom our parents went to school with. By high school whether people were friends or not, we all knew each other since we had all been to the same elementary school, or the same middle school. The only problem with people not leaving the area though, was that jobs were scarce and the school were grossly overcrowded. The smallest class size I had in high school was 18 other kids, and that was about a month before the end of our senior year. Before that, the average class size was 40 children, and only one teacher.
Everyone who graduated with me talked about how they were going to leave the area and get a college education. In actuality, only a handful of us actually left. Catching up with everyone has really shown me what my life would have been like if I would have stayed. I would have partied with my childhood friends and probably married one of them within the first 2 years of leaving high school.
On some levels I envy them because they know where their lives are heading and they know what lays before them. They are surrounded by friends and family and their lives don’t really differ from their parents’ lives. And they most likely will have children and their children will go to the same schools as they did and they will attend school with the children of their parents’ friends.
The handful who did leave the area joined the military and were either transferred or stationed somewhere else. I am the only one of two that I know about who left the area and didn’t join the military. While all of my old classmates are either married, in the military, have kids, in jail, or dead, I am the only who is still in college and is trying to make life better. The other one that I know about is at the end of his college education and is being signed with one of the pro football teams in the state.
I feel a bit sorry for them because they aren’t breaking the cycle. Each generation is repeating exactly what the generation before them did.
When I left I was used to always carrying at least a knife on me. Everyone did that, even in school, everyone had a knife on them, it was common and no one thought anything of it. Once I moved away I realized that my version of normality was very different from other peoples’ normality. There weren’t curfews for the city, you could walk around alone, almost no one ever carried weapons on them, if a car drove by slowly that didn’t mean that there was going to be a drive-by…etc. I feel a bit sorry for my old classmates because they won’t know any different type of normality.
I remember the last time I visited home, I had to get used to the old way of normality again. I had to get used to carrying a knife, I had to get back into a flight or fight mode. I had to get used to constantly paying attention to my surroundings, I had to get used to being very cautious of people who weren’t from the area.
I am happy that I made it out and that I have options and choices in my future, but everyone else back home, they all chose to stay and from what we have talked about, none of them even want to change things. They are perfectly content with staying in the same area and situation that they were raised in. Just about everyone there grew up below the poverty line, and none of them want to or have even considered the possibility of changing it.
I understand that the struggles that we all went through helped make who we are today, but none of them want to give the next generation a chance at a better life, or at least the option of something better.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just weird for trying to better myself or at least rise above the situations that I was born into. I’m pretty sure me thinking this way was one of the many reasons why I was such an oddball and black sheep growing up.