by Efrain Nieves
Anyone who has experienced a rough life that growing up and surviving the streets bring, will easily empathize with the story I am about to tell.
Personally, the mental strain of living legit is a burden that I must carry with me for the rest of my life. It is a strain that punctures my senses with varying intensity. It is an inner struggle with a keen purpose to gnaw away to the point of restlessness. Attempting to lead a normal life, without succumbing to the temptations of the streets, is like purgatory. Let me tell you why. The transition from illegal and illicit acts that bring easy money to waiting for a weekly paycheck becomes mentally tiring. Specifically when you have bills piling up, kids whose needs must be met and food to be put on the table. I once heard that the working man is a sucker. At times, it seems to become a reality. Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise while my hourly pay rate remains static. It is all bullshit (BS).
Who really wants to live this way? For all its honor and glory keeping a legit life could dent your fighting spirit. Just look around and you will be surrounded by mediocre creativity that leaves their creators wealthy. Good examples are reality shows and celebrity gossiping. While some go on to make six figure salaries the majority of people will be joining the ranks of those working an average of 10 hours a day with nothing but sheer determination to make it through another shift.
Don’t get me wrong, if you work hard to develop a concept or an idea and it pays off, congrats but whatever happened to rewarding real hard working people? After all, here I am trying to live up to my potential. I ignore all the negative feedback from haters while soaking in the positive influences in my life. It’s a tug of war that often threatens my common sense. At times, I do not know where to go or who to turn to. Other times I know exactly what I want. However, at my most dreadful times disappearing for good seems the only viable option for me. Why do I feel this way? Because I just want to give it all up and go back to my old ways. Being a crook that makes easy money by hitting the block has always been so smooth; Make money and get out.
What I did not realize was that once you get out of a vicious cycle the streets beckon endlessly. A fast life with full access to all that money can buy is just as addicting as any drug. It stays in my mind, like the love of my life, everywhere I go. The worst part about it is that the only person that really understands my plight, predicament and strain is me. In the end, I feel alone. I hear and/or read everyone’s version of their way out the hood. Does it mean that they understand my experience? Not necessarily, it just means that they understand the struggle.
There will only be those that, not having experienced any of the things that I have, will think that they know better. Their unsolicited counsel would speak of how to stay off the streets. “Keep a steady job, go to school, and don’t hang around with those people loitering at the corner of door steps.” It is easier said than done. For an unsolicited advice should be weighted in accordance to who is giving it to you. Many appear to have good intentions yet keep skeletons in their closet, scheme and hate on just about anyone around them. Their purpose is to show a perfect, innocent life on the outside. Luckily for me, I could always smell fake people a mile away and they know it.
This world has turned me into an animal; a realist, with no feelings. I know the truth about the schemes, the oppression towards our people, the games people play. All I want to do is take with the full understanding that I cannot.
I am determined to not stop what I am doing. I refuse to go back since there is only one way, it’s forward.
Who I am today is who I always wanted to be; for I am a father, a lover and a giver of positive energy. The streets keep calling but I refuse to answer. I will not be a “used to be” or a “could have been.” I will be everything the streets tried to take away.
In the meantime, another day goes by where I am left all alone, retreating into my inner self, to make my case with my angels & demons.
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