When I Reflect – Andrew Wadsworth

The Beat Without. Volume 2117/18

When I reflect on my past history, the confusion, the instability and abandonment, I can’t help but to wonder how I made it out alive. On one side, I was around crack cocaine addicted parents in a drug infested home. On the other side, I was blessed to have loving and caring grandparents with enough stability and guidance to provide comfort, safety, and warmth. 

I grew up like most kids, wanting a good life. Looking for role models I couldn’t find. I couldn’t play sports very well, so the coaches and the neighborhood teams weren’t there. Friends of the family I admired, whom I thought had the motivation and inspiration to push me to the next level weren’t there. Unfortunately, I ended up like most kids, stuck with a TV, an imaginary friend and trillions of dreams based on other, fortunate people’s lives. 

I remember telling myself over and over as a kid, that I wish I wasn’t black, so that I could live a decent life. I remember speaking with people that I looked up to, thinking to myself, “Please take me in and show me a better life”, only to be disappointed by reality when we parted. I remember going to school with dingy and dirty clothes on. I used to be scared and embarrassed to speak to girls because of how I was dressed. 

I grew up having anything that was bought for me sold for my father’s crack habit. I remember having a brand new pair of shoes, and waking up to put them on to wear to school after many hours of anticipation, only to find out they were gone. I’m sure that’s why I’ve always hated robbers and thieves, because of my own personal feelings of being stolen from. 

I know what it feels like to be given gifts that are then stolen and sold. I remember growing up feeling worthless as a child, not having the cool things that the other kids had. I felt lonely all the time because nobody liked me. The adults and kids around the neighborhood paid me no attention and that stagnated me. At the end of the day, after cries and headaches, seeing my parents high in the middle of the night, looking like zombies. Finding crack pipes underneath the toilets and paraphernalia in every drawer or on every countertop. And all I had were tears that nobody heard. 

During my eighth grade year in middle school, I went to live with my grandparents for good. The middle school was located in a rough neighborhood, but it didn’t bother me because I was used to feeling like the scum of the earth. I acted out in school every day, and that was my way of letting my frustrations out. I didn’t get whoopings, so I never felt punished, except the punishment of my environment. 

High school turned out to be the beginning of my future on the streets. Castlemont High School was notorious for being the grittiest, grimiest, most dangerous school in Oakland, CA. 

I hung around the kids from my neighborhood and that alone made me a little popular. I was living with my grandparents now, so I didn’t have to worry about my clothes being dirty or sold. I was clean. My hair was always cut nice. I had more confidence. 

In high school I started having a lot of fights with bigger kids that already had reputations and that gave me a name. Afterwards, it seemed like everyone was greeting me and that made me feel good. I felt valuable. I had friends now, girls liked me now. I would catch the bus ome and people acknowledged me. My confidence became contagious and turned into arrogance. 

At home, that attracted older hustlers around the neighborhood. Once, I was approached and invited to sell drugs on the corner with them. It made me feel like a number one draft pick on a NFL team. I felt like I graduated. 

The day I was approached came as a surprise. I was on my way to school and one of the main hustlers on the block that I’d watched since I was a little kid called out my name while climbing out of a black truck. I was excited because I knew what type of caliber of dude he was by the glamorous lifestyle he lived and how he was highly respected. When I came closer, the first thing he mentioned was, “Do you wanna grind?” 

Immediately I said, “Yep”. 

He said, “Get in.” He drove me around for what seemed like hours teaching me the ins and outs of the drug game, and I was mesmerized. Immediately after riding around with him, my status went up. Instantly, the other older dudes would come up to me, saying things like, “Your older homie that put you on is gonna make you rich”. I was fascinated from then on. Hearing all the “praises” and “congratulations” gave me the momentum to continue on. I finally felt like I was somebody. 

The first day I went out it felt weird because the only thing I knew about selling drugs was what I had seen on movies and how I had seen my parents buy theirs. Now, I was actually doing it and I must admit that I was out of my element. I made money fast and that was all that mattered. I was to give the older hustler that gave me the drugs half of the money, and I could keep the other half. I was OK with that. The feeling of being a part of something gave me a sense of purpose. This was my history. 

When I reflect, it hurts and pains me to think about my responses and reactions to growing up in a dysfunctional household, growing up without a role model, and being vulnerable to the wrong people’s influences. What I do know now that I didn’t know before is the past cannot be changed, but the future can become brighter than ever before. 

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