Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio was almost my theme song. This was at a time where everything in my life seemed so dark. My family didn’t understand me. My friends no longer wanted to be with me. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and during this time it was steeped with violence that was prevalent everywhere. To survive in this environment, you either joined the chaos or you learned to how to fight. Most of my friends were dying and I didn’t see a life for me past 18 years of age. I also wasn’t so sure I really wanted to see it, if I made it.
I started hanging with a totally new group of people. This group seemed to know exactly how to protect themselves and they didn’t mind letting me in. My grades began to decrease, but not so much because that would have alerted my grandmother about some drastic changes I was beginning to make in my life. I got more freedom in my life as long as she believed I was studying.
While out an about in my new environment with my new friends, my cousin came to me and told me that he saw me in a part of DC he didn’t feel I should be in. He said “you should be careful about your choices. You have a lot more going for yourself and this path won’t get you there.” I paused because I never expected him to say anything about my behavior. He was the cool cousin. He was the one person that really understood what it was like being a teenager in D.C. at that moment. What I was doing was perceived as cool. So why would he, of all people, bother to say anything to me? Well, I chose not to listen to him. He then made it his intention to be everywhere I was to keep me out of trouble.
There always comes a time in your Iife when you have to make a clear decision that the path you have chosen is the one you want to stay on. I eventually caught a clue and started using my time to help those that wanted to get out of a lifestyle that was certain to bring death and destruction. I began developing strategies and actionable steps to help people navigate the hurdles they were experiencing in life to build a firmer foundation for themselves and those around them. I began teaching skills that provide life-changing solutions to grow and develop them so they could have better in life.