I hope we have all learned a lot from this year, these recent times.
As I sit here and reflect on the era we live in and how the world has changed, I thought not about the future and what’s to come, but the past.
Nostalgia took me back to where I grew up and some of the experiences that helped shape who I am today.
My sister and I grew up in Los Angeles. A very culturally diverse part of the city.
“Rough neighborhood,” most people called it.
It was filled with hard working people of all backgrounds, races, and religions. There were people and experienced good and bad, like any neighborhood. I had a lot of appreciation for the positive things that help mold me. But, like they said, “rough neighborhood.”
After the LA riots of 1992, my mother decided to move our family out to the suburbs, to Newbury Park.
My parents divorced when I was 3. My mother raised my sister and me. She was extremely close with her family, so leaving LA was a big decision.
In Los Angeles, we had it more difficult in some ways and easier in others. Just as in life.
In Newbury Park, I was able to play baseball, work as a cook and mechanic as well as get a “connector” job at Merrill Lynch.
It wasn’t so bad.
But one of the biggest challenges I had in our new suburban life was making friends. Back in LA, I had tons of friends – it was inevitable that you knew everyone on your block, and everyone knew you. It was different in Newbury Park, and I didn’t have many friends in our new home.
One day my father (who was the same age as I am today) was coming out to see my sister and me. He asked if I needed anything, so I said yes. Would he bring out my friend RJ from LA, and then take him home? Or he could stay and go back the next day?
To which my father replied, “Sure thing. I’ll only charge him what I charge my courier customers. I could always use a few extra bucks.”
He was coming to see us anyway.
Charged my friend. A kid my age, 15 years old like me.
At that time, my father couriered documents for work. But this was a Saturday during the summer, and he was coming out to see us anyways.
And guess what? RJ paid what my father charged. A 15-year-old kid paid good money, which was definitely hard to come by, just to come hang out with me.
Of all my memories years later, that one sticks with me. We learn what to do in life and how to act. Or, what not to do and how not to act. Those experiences are raw, powerful, and sometimes painful, but the lessons can be just as impactful.
Family; friendship; relationships; work. We all have our own definitions, expectations, and boundaries. And my estranged relationship with my father is another blog (or book!) altogether.
But these days, I think maybe I value true friendships more than ever. I’m to the moon with authentic connections; genuine people; straight shooters.
So, when someone starts casting judgment on others because where they’re from, what they have, or even what they look like, when someone says, “rough neighborhood,” I remember RJ.
And I just think, “Nah – true friend.”