Chicago Public Schools student overcoming effects of poverty

It was a dark, breezy night in the middle of April when I was arriving home.  Beer cans and tequila bottles were shattered all over the front porch. The stench of tequila lingered and I could hear my dad, drunk and screaming. I rushed into the house, knocking over a bunch of beer bottles and cans. My father, drunk and not thinking right, screamed at my helpless mother. The look on her face broke me. Tears ran down her cheek.  Without a word, I felt she was staring into my heart asking for help. So I did.

My mother is a beautiful woman who always cared about others.  She always put everyone before herself. She came as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. She tried to go to school but her mother preferred she stay at home and cook and stuff like that.

My dad was born and raised in Chicago.  He grew up in the same rough neighborhood as my mother nicknamed “Back of the Yards.”  From a young age, all my father knew or was really into was drinking and getting into trouble. He was never a gang member.  He just had a knack for getting into trouble. Both my mother and father grew up in the struggle, with the fear of not knowing whether they would have a roof over their head from one night to another.

One night they met at a local fair in the neighborhood. They met and sparks flew right away.  They knew they were going to fall for each other almost instantly, something like love at first sight. Ever since then life has been a struggle with three kids, barely making it by.

But my dad never stopped drinking.  It was something like an addiction.  The beer and hard liquor just kept calling his name. Maybe that one night he was tired of the struggle and being stuck at the same place, and released all his anger the wrong way on the wrong people.

The look on my mother’s face when I arrived home to a drunk father screaming at her broke me. Tears ran down her cheek.  Without a word I felt she was staring into my heart asking for help. So I did. Both my sisters were crying, locked in a room away from my dad. He was in one of his moods again.  He was drunk to the max, so “turnt up.”  I tried to calm him down, to help him with his problem with drinking.  But that night, everything went too far.

I tried to take the beer cans and tequila away from him but it didn’t work. He was so drunk he thought I was trying to confront him and get in his face, so he pushed me and started saying bad things about me.  So I defended myself and started to say things back. Next thing I knew, I saw a fist coming my way.  The next second I’m on the ground, holding my stomach in pain.  After that, I left.

It’s been four, almost five, months since that night I decided to leave and live on my own. I was scared and didn’t know where to turn or who to turn to.  I was like a cub lost in the woods, lost in the dark not knowing what to do. What a terrible feeling. Thank god for my friend who had an empty basement apartment that his parents agreed to let me rent if I paid 600 dollars of rent money every month. I took that offer working at MacDonald’s and going to school at the same time.

Life was getting harder and harder as each lonely rough day passed by. I barely made first month’s rent and struggled to make second and third months’ rent. At one point, my lowest point, I thought it would be easier to drink away my sorrows and pain rather than face the harsh reality of living on my own.

Now I knew what my dad felt and what he was going through.

It was around the fifth month that I realized that I couldn’t make it living on my own. I was sitting in my basement, bottle in my hand, millions of thoughts racing through my mind, mostly about missing my family and replaying those horrible moments of living on my own. I had no food, no money, nobody.  I had nothing.  Right then, I realized it was time for me to go back home and do better at school, at least finish high school, maybe some college for a better job and never experience that loneliness and helplessness again.

In those five months, I experienced the darkest, loneliest, hardest times of my life. In that time, I learned many lessons about life, some good, some bad. To me, the lessons I learned the most were was that life isn’t easy and the struggle is real. It’s real and it’s not an easy way of living life.  It will bring some people to their lowest point and they will give up or it will bring us to our lowest point, where it seems everything is over and all doors are closed.  But we still have to keep going and never give up because a new door might open filled with more and better opportunities, which is what I learned and experienced.

And for that I have to thank and appreciate my father.   Life can be as easy or as hard as we want it to be. Trying to make it on my own at the age of 16 with no help can really change someone. In my case, it changed me forever. It turned me from a young boy to a young man.

Someone isn’t always going to be there to hold our hand and be with us when we hit the real world.  I realized life will be hard and it will knock me down again and when it does, I will get up stronger than ever because I will have an education, and this time I will have help from my family on my side.


The Hancock senior who wrote this asked that we not share his name.

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