When I was in the second year of middle school, I couldn’t pay the rent, so my family had to move from Brooklyn to live with a friend of my family in Jersey City. It was my mother, my 12 year old brother, and me. It provided a small bedroom, a small living area with a half kitchen and a dingy bathroom.
Since I was in the middle of the school year, my brother and I had to commute to school in Brooklyn for two hours. To get there early enough for a free school breakfast, we got up at 4:30 am, walked to the bus, and changed to two trains. Due to school metrocard restrictions, we often didn’t have enough money to travel. From time to time, my brother and I were fortunate to have a sympathetic bus driver who would take us for free. However, this was not always the case, so sometimes I had to pay for the bus and then jump on the ticket gate of train A.
I didn’t have any friends who knew nothing about my move or the financial difficulties of my family. My friends came from middle-income families, so I didn’t want to tell them. Most of them lived in the homes of two parents whose parents had stable jobs, such as prison officers and sanitary workers. My mother had a decent job as a childcare coordinator, but it was low wages. My dad was absent from most of my life, which contributed to the financial difficulties of my family.
Wear a mask to hide my hardships
I was able to maintain my popularity even with last year’s uniform and shoes. I felt like my friend had judged me, and I laughed because my friend said something several times. “Yes, I’m supposed to get a new uniform this weekend,” I told them. “Actually, I’m just waiting for my mom.”
I lived so far that I couldn’t play in basketball or flag football teams. But I also broke my little finger, so I used that as an excuse.
Shortly after I moved, there was an after-school party at the gymnasium. Due to rush hour traffic, it took me four hours to get back to New Jersey, so I couldn’t go.
My friend thought I was still living in Brooklyn, so he said, “Call your mom and go see what she says.” And I pretended to be talking to her and went away. I went back to the group and said, “My mom said I have to go home now. I have to do something.” My friend seemed disappointed. But as usual, he said.
My friendship began to feel artificial. I kept the truth from my friends and didn’t feel like I was among them. I started to be isolated.
The gap between my friends and me was the most difficult to ignore at lunch. As the clock ticked 12 o’clock every day, my classmates bullied in anticipation while I was scared. The children picked up brightly colored lunch boxes and side dishes. Of course, I wasn’t the only one to get school lunch, but that was my feeling.
Every day, when my friends went straight to our canteen table, I lined up and waited violently for any mysterious food that the school kitchen had for me. Then I sat down and wished I had some food that my privileged friends brought from home.
The more I saw my friends enjoying a gourmet meal, the more I felt lonely and isolated. The classic meal consisted of turkey and cheese hero chips from a local deli. But others have brought more elaborate meals from the deli. From the cheeseburger and french fries combo to the grilled grilled quesadillas, the delicious food was elusive to me.
I also lacked the latest Jordan and couldn’t keep up with the guys online after school without the latest consoles.
If my friend noticed any of these things, they didn’t tell me anything. But I felt very dishonest. I consider myself a respectable and candid individual with a conscience. But here I was hiding where I lived and how I didn’t even have enough money to go to school.
I wanted to tell them, but I kept fighting the urge to do so.
My ticket from poverty
In the summer before my second year of middle school, my mother learned about DREAM. It is a program designed to provide New York City low- and middle-income students with the resources and education they need to pass the Professional High School Entrance Examination (SHSAT). The program site is conveniently located a few blocks from my school and wanted to enroll in the Brooklyn Latin School and become part of their classic school culture. Enrolling in a vocational high school was like a ticket from my poverty.
So I participated in an 8-week program for the second year of middle school for 8 weeks. It ended a few days before I sat in SHSAT.
Time to reveal the truth
During the second Friday DREAM session from last week, my friend was planning to hang out in downtown Brooklyn. I knew I couldn’t go. So I had to come up with an excuse again. Lie.
SHSAT was approaching and I was stressed. When my friend approached me, years of disgusted frustration and stress from mental isolation and dishonesty arose. I decided to reveal the truth I was hiding.
I was nervous and walked to the bus stop with my friends. I don’t have time today,I thought. I will be late for class. We have finally reached the end of the block. I felt a mixture of embarrassment and frustration and my face getting hot.
“I told you — I have a program today,” I said.
“Oh, stop again,” muttered his friend Taheen.
I was very angry because they all had the privilege of enjoying their Friday afternoon while I had to go to DREAM. Not only for me, but for my family, my mother and brother expect me to succeed.
Then I realized that my friends didn’t know this and I didn’t have the right to get angry with them. But now I was ready to talk to them.
“DREAM is my loophole. I don’t have the same money as the school you have. Or, like everyone else, get a daily allowance and a curfew. You’re me You may not understand it because it is not, but this is an opportunity I must make the most of to change my situation, not only for me, but also for my mother and brother. So I’m going. “
The burden I had for a long time has finally been resolved. I felt free and expressive, but I was worried that if my friends knew the truth, they wouldn’t stick. I managed to hold back my tears.
But my friend attacked me. “Damn, my bad. We didn’t know it all,” Taheen said. Then, instead of hanging out downtown, they took a bus with me to the DREAM site. And to better understand what I was experiencing, my friend got on the bus and asked me a question. “Wait, you’ve lived in New Jersey all the time.” And “What time do I have to get up to go to school?”
I felt as if my friends were caring I And who I It was as a person. I regret having waited so long to talk to them. When I got off the bus, I stepped into the scene with new pride and confidence. My friends understood, and they didn’t judge me. When I stepped into DREAM, I decided to study harder for the last day. Because now I’m doing it not only for my mother and brother, but also for being proud of my friends.
That was about two years ago. Now, in this unusual year in the midst of a pandemic, I’m a sophomore in Brooklyn Latin. My family has returned to Brooklyn. In high school, my group of friends is more diverse than in junior high school and has a life history with children of all income levels. I am now able to have a comfortable conversation with people who are different from me both financially and culturally.
I am grateful for the value of compassion and honesty in friendship as I have become more reassured about the financial challenges of my family. If we can all tell each other that we are not ashamed of being poor, no one will hide anymore.
After 15-year-old Enoch returned to Brooklyn, he challenged the school basketball team. He is the second freshman in Brooklyn Latin history to form a national team. He plays both a point guard and a shooting guard.
The version of this essay was originally YCteen..
My family lived in poverty. For a long time I hid it from my friends.
Source link My family lived in poverty. For a long time I hid it from my friends.