Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reflections on Coming of Age in the 1980s

For those of you that don't know, thirty isn't exactly knocking on the door for me--as it is pounding. I wish I could say I was nervous about leaving my twenties, but I would be lying.

I grew up in a marginally bad area of Brooklyn in the 80s. When I was old enough to realize what was going on around me there was rampant crime, extremely high unemployment in the inner city, a terrible recession (because of Reaganomics--and the lack of the trickle), and the dawn of crack.

It's funny that despite the drugs and the crime there was still a community. There were black owned businesses, which seemed to have faded from existence, there were beat cops (back at the time when the coolest jobs were policemen, firemen, lawyers, doctors, and astronauts), and a very strong sense of community. I think the sense of community, which I believe has been loss, was out of necessity. You shared food, money, babysitting responsibilities. You gave up your last dime. You reprimanded kids on your block for misbehaving, and didn't have to deal with the fury of their parents. Crisis actually strengthened the community.

It makes me wonder if "prosperity" pulls it apart. It separates the middle-class from the working poor, the poor, and the affluent. It creates a since of jealousy, instead of giving others a sense of hope. Misery does love company, the same way that getting through miserable experiences usually takes being around people with similar collective experiences.

I am in a completely different place, from a financial standpoint, than when I grew up. As a kid I dreamed of making 48K and being an engineer or an architect (and sometimes a writer. That or a track star. I hoped that I would live past 25, due to the high percentages of black on black crime. I wanted to attend St. Johns or Syracuse University.

I was the small, talkative, observant child, with big dreams. In that since much hasn't changed.

I hope that if I continue to prosper, especially after getting my MBA, that I don't forget about where I came from. I intend to share my experiences, perhaps start some scholarship opportunities, and mentoring programs. It would be nice to know that we can all pull each other up, rather than seeing just a few escape the barrel.

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