I had always felt a great sense of community here in Oakland, California. It was a strong community, one in which I could fester or flourish as I saw fit. It was support system, a connection of myriad resources and relationships that served to further bolster itself.
But one day that community vanished for me. There are plenty of reasons for that, and maybe it vanished for you, too. Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. So, let me tell you: one day that community fell through my hands like it was made of sand. My community, which I thought was a castle, crumbled and disappeared.
Of the many reasons I blame for this sense of communal dissipation, I can’t help but look back onto my role within that community. I was part of a tight knit group of fuck ups. We were all friends, and we all had our demons. This made us more apt to forgive each other, which in turn made us more apt to sin without remorse. But diving into the belly of the beast is not a group sport for the faint of heart. There will always be casualties.
I was not one of those casualties.
When I say “belly of the beast” I’m generally referring to the typical vices of urban youth. If you’re confused as to what those vices are, go back to page one of this blog and start reading. All the usual suspects are there: rampant promiscuity, violence, all the illicit drugs, theft, betrayal, prostitution, vandalism, scamming 101, unchecked wrath, a touch of criminal commerce. You know – all the fun stuff.
It’s easy to see how someone could get caught up in all of that. It’s hard to have a pretty face after having seen so much over the course of an entire lifetime. Some of us definitely looked worse for the wear. Some of us got trapped in it permanently. Some of us will have to cope with impending institutionalization because of it. Others ran away. There have been deaths.
I walked away.
It wasn’t easy. It was more like clawed my way out and managed to get away eventually. It was incredibly painful. Somehow, I had found my way into that community but I still knew the way out. I understand why people would resent me for walking away, relatively unscathed but still functional in a traditional sense.
My role in my old community was a reflection of who I still am today. My role in all future communities will be the same, too. I was always a writer, I will always be a writer. The role of the writer is to observe. To step back and steep in the details. Rummage through the muck for just a glimmer of beauty. I was a rabble-rouser. A raconteur. A wild child. Perhaps I was an impostor, too, drunk in my bedroom and writing away about whatever it was that I saw in the world. Perhaps the reason I’m not a part of the community anymore is because I didn’t belong. I certainly don’t belong now.
Yes, I am sad.
As much as I miss all the fuck shit I used to do, being a sell out in Oakland isn’t really that bad. It’s a bit lonely, but my options in the face of change were slim. I could rise with the tide or sit and drown. I wasn’t in the habit of drowning – I had tried it once, and it didn’t work. It’s hard to sink to the bottom when you’re used to kicking. I don’t believe in suffering for sake of pain. I believe I deserve the best that the world has to offer, and anyone who stands in my way is a fucking fool. So I chose to rise with the tide.
What did you choose? Did you have a choice?