Chicago’s South Side Self Identity

Something unique about growing up on Chicago’s south side was all the amazing people I met.  From teachers to friends and family, I learned valuable lessons of trust, camaraderie and fairness.

The lessons that I learned then resonate now.  What’s strange to me today when I look back is how if I met half these role models today on the street or in social circumstances that we’d have very little in common.  Most were of the conservative republican variety in my neighborhood growing up; they ate meat, watched sports, drank beer and went to church. Most confessed what they did wrong to a priest once a month — and then did it again the following weekend after one too many cocktails at a republican fundraiser.

I don’t hate anyone; I just agree to disagree.  I love my family and have remained close with many of the friends I grew up with but we definitely don’t see eye to eye on a few key issues.  I had a crisis of faith with republicans, Catholicism and the pursuit of extreme wealth at an early age.

From the age of approximately 14, I considered myself into yoga and had a strong dislike for sports.  I disliked the wealthy and disrespected those who did things just to appear normal.  I was actually a pretty spiritual kid growing up with a strong connection to family that continues to this day.  The thing from which I learned to disassociate was contradictory organized religious practices.  I also learned to live without thinking that money was the end goal.  I practice that one must do what s/he loves, and then the money will come.  I was taught very rigid Catholic principles; although I respect what they represent, I entirely disagree with their often misogynistic and anti-feminist stances.  Although I’ve told my family countless times that I am neither Roman Catholic nor conservative — or even close to what I was taught growing up — I do consider myself a very deep thinker and a very spiritual person.

I’m a cynical yet optimistic man of 35 and feel that my life experiences as well as my own inner voice has come through more strongly recently than in many years.  I believe in myself and nurture my own hobbies and healthy distractions with conviction and honesty.  I believe in the rights of everyone, especially the underdogs to be protected and fought for, regardless of religion and regardless of what country or political affiliation they subscribe to.  You must find your own voice and do things because they truly matter to you and not because it’s what you learned in school or were taught to believe.  Having said that I feel liberated in voicing my opinions as an adult and will teach my children never to be afraid to trust their instincts and intuition, even if it’s not the status quo or what everybody else is doing.  If we did only what everybody else was doing nothing would evolve, nothing would change and life would remain static.  Communities have their own distinct identity and I have the utmost respect for that.  But what we all must do is affirm that we are all beautifully different, all with our own skill sets and hidden talents.  This individual voice, be it political, be it social, be it religious, must be discovered in all of us. Without that freedom, we’re one step away from Orwell’s 1984.

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