The place that shaped who I am and who I am going to be is South Central Los Angeles. For most people, their perception of South Central LA is it being a dangerous, flawed part of Los Angeles that remains in the outskirts of the more “ideal” or romanticized areas. As a kid, growing up and being conscious of the violence in my community, I internalized the perceptions above.
Going to public school in South Central LA never really resonated in me as a place of possibility or comfort. A pervasive anxiety dominated my being when stepping on campus or walking home after school. Knowing where I grew up and the high school I went to, I never believed that I would be as smart as the other kids who grew up in other areas of Los Angeles that weren’t as tumultuous.
However, there is beauty in how the universe works. I had decided that I was going to try and complete all of my math homework going into my sophomore year of high school. There was a sense of me trying to find meaning in my work and meaning of going to school. By glorifying something simple as math homework, this deepened my understanding of the true nature of learning and being immersed in the mysteries of the questions. After a couple of weeks of deliberately doing every single problem on each assignment, my math teacher wrote: “I’m proud of you. You have grown as a student.” After reading this simple, but elegant comment, I was disenchanted from viewing myself as hopeless or marginalized.
All the difficulties of growing up in South Central LA, such as going to sleep with the police helicopter roaming around every night, hearing the gunshots that are ubiquitous, or hoping I don’t get attacked while walking home from school, was put into context by virtue of seeing the larger picture of reality. A reality where I matter.
Everyone wants to have a narrative of personal origins. If you know where you come from, you would know who you are. You would know what you should do. Thank you South Central LA for revealing my transcendent narrative. Helping me become the person I dream of being.