When I first met Dan and Chase I had my doubts about the integrity of their characters. They seemed to be hardened and un-relatable. As they began to share their stories I was ready to settle in and numb my mind out through an insignificant rendition of fun times. They described to me of how they’re families had suffered in financial ruin, how they had grown up with almost nothing, and how they had finally had enough. I found out Chase was an orphan and had to raise himself from a young age, getting involved with gangs to survive. I also found out he was loosely involved with the white brotherhood, displaying their mark on his arm; he was also close friends with Dan who was Mexican and Puerto Rican. Dan didn’t have a father and had to help his mother raise his little brother. His extended family was very close and they showed a great deal of love towards each other, but he could not depend on them for financial support because theirs was a hard lot as well. I found this out when he told me of his family’s struggle as they first came to the U.S. from Latin America. His sister had suffered from scoliosis; he told me those were the hardest times of his life, the only time he truly cried was when she was hospitalized because of the disease. I began to realize there was a lot more than a front behind their stories.
Before I had met Chase and Dan I always assumed that I had already met people with amazing characters who were accepting, and down to earth. They were the people in my AP classes who had read about theology and cared about the environment and politics. Life was about proving yourself to the world. Then again, there always was a lingering suspicion that teased and poked my conscience. If these people were the best of the best, why was there always an underlying judgment and competition brewing in everything they said? I figured it was probably nothing and that I should ignore it and just try to get ahead. Yes, “get ahead.” In there lies the problem; if you can get ahead it doesn’t matter who you emotionally trample. My friends and my family would sometimes come under fire from this mental state that I was perpetually in. The realization this was a destructive attitude was always there, it was simply never checked because no one would acknowledge it. After all, climbing the ladder is the important part; you look so capable when you are going up. It doesn’t matter that when you get to the top you discover you already stepped on everything important as you were ascending. Thankfully, I was able to listen to an unadulterated discussion about life on that summer night, and I was able to step outside of myself and see people for who they really were, and to see myself for who I really was.