“My dad moved us from Congo when I was a teenager.  I wasn’t…

“My dad moved us from Congo when I was a teenager.  I wasn’t given a choice in the matter.  I didn’t know anyone.  I couldn’t speak English.  And for a while I had an identity crisis.  I felt like my skin was too dark and my build was too muscular.  Other kids were telling me that I looked like a boy.  I got bullied a lot.  I didn’t have any friends.  I began to feel depressed.  Then one weekend I got invited to a party at a boy’s house.  I was excited to go.  But when I got there, it was nothing but drunk people.  Everyone was passing around a joint.  And when it got to me, the boy said: ‘Trust me, you’ll love it.’  So I tried it.  And I did love it.  Next thing you know, I was going out every weekend.  I started drinking heavily.  I was high all the time.  My grades began to drop.  But I was also getting cooler.  I was never alone anymore.  I was hanging out with popular people.  We all hyped each other up, so it was easy to ignore the consequences of our behavior.  But whenever I was alone again, I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore.  I was heading down the wrong path.  That’s not how I was brought up.  So I had to get conscious.  I had to be honest about what brings me happiness: writing poetry, reading books, and sometimes being alone.  I backed away from the party lifestyle.  I became more selfish with my time.  The other night I ran into a few of my old friends, and they were a little mad because I hadn’t been around.  They said I was acting like I was above it all.  But that’s not the case.  I’m just at a different stage of my life.”
(Johannesburg, South Africa)

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