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A story of the past powering the future

Table of Contents: Preface ……………………………………………………………………………………… 2 Chapter 1…………………………………………………………………………………….3 Chapter 2…………………………………………………………………………………….7 Chapter 3…………………………………………………………………………………….10 Chapter 4…………………………………………………………………………………….14 About the Author………………………………………………………………………..19


Preface Many people struggle with their past, but without a past one cannot have a future. A person’s background can make or break who they are. If you so choose to let it make you and let what has happened to you in the past whether it be good or bad be motivation for you to mold your future. I know what this is like. I let my experiences shape the direction that I want to take my future too. In some ways I relate to Michael MacDonald on my journey to be who I want to be.


Chapter 1: Normal Doesn’t Live Here Although Michael MacDonald and I didn’t grow exactly the same there were still moments that he described that I could relate too, I'm sure as well as many others could relate too. Growing up MacDonald had experienced hard times such as his older brother dying and struggling to really discover who he was and who he was trying to be outside of the project that he and his family lived. MacDonald wanted to escape “normal”. But what is “normal”? Everyone had a different definition. MacDonald’s definition was South Boston and he planned to distance himself from it.

Growing up in South Boston, MacDonald was only exposed to the people in the Old Colony project that he had been around his whole life community. MacDonald has a problem with what he was raised to believe is normal way of living. One of the things that he was raised to believe is that anyone that isn’t white Irish is an outsider as far as he is concerned. The place that he comes from doesn’t socialize with people of different races then them. MacDonald is tired of that way of thinking once he explores the world outside of South Boston. In the book MacDonald says “I would go off by myself to grab a seat and 3|Page

silently take in all the newness, black or white”. The race barrier that was heavy in South Boston at the time didn’t matter much to MacDonald, he is accepting of people, especially people that are different than him. The people that MacDonald is used to being around are more closed minded and one sided on their approach to life but he doesn’t want to be that way. He wants to form his own opinions and beliefs. MacDonald’s meaning of normal is everything that Old Colony project represents. To him normal is racism, drug abuse, and sheltered living. MacDonald no long wants to be a part of “normal” because he has been exposed to the abnormal. He experienced people that dress differently than everyone else and listen to different music. MacDonald no long wants to conform to what Southie would consider “normal”. Part of the reason why MacDonald wants to escape conformity is because he feels like “normal” killed his brother, Davey. After the death of his older brother MacDonald really started to explore the world outside of Old Colony projects. He started feeling isolated and different from the people that he had grown up with. MacDonald has a respect for people that push the boundaries of what is expected of them. For example when he sees the boy that he refers to as “Ghoulish Guy” for the first time he was fascinated by his me against the world attitude. MacDonald says “He nonchalantly gave the finger, but not to anyone in particular, just raised it in the air as if he meant it for the whole world”. Soon after seeing Ghoulish Guy for the first time MacDonald started looking at him as kind of a role model. Ghoulish Guy represented the opposite of Southie. MacDonald wanted to distance himself from the traditional Southie expectations as he could and this was the best way he knew how. He utilizes Ghoulish Guy to know how


to dress and what to listen to and discovers a whole new way of life that he isn’t used to but wants to learn all he can learn about it. MacDonald wanting to know more about music that he isn’t used to and people he isn’t used to goes to show how open minded and accepting he is as opposed to the people that he grew up with. Ultimately MacDonald wants to stray from the normal views that he was raised with because he is trying to discover who he is. He wants to explore his own identity without being pushed in a certain direction. MacDonald can’t seem to find the place where he fits in. He wants to explore his options and make decisions for himself. When he cut his hair is was his first protest against what was considered normal in his community. He got lots of stares from people at school and caused head turns when he walked the streets but that excited him. For MacDonald to make people think about the way he looked make comments was a thrill for him because it meant that he stood out and that is what he wanted to achieve. After someone yelled an insult to him in his school hallway, MacDonald says “I was reminded again how butchered my hair looked compared to all the Barry Manilows and the Farrah Fawcetts walking by”. Being different from everyone else was what MacDonald needed to feel alive after the passing of his brother. He was tired of just fading into the background like everyone else and he best says that when referring to the bystanders as “Barry Manilows and Farrah Fawcetts”, meaning everyone else looks and acts the same way. For MacDonald, breaking away from what is considered to be normal behavior is important and is his way of trying to become his own person. Everyone essentially goes through this period where they are trying to discover who they are, what their beliefs are


what they want out of life. MacDonald is channeling all of his energy into trying to be different than what social expectations indicate that he should be. At the same time of trying to flee from the expectations of Southie, MacDonald is trying to fit into a new group of people. He wants to fit into the punk rock and new wave group of people that dress the same way that he does and listen to the same music as him. MacDonald is leaving one culture behind and trying to adapt to a new one. Nobody understands the people that dress the way MacDonald does, in his ripped jeans and dirty hippy looking jackets and he doesn’t necessarily want these people to understand him. MacDonald isn’t sure exactly what it is that he is looking for whether it is from his family, from his friends or from himself. MacDonald is just tired of the normal way of looking at the world. All of his life he has had to see it through the eyes of the Old Colony project and now he would like to it with his own eyes

Chapter 2: Get In Where You Fit In When you are growing up, sometimes certain things that occur when you are a child don’t make sense to you until you get older. The interpretation of the events can go many ways; it can fuel your ambition, or it can defer it. I chose to let the events fuel my ambition but when I was younger I wasn’t always so sure about myself and who I would become. MacDonald used punk music as a means of escaping normal but in a way he adapted a new normal. He wanted to fit in with a new group of friends and be accepted by the crowd he started running with.


I also went through a time when it seemed like I didn’t fit in but unlike MacDonald I didn’t do any type of conforming in order to fit it. I had no choice but to be different because I was young and didn’t have any control over the situation.


When I was younger fitting in with the rest of my family was difficult considering the big move that my immediate family made almost ten years ago.

When I was about

seven years old I lived with my mother and my grandmother in apartment on the northern part of town. The apartment that we lived in was a part of an apartment complex and this complex was one of the nicer ones in Worcester, Ma. My mother was working two jobs and saving up for a house. Owning a house was a big deal to my mother, it was something that she had wanted for years. When she told me that she wanted to move I didn’t understand why because I loved the apartment that we were living in already. My mother took me with her and the realtor to go house hunting. We traveled all over the city looking for the perfect house. I remember seeing a few of them and loving them all. Each house was new adventure for me. Then we stumbled upon a three story yellow house with green shutters. The house was half green and half brick like paneling. The neighborhood was quiet. There wasn’t really anyone outside which was different from what I was used to. This was the house that I would essentially grow up in. My mother was the first in the family to buy a house. This house was more than just a home for my mother, my grandmother, and me but also a symbol of accomplishment for my mother. Not everyone in my family, outside of our home, congratulated the job well done from my mother but instead ridiculed her saying that she was arrogant and snobby. They felt that because she could now afford a bigger house and nicer things then she thought that she was too good for them but that wasn’t the case. Since my family was new to the neighborhood, support from my family was something that I’m sure my mother would have liked to have.


I would be the target of some of the negative comments also. Some of the older people in my family, mainly my mother’s cousins would say that I was spoiled and try to give my mother advice on how to raise me. Financially we were different from everyone else in my family but that didn’t make us different people from who we were when we lived in the apartment complex on the northern side of town. I grew up on the more privileged side and I am grateful for everything I received. I don’t only appreciate the material things but also the morals and values that my mother instilled in me. My upbringing has everything to do with who I am today. I admired how hard of a worker my mother was and her determination. I try to emulate her in my affairs now, whether it is at work or at school. I like to exhibit my independence by supporting myself, and paying for my own college education, not because I have to buy because I like knowing that I can. Growing older and more mature has shown me that things aren’t always just handed to you have to work hard for them. I want to be able to take care of my mother one day the way that she took care of me and to be able to do that, success is my only option.


Chapter 3: Make It Work Juggling multiple aspects of life is certainly a challenge and I know this first hand. Everyone has their own problems and concerns and I am no exception. Trying to make two conflicting parts of my life work in sync isn’t an easy task but when the pieces don’t fit by themselves you just have to make it work. Going to school full time and working almost every day can really takes its toll on someone but I hate to be a complainer. The drive I have to succeed and please the people around me is greater than my desire to give up. I only live one life but I do enough for two people in just one day.

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During my second semester in college I had to a paper for my writing class. The paper was about fitting in and how I at one time didn’t fit in with my family. I wrote the paper quickly during one of my many long breaks in between classes at school. The paper wasn’t my best work but I didn’t look it over to fix any of the mistakes that I made. The class was told to meet with the professor to discuss our papers. When I went and met with my professor to discuss my paper we also started to discuss my job because I mentioned it in my paper. I told my professor that I work at Moe’s Southwest Grill about thirty hours a week and he was astonished. He told me that he didn’t think that I should work so much and then asked me how I find time to get my work done and I didn’t have an answer for him. Every time someone would ask me that same question I wouldn’t have clear cut answer because I wasn’t sure my self how I managed to find the time to work so many hours and still have my work done on time. My school work and my job are to things that I have been balancing since I was a junior in high school. I never had a problem with balancing my school work before I got into college. Most times my work schedule and the work that I have to get done for school are overlapping. I may have to be at work while I should be working on a paper of doing some reading for class. Although these two worlds of mine conflict with each other they also seem to fall into place when I plan my time correctly. I try to keep the two separate but sometimes it feels like there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to get done. As my work load increased when I entered college it also seemed like my hours per week increased at work. As I moved on to higher education there was more expected of my work and I was being spread too thin time wise. I wanted my school work to reflect the quality that I knew I could produce. I was expecting college to be different from high school in many ways but I also knew that I could handle it. I put pressure on myself to get my school work done and to have it 11 | P a g e

done according to the standards of what I believe it my best work. I also put pressure on myself to continue to work as many hours a week as I due mostly because I want to please the people around me. Having my school work done pleases my family as well as me because I value education and put it before anything else. I want to succeed in college and reach my full potential but sometimes it’s hard to produce quality work when I am awake at night too late trying to finish up my school work last minute because I was at work. If I’m not at work then I am at school. I work five days a week and also have class five days a week. Both places demand my attention and effort but that doesn’t leave much time for me to focus on myself or the people around me that I care about. Spending time with my family is limited and doing things like hanging out with my friends is something that is rare. For most students at my school life consists of going to class and then going back to their dorm room or maybe going to practice for a sports team. Sometimes I worry that I am missing out on the full college experience by choosing to balance both school and work. Because my days are full between school and work I want nothing more than to sleep any time that I have free time which doesn’t leave me much time to do anything else. In my spare time I just want to rest and get ready for the days ahead where I won’t be able to rest as much as I would like. I don’t want to look back on my college life and think that it wasn’t fun because I didn’t make time to have fun. The expectations that I have for myself include doing well in all aspects of my life. I don’t plan to work at Moe’s for the rest of my life or even the rest of the time that I am in college but I do plan to be there as long as I feel like I need to. I see working and going to school as a challenge and it’s a challenge that I take seriously. The two worlds I am apart of are in conflict as far as time is concerned but keep me balanced as far as my organization and planning. I am used to having to budget my time so that everything that I need to do gets satisfied. I believe that the 12 | P a g e

skill that I am learning now with juggling school and work will help me later on in life when I move on from college and get a career in my field of study. I will know how to balance multiple different aspects of life along with having a career because I am learning to lend myself to both school and work now. In a way having such a hectic schedule during the school year motivates me to do well more than anything else. Overall the life that I am living now doesn’t stand still. I don’t want to neglect any of my responsibilities or compromise the little spare time that I have. I don’t worry that I will fall behind on my school work at any point because of my job because I always put my school work first and my job second but I do worry that I will get bored with being busy all the time. For now I am just taking every day one day at a time and trying not to procrastinate because that seems to be when I feel like there isn’t enough time for me to be where I need to be and accomplish what I need to accomplish. My two conflicting worlds are not yet a problem for me but can sometimes come across as a problem for the people around me such as my professors, my family and my friends but everything will fall into place and work out for the better. The life that I live may be nonstop busy but it is also a way of living that I am used to. The two areas of my life are very separate but keep me balanced at the same time. Hopefully in the future I won’t have to be spread so thin but for right now I don’t mind.

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Chapter 4: Back to the Future Although my journey is nowhere close to over MacDonald has much more years than I do under his belt so his story of realizing that his heritage is important and going to Ireland is a great example of letting your past fuel your future. MacDonald was ashamed of everything Irish and anything South Boston when he was a teenager but as he got older, lived and learned he realized that things that seemed to matter when he was a teenager wasn’t so important in his adult life.

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Although being Irish was something that MacDonald tried to hide and especially proud of, it was still something that he could change about himself. In the earlier chapters of the book MacDonald goes through a stage where he is heavily influenced by the punk rock movement. He struggles with the normal aspect of his life. MacDonald saw punk music as a way to completely reinvent himself and remove himself from the traditional expectations of an Irish kid in South Boston. He was ashamed to tell the new friends that he had met due to his new punk music obsession where he was from because he knew that South Boston was closely linked to Irish people and their racism. As a teenager MacDonald struggled with his Irish roots and they didn’t mean anything to them except negative things. Being Irish for him was a negative thing. MacDonald also began disengaging with his family because of the deaths and tragedies that were happening in his family. He didn’t want anything to do with the lifestyle that he was accustomed to in the years before. He wanted to create his own identity because so far in his life nothing good had come out of being Irish and from the Old Colony project in South Boston. He chose to stray away from his family and his home life in order to become his own person. Later on in MacDonald’s life he kind of grows out of his punk rock stage. He is still into some of the bands that he had listened to before but not as obsessed with being so different from everything that was around them. MacDonald is accepting of his Irish roots with the help of his Grandfather. His Grandfather is sort of hot and cold with his tales of Ireland however. He has a love and respect for his homeland of Ireland but at the same time talk down about the country and the people that live there. MacDonald and his Grandfather seem to be close and have a relationship that is complex and deep but not shared in too much detail in the memoir. MacDonald’s Grandfather was like a father figure to him because his biological father wasn’t in his life and he didn’t even so much as share the same last name with the man so in a sense he might as well having been a complete stranger. For MacDonald though his Grandfather was the closest thing he had to a father and he looked up to him. MacDonald goes through many different things throughout the course of his teenage years and his young adult years. He experiences three deaths of his own siblings, a death of one of his best friends and 15 | P a g e

his sister falling off of a roof and becoming handicapped. MacDonald begins to move towards his family, he doesn’t feel the constant need to distance himself from them. He realizes he needs to be with them for support. In the memoir MacDonald says “I’d been feeling so unraveled and disconnected that I felt I need the water - only not for the reasons that Grandpa thought. The holy water represented a connection to my family and to all the things - good and bad - that I’d experienced with Grandpa and his jug”. MacDonald feels the need to reconnect with his family because with all the deaths that he has been exposed to he knew life is short and the ones that he loved could be standing in front of his one moment and gone the next. He became proud of his family and the people that he came from however he still wasn’t all that thrilled with his Irish heritage. MacDonald goes on a trip overseas to England when he is in his twenties and when he runs out of money and wants to spend a few more days in London before returning back to Paris for his flight back home to the United States. MacDonald first asks his mother and when she says not because she doesn’t have the money he asks his Grandfather. His Grandfather agrees to loan MacDonald the money under the condition that he uses it to go to Ireland. At first MacDonald is repulsed by the idea of going to a place his Grandfather had previously referred to as a “depressing auld fookin’ place you never seen the likes of” but he agreed in order to get the money that his Grandfather would send him. When MacDonald first arrived in Ireland he had his guard up because he was expecting the worse due to the stories that his Grandfather had told him about the country. His Grandfather said “The best thing I ever did was leave” and that prompted MacDonald to be completely turned off to the country as a whole like way that he was turned off to the Irish people in South Boston because to him they were all the same. Once in Ireland MacDonald was exposed to an entirely different culture and humble way of living. He looked out of the bus window that he was traveling from Dublin to Donegal on and was amazed at what he saw. He was mesmerized by the lush greenery and bearded mountain goats that stood on the side of the road. When the bus was stopped by soldiers and MacDonald was pulled off the bus for questioning he was taken back by it. He didn’t know anything about the Troubles going on in Northern 16 | P a g e

Ireland accept that the Catholics and Protestants couldn’t get along with each other. The soldiers knew right away that he was American and assumed that he was there in Ireland to “find his roots”. MacDonald however didn’t know exactly why he was in Ireland or why he agreed to go there. MacDonald met lots of people when he was in Ireland for the first time and he soon realized that it wasn’t what he thought it would be. The people that would offer him a ride when they saw him walking and help him to find his destination really helped him out. The people that he came across and visited always showed hospitality and fed him and when he got to talking to them he realized everything he thought he knew about Irish people was false. When talking with his cousin Patrick’s family in Anaugh he is surprised to hear that they don’t make a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, they didn’t eat corned be and cabbage or hate black people. The hatred of black people was something that was only common for Irish Americans and MacDonald was stunned to hear this. He thought that the Irish people in Ireland were the originators of the racist attitudes that he hated so much in South Boston. MacDonald learned a lot while he was in Ireland but the most important thing that he learned was where he came from and that he should be proud. He becomes very interested in Irish history and learns all of the things that he was ignorant to the first time that he visited to the country. He studies the Troubles, the conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics and the Ira along with other things that had to with Ireland and its history. At thirty-two when MacDonald is all grown up and visits Ireland again with his mother, it is much different than the first time he visited. This time when he visits he is completely engaged in the culture and is proud to be in Ireland and to be Irish. Instead of being of ashamed of his family and where he is from he wants to know more about them and what they are about. When he was a teenager and young adult he didn’t want anything to do with his family but now as a grown man he wants to be as close to them as he can. MacDonald has grown as an individual he realized he doesn’t have to be ashamed of where he comes from or the things that he has been through because they have made him who he is. He shares stories of Ireland with his

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Grandfather and experiences a trip to Ireland with his mother which are things that he would have never of thought he would be doing back when he was a teenager listening to punk music and lying about where he was from to his friends. MacDonald starts to gravitate to not only his family but to friends of his family as well. He goes to Ireland with his mother to visit the family of his friend Danny that passed away. He wanted to be with them in a time of a loss instead of being silent about it like he had been when all of his family members had died. He has changed in the sense that he is more open with people than he used to be. MacDonald being Irish was something that he was ashamed of in the earlier years of his life but once he got to actually go to Ireland and experience the country first hand by himself he changes his mind about the people there and his own identity. The importance of MacDonald exploring his Irish heritage is it gave him a better sense of who he is a person and also a better understanding of his own family.

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About the Author

Tahkeya Blake (left) was born on December 19, 1993 in Worcester, MA. She attends Nichols College where she was inspired to write this book because of her Expository Writing class. This is the first book she has ever written. She has received many awards for her all around greatness and likes to brag about it. She also enjoys iced tea and donuts in the morning. -

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Copyright 2012|Halprin Publishings

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Sooner Than Later  

final expos book yay!

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