Shattered Expectations Steven Colon
Table of Contents Prologue……………………………………………………………….....3 Decisions…………………………………………………………............5 The Pursuit.………………………………..……………………………...9 Disconnect from Normal…………………………………………………………………..15 Nothing is set in Stone…………………………………………………………………….20 Conclusion…………………………………………………………........25 About the Author……………………………………………………………….…..26
Prologue I walked into third grade at Midland St. School like any other year. I was dreading the school work, but mostly dreading waking up early in the morning for my walk a mile to my bus stop with my mom. I hated that walk mostly because I knew that after a full day of school that I would have to walk all the way back. I used to be able to walk with my brother and sister to the bus which made things better but as they graduated sixth grade and headed to middle school, they had new bus stops just down the street from our three decker apartment. We used to live in the district of Midland where the walk was a lot closer but we moved away and my mom didn't want to change our schools. I have no idea why but when my mom gets used to something it is hard to get her to change things up. I didn’t know how important those walks to school could be in terms of my life. My new third grade teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, was the former teacher of my brother 6 years prior and I was excited to tell her about it. I knew the kids who had the same teachers as their siblings usually got more attention. When she found out she instantly remembered who my brother was and she told me how great of a kid he was. My brother was always well-liked by everyone. He had an outgoing personality and would talk to pretty much anyone. She was excited and told me, “I hope you are like your brother. He was great.” I wasn’t sure if she would be disappointed to find out that I was not like my brother at all. I knew I was the quiet and shy one in my family. When I went out with my family I always let everyone else do the talking and I would just listen and laugh when necessary. I am not one to talk to complete strangers. That is why later that year when Mrs. Sullivan had us pass a piece of chalk around and tell everyone in class who our role model was, I chose my brother. Why wouldn’t I want to be like my brother? We both came from the same place and he was well-liked by everyone, had a lot of friends and he had goals. I hung out with my brother a lot during this time we were always close. Especially one summer
when he had a girlfriend who lived across the city and we would ride our scooters all the way to go see her. She lived right next to the pool so it was convenient. Also, she had a little sister around my age so when we got together it was usually the four of us that went to the pool and nearby park. It was always a good time. One night, my brother and I were riding our scooters home from her house and we noticed a group of kids at one of the other pools in the city. We saw that they have found a whole in the fence and were going in to go pool hopping. My brother was willing to do it so I followed along. Then we heard the sirens of cops coming our way and we ran as fast as we could. I was scared that I would be arrested. We escaped with ease and my brother commented on how fast I could run and that I probably got it from him. I felt proud. It felt good that I was becoming more like my brother. My brother was my role model. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I didn’t know his footsteps were leading me directly into the same lifestyle as my family. He always talked about getting out of Worcester and going to college but I didn’t realize that the decisions that he was making were not the right ones for those goals. He didn’t take school too seriously. He had become a teen parent and other things took priority. My sister was a teen parent and the same thing happened to her. They both graduated high school but then they had to work full time to support a family. I was ten years old when this happened. We drifted apart. We had less in common and I didn’t want to feel connected to them at that point. I had a whole life ahead of me and I didn’t need to make the same mistakes they made. It was sixth grade when I was asked again if I had a role model in my life and I thought to myself “well, no not really” but I of course said my brother. I knew everyone in my family had has once had the same goals as I did when they were younger but they fell victim to the cycle and I really didn’t want that to happen to me. I knew school and education could help my situation. This is what got the ball rolling in me trying to disconnect from the cycle of my family’s misfortune.
Chapter 1: Decisions
Sometimes people do not fit into the community they were brought up in and do not meet certain expectations of that community. I just happen to be one of those people. I come from a Puerto Rican family, which means I am expected to know the Spanish language and sometimes even act a certain way. Growing up, my siblings and I never learned Spanish because our parents always talked to us in English. It’s as simple as that. Spanish communities like to speak Spanish to each other. It is easier for them to communicate because that is how they were raised and part of their culture that I wish I could be a part of. When someone hears or just sees that I am Puerto Rican it is automatically assumed that I know the language fluently and they begin talking to me in Spanish. The look of disappointment and shock when I tell them otherwise is a similar reaction amongst most. Then after the initial shock is over and they get to know me they wonder and ask me again. “Are you really Puerto Rican?!?” My immediate family is pretty small. There is just my mom, dad, sister, and brother, and me. Growing up, I would always hear my parents talking Spanish to each other and it was just normal. We ate rice and beans like any other Spanish household, and I would always come home from school with my mom and dad watching those Spanish shows on TV all the time. We grew up in a three-decker apartment in Worcester, MA around the Crompton Park area, where a lot of low income people lived. T There were a lot of other Spanish people that lived in my neighborhood. That is why I thought that I would fit in with the other Puerto Rican or Spanish kids my age. Every year, a good family friend of ours always throws a big Christmas party and invites us along with their whole family to come. They are all of Spanish background and they all speak Spanish. They are an extension of our family since my whole real extended family lives in Brooklyn or Puerto Rico. My brother and sister have always been there with me and it makes it less awkward for me since I am not the only Puerto Rican in the room that does not speak Spanish. However, one year, when I was eleven, I went by myself with my mom. I went to hang out with the other teenagers and their friends
that they brought to the party. First time meeting people is always weird for me. I introduced myself and everything was cool until everyone started talking Spanish. They kept talking to me in Spanish and I just nodded my head acting like I knew what they were saying. This is usually the only way that I can deflect telling people that I do not speak Spanish, and then trying to use context clues from the words I understand to answer them in English. It was working for a while until my “cousin” tells his friends that I don't speak Spanish. That is when the inevitable question comes. “How are you Puerto Rican and don't speak any Spanish?” Then, I just awkwardly told them I just never learned and tried to make it up by saying that I know “a little bit” and can understand “some” things. They said “oh wow, you are the first Puerto Rican we met that doesn't know Spanish.” I laughed it off, and they continued speaking Spanish with each other and then occasionally they would break into English if they wanted to say something to me. It was awkward to say the least. Those kids just happened to be from the same neighborhood where I lived, and I began hanging out with them more after that day. The more time I spent with them, the more I realized I didn't fit in with them and not just because I could not speak Spanish. I used to think that since they were Puerto Rican kids from the same neighborhood as me, I should probably be more like them. They were cool kids but they often got in a lot of trouble and would tell me about it like I should be proud of them for it but I could care less. At this time I was beginning middle school and I already had goals to get out of the neighborhood that I grew up in and have a better life. I was not like the other Spanish kids that lived in my neighborhood and strangely feeling alienated from not speaking Spanish helped me realize that. I am proud to be Puerto Rican but in those moments I did not feel like I fit in with the other Spanish kids in my neighborhood because I did not speak the language and I believed that they thought less of me for that reason. Though, I know this is not true today. I agree with them that I probably should know Spanish because my parents speak it and it would have been easy for me to pick up on it if I was raised like that, but I wasn't. I have met other kids that were in my situation growing up with the language barrier and they just learned to deal with it as I have done. The main decision I had to face 7
was how much I actually wanted to fit in with the Spanish community. There really is no answer. I do want to be able to fit in with them but I realize that will never really happen unless I make a lot of changes to myself to conform which I know would ultimately make me unhappy. They will have to like me for who I am instead of for what I am.
Chapter 2: The Pursuit I donâ€™t fit into the Spanish community that surrounds me. I donâ€™t speak the language so there is instantly a barrier between us. The barrier between us helped me find other places to fit in. It makes me seek out a different path. My extended family and family friends all can speak Spanish so when we get together Spanish is usually the dominant language and I pretend to fit in because I don't want to feel embarrassed. When I'm around non Spanish speakers I would think that I would fit in more but then they look at me and expect me to speak Spanish so there is always that discomforting feeling. Feeling disconnected from the Spanish community allowed me to figure out more about myself as an individual rather than part of a community. Not being able to speak Spanish is not the only way that I don't connect with the people around me. My family has not been very successful to put it in black and white. We have always lived day by day, sometimes living without electricity or gas. I don't look at my family and think that our lifestyle is normal because I know that we could have had a better life if the circumstances were different. There are many families like mine and even worse out there but it still does not feel like it should be normal. We are all given the right for our own pursuit of happiness. I really am on that pursuit and struggle with balancing the problems in my family life with my own personal goals. All the success I have is because they indirectly motivate me to keep going through our struggles. I want to be able to have success for them as well as myself.
It was not until sixth grade when I found out I was good at something. During the end of the sixth grade my teacher, Mrs. Gray, an older woman who was always a little strict, began the process of doing her recommendations for the class level we should take in middle school. When Mrs. Gray called my name, I was fully expecting that I would be placed in “college” level along with so many of my other friends that have already had their meeting. I went up there and she told me that I was one of the few that she recommended for “honors” classes for middle school. She explained that the classes would be harder but she believed that I was more than capable of succeeding. Until then I never knew how she thought of me other than being “Ray's little brother.” I went back to my seat and told my friends that I got recommended for honors classes. They joked on me of course, but I could sense they admired my status as well. I went back home and I was excited to tell my mom about what Mrs. Gray had said and I was surprised that she had no idea what I was talking about. She told me that my brother or sister never were in those classes and even asked my brother and sister when they got home what honors classes meant. They were equally as shocked and told us that those were the classes that smart people were in and that it was cool that I got in. In that moment I was proud that I achieved something different and even better than my brother or sister. I used to keep my family life separate from most of life and still do, to a degree. In elementary school, all my friends lived in houses. I just figured they would not want to come to a small apartment when we could be in a bigger, better house. They had different lives, I thought. I never thought they would understand boiling water on electric stoves in order to get clean. My neighborhood friends were in similar situations so it was easier to let the wall down between the two parts of my life. However, one time when I was younger, I had to stop hanging out with some of my neighborhood friends because my parents got in an argument with their parents. I remember the moment when my friend told me that I couldn't play with them anymore. It was awkward because we were all so close and now we just played on opposite sides of the fence. I felt my family interfered with that friendship so I stopped bringing people around them altogether. No one ever asked questions and I never cared to explain. It 10
happened to be for the best though as those kids started getting into a lot of trouble with the police. It was not until later in high school when I realized that my family was not really different than a lot of families and therefor I let my guard down when it came to my family. My family is pretty small. It is just my mom and us three kids. My sister Gloriabell or “Boobie” is the oldest and my brother Ray or “Boy” was the middle child, while I am the youngest 6 years apart from them. We did not come from money and have always struggled with money. My mom did not have a license or a car so it was always hard to find rides to friends' houses or other places. Public transportation was very helpful for us to get around. The last day of sixth grade, when we had our graduation my mom had to come late because she had to take the bus. I remember watching my friends drive away with their families as I walked and waited at the bus stop. I can't say that what I felt in that moment was shame because I knew even then I knew about our struggle but I definitely felt embarrassed and I remember thinking that I want to change things for my future. Mrs. Gray's words that I was “capable of succeeding” rang in my head and I knew the only way I could have a chance for change is to continue the upwards battle. Succeeding became a big part of my life not just for me but for my whole family. All the effort I put into my school work was so that I could make my family proud by oddly enough, not ending up like them. I could tell that my mom and dad wanted nothing more than my success. To this day it seems like my entire family share the same goal of my success so that I would be able to bring my family out of the day to day struggle we have to endure. It brings a lot of pressure to have people counting on me, the youngest of the family, to succeed, if not only so that they can share the pride. My sister became a teen parent when I was in the sixth grade, following the footsteps of my mom. A year later my brother had also became teen parent. Being in an honors class held more meaning to me because it was something my brother and sister did not have the opportunity to do and it made me feel that I was already heading into a different direction than them. My mom took notice and told me that she hopes that I learn lessons from their mistakes and do things differently. This motivated me even 11
further. We joke around that our family is plagued with bad luck because every time things seem to be heading in the right direction we are faced with a curve ball that sets us back. My success is no different. Growing up we have had several setbacks, whether it was the heat being shut off one week or the electricity being shut off another week. I was too young to really grasp the details of any of the things happening around us. I only knew that sometimes we had to heat up water on a mini electric stove so that we can take a bath or that we had to light candles so that we can see in the dark. It never really occurred to me that we were going through a rough week. I just thought it was normal. Today I know that things get shut off when bills aren't paid. My brother and sister moved out a couple of years ago and now it is only my mom and I living in our apartment. It's funny because even though my brother and sister moved out they still face the same problems our family had to deal with growing up and I guess it is just the family curse that is following them. It worries me what my future will be like when I move out since I see the problems of my brother and sister but also I won't be in the same situation as them so I have no idea what to expect really. I work as part of the wait staff at an assisted living home, to pay for my own tuition. My mom insists that I focus on school and not to worry about anything else. This, however, is hard to do because I am old enough to know what is going on and it is hard to be ignorant to the fact that my mom needs help sometimes. I don't mind when I have to pay the bill for the internet when it gets shut off at the end of every month because my mom had to buy food instead. When making my decision to become a commuter student for college I had to factor in my family. I needed to be able to keep a job where I can have a pay check every week and also to stay at home and be there for my mom. I did not want my mother to be paying for school because I did not want to add the stress of a new bill for them. However, the support definitely goes both ways because when I need something my family is there to help me out. During winter break I was working near to forty hours, so that I can make the tuition payment deadline on January third. I had spent a lot of money helping out with food for the house and giving 12
money to help with everyone in the family. My mom told me to tell her how much I needed and she will pay for the rest. I took her up on her offer and she followed through for me and gave me the remaining two hundred dollars I needed to pay the tuition for the semester. This is just how our family works together to get back up on our feet and move forward. It's hard to advance when there is so much to take care of behind. Being the youngest definitely has advantages because I saw the mistakes of my older siblings. However, I am the last kid living in the house with my mom. I will feel guilty when I have to leave to live on my own. I will be worried about her as much as she is about me. In the back of my head I absolutely know that she will be fine on her own but the guilt is still there and I think it connects with my hesitance to seek new opportunities. One time, during sophomore year of high school I had an opportunity to go abroad to several countries in Europe for the summer with a group of young ambassadors. The letter came in the mail with the travel itinerary and it looked promising. I looked at the costs, put the letter back in the envelope and stuffed it in my drawer with my junk mail. I knew we could never afford it. I never told anyone about it or even thought about the letter again. A couple of my friends from class actually went on the trip and they came back to school with all these new experiences and stories. Not having enough money for those kinds of trips is something that I have accepted already. I know what takes priority and I have no problem with that because I see those types of things as a goal and not a lost opportunity. I could not do it then but I am working hard now and hopefully I can do something like that later in life because traveling has always been something I wanted to do. My family and personal life conflict with each other but I feel like there is a balance between the two that keeps me focused on my future success. The feeling of being disconnected from the lifestyle of my family really keeps me evaluate where I would fit in and where I want to be in the future.
Chapter 3: Disconnect from Normal I keep moving forward even with the obstacles put in my way. Struggling with the balance of my family and my future has been hard. In many ways they could possibly be holding me back with the struggles we face but it just motivates me more to move forward. If I didn't use the struggles we face as a motivator I would most likely end up just like my parents and most of my neighbors and friends. I don't want the lifestyle anymore. I want to grow out of it and move past it, like most people but fail to do so. The disconnection I feel towards the lifestyle of how I grew up and the people around me helped me figure out where I want to be in the future, which is obviously not where my family is from. People who feel connected to their families see them as role models and try to meet their expectations. It is fair to say that people in my community expect that there is really no hope of moving forward, they are just focusing on getting by today. For most people in my situation if they wanted to move forward the obstacles that push them back are too difficult and they give up and accept the lifestyle they once wished to leave. In the next chapter you will read about what MacDonald considers normal and how he tries to reject those normal values. He doesnâ€™t want to feel connected to the normal values of his community he sees anything that has to do with Southie as negative. He has no one to be his role model to look up to for advice. He is out there trying to figure out who he is and where he wants to be.
Our society is made up so many different unique people so the question is what is normal? Well, in the dictionary normal is defined as conforming to a standard; usual, typical or expected. Within society there lies different communities and as we grow up in these communities we learn about the norms of the community and society. Our sense of what is normal is based on our certain communities’ reactions to people who stray away from being normal. In the past when people broke the law they were punished in public and even today there is still a public display of punishment towards those who break the law or deviate from the norms of society. For example, a young boy playing with a baby doll would be made fun of by his classmates because that would be straying away from what's “normal” or expected from a boy. From this point other boys would learn that it would not be normal for them to be playing with baby dolls. People who find that they do not fit in with the community will soon learn to find others like them, as people who share a common interest generally group themselves together. Similarly, the punk rock scene is like a subculture with a distinctive look and sound, where people who share this interest gather to engage with the music and lifestyle. We learn what normal behavior is from the communities we are raised in, such as Michael Patrick MacDonald learned what normal was from his community of South Boston or Southie as it is commonly referred as. In the memoir, Easter Rising, MacDonald strays away from the norms of his community of South Boston because he knew that he was the not like the other usual residents. South Boston is a small community but very distinct. The residents are entirely made up of white Irish-Americans. They are not welcoming or inviting to outsiders. When one is raised in this community it is probably expected that you will stay and have little to no interaction with others. MacDonald describes it best as it “was the world against Southie and Southie against the world.” This just shows how it is normal to not want to have anything to do with anyone else that is not a part of Southie or like the people who come from there. However, MacDonald in the first chapter gives us a glimpse already on how he was different. When hopping the trains with his brother Kevin and his 15
friends he describes how he liked to take in all the newness of the different people while his brother just wanted to get in and out and head back to Southie. MacDonald expresses that he had an interest in getting out of South Boston, which was not the normal behavior of a Southie teenager. MacDonald's curiosity and willingness to accept different things that were not normal will assist in his desire to get out of the normal routines of Southie. Punk rock music came into MacDonald's life shortly after his brother Davey committed suicide and it changed everything he thought he knew about the world, he felt he had a place where he could fit in. MacDonald witnessed the horrific suicide of his brother. This obviously had a huge impact on him as he had to deal with it in private and remain strong for his mother who he knew was deeply hurting by it. What opened up MacDonald's eyes was after the funeral for Davey, he “realized that life was carrying on like normal for the rest of the world,” “It was like nothing had ever happened.” MacDonald realizes that Southie just returned back to how it was before and it had little impact on the community. He said that looking around outside reminded him that it was not like the normal days with Davey outside. Later in the book after finding punk music, MacDonald notes that the some of the songs “just said that everything was screwed up. It felt good that someone was taking notice. It made me feel normal.” Here, MacDonald could be referring to his life being screwed up after Davey's death and not knowing how to deal with looking at his family mourning the loss and trying to deal with it, while the Southie community remains the same and continued on with their daily lives. Punk music made sense to him because he realized things were screwed up but no one else was taking notice, they continued to live in their perfect little world of Southie that MacDonald was growing tired of seeing and living in. A recurring event that keeps happening throughout the story so far is that MacDonald finds himself with the rejects of normal society and seems to be fascinated by them for their difference. The first instance of this happening is with Ghoulish Bob. Ghoulish Bob was first introduced as being ridiculed by kids on the street and then by people on the train. Then later on MacDonald bumps into him again as he is getting thrown out of a party with people that looked just like him. MacDonald 16
seems fascinated by the way he handles the ridicule and rejection. During school MacDonald describes that he would get detention everyday but he didn't mind because it ended up being his favorite period of the day. Again, detention seems like a place where the troubled or rejected students end up. Then, he ends up hanging with several bums outside the library while he is skipping school and says to himself “who am I to judge?” when he finds himself confused by their behavior. This could just further be a representation of how MacDonald is distancing himself from normal society by finding an interest in these people who would never get a second look or thought from the people of Southie. MacDonald's perception of normal is anything that has to do with Southie. He has a negative attitude towards the inhabitants of Southie. When, he began hanging around his fellow punk rock friends he didn't want them knowing that he was from “racist, backwards Southie.” Just as he knew Southie people did not like the punk rock scene he knew that his punk rock friends would not like anyone from Southie. MacDonald appreciates the punk rock scene more because they do not try to be like anyone else, whereas in Southie he describes all wear the same type of clothes and haircuts. When his brother Frankie calls him out for being weird for liking the punk rock scene MacDonald says that “it was even weirder that everyone in Southie looked alike and dressed like him...I actually felt bad for Frank for being one of the normal people who just didn't get it.” MacDonald clearly labels Southie as being the normal society. It seems like he feels a bit of superiority over them because they do not “get it” and he does. I think MacDonald believes at this point believes that he will not be just another Southie kid and he will actually be something different than what is expected of him. I can relate to MacDonald because he doesn't want to conform himself into being what his community expects and wants him to be in order to fit it with the rest of Southie. Growing up in my urban community and being Spanish, I guess I was expected to be just another statistic. I felt I was expected to hang out on the streets all day, get in trouble, have a baby when I was sixteen, drop out of school, and remain in the same community to raise my children. I, however, always felt more interested in succeeding and learning. Growing up, my mom used to watch this show at night about these very 17
successful people and their lifestyle and I was always jealous that they got to travel whenever they wanted and I had never experienced anything outside of Worcester yet. After that, I would sometimes stay in just to concentrate on homework while everyone else was outside and would copy my homework the next morning. I was more interested in having a good life later than have fun on the streets. In the same ways that MacDonald did not want to be a part of the normalcy of Southie, I do not want to have a life that resembles the people I know in my community, I want better. MacDonald has found importance in punk rock music because it is a way for him to escape from Southie into an alternative more meaningful life, just as I have found importance in succeeding and pursuing and education to someday escape the normal everyday grind of my neighborhood and family.
Chapter 4: Nothing is set in Stone Many people want to live a normal life. Normal is dependent on the experiences of the person. They most likely view the community they live in as normal because they have to deal with it every day so everything becomes familiar and makes them think that it's fine. If you connect with that community then there is no reason to really find an individual identity because you already fit in where you want. However, if one feels disconnected from their community then they really have to think about themselves and who they are to figure out where to connect and fit in. “Normal” is not for everyone which is why I thought MacDonald's quote that “life can change,” to have such value. MacDonald did not want to submit to the normal values of Southie and he wanted his life to change. As he looks back at his life he can say with experience that “life can change.” This is important because not everyone really believes that. The next chapter focuses on how MacDonald's life changed from the original disconnect he felt to his community to finding his real identity outside of Southie and then being able to go back to Southie and accept them and try to help them, help themselves. He can become a role model for others with his story which is what I hope I can be someday for my nieces, nephews, and one day (in the far future) for my kids.
There is a popular saying that “life can change at any moment.” Everyone has probably heard this at some point in their lives, most likely during a rough time or even a really good time in fear that it will change. When someone uses this quote it is probably just to make them feel better but what does it really mean? It is obvious that our lives are forever changing. We don’t have the same experiences every day. Though we can’t predict the future, we have to know that our life will change once again. However, what I think this quote is trying to explore is that we don’t know where our lives will take us. We can be out driving to the store to pick up milk and discover a new species in the parking lot, instantly becoming a renowned figure in history. This shows that just because your life may be bad now does not mean that it will necessarily be bad in your future and vice versa. Some people remember this and use it as a motivator to keep moving forward and others just lose hope. MacDonald uses a quote that is similar in his memoir, when he says, “I keep that nest on my mantel not only as a nudge to celebrate Christmas but also a reminder that life can change, that painful things can transform, that you don’t have to stay stuck.” Both these quotes signify the variability of life. There is nothing set in stone where we can go and look to prepare ourselves. This quote has meaning because throughout the memoir MacDonald had to face some pretty hard and life changing events while trying to figure out where he fits into the world and this quote just shows that MacDonald has moved forward from these events. This quote comes from a story when MacDonald was 32 years old reflecting on parts of his life. He described how he hated Christmas and all holidays because they remind him of family and more importantly the many tragic deaths in his family. MacDonald’s best friend Danny came over his new apartment in Southie, with a Christmas tree almost forcing MacDonald to celebrate. During this time of attending Christmas parties and listening and talking about family stories, MacDonald grew to love the holiday. His perspective on a holiday that brought out painful memories changed into something positive. He was probably more mature in his thinking and able to come to terms that he cannot live his life chained to the painful memories of his past which was a problem he dealt with when Davey died. 20
After Davey died he felt he was betraying Davey by wanting the memories of his death to go away but he was also dealing with the agony of thinking about him all the time. Danny and bringing the Christmas tree over forced him to face something he otherwise tried to avoid for a while due to his past and it brought about positive change for him. MacDonald's whole story shows how “life can change, that painful things can transform, you don't have to stay stuck.” First he was just a normal young kid in Southie hitching trains with his brother, Kevin and his friends. Then, Davey died and MacDonald felt confused and angry and wanted nothing to do with his family or what he perceived as the “normal” lifestyle of Southie. He got into punk music and became obsessed with the anti-normal life style. He was looking for a significant change in his life because he felt stuck in a never-ending cycle in Southie. MacDonald felt punk music was his way to bring about change in his life and it did. He began leading a life that rivaled the life of an ordinary Southie kid. Instead of hanging around Southie MacDonald was getting out of the neighborhood to see bands and go to clubs. He was getting out and connecting with people who also didn't want to be a part of the norms of society. MacDonald was able to get away from his life and focus on the music and the punk scene. As MacDonald grew older he began getting further and further away from the punk scene. It served its purpose for him as a teenager. He found meaning in the music and could use it as an excuse to get away from Southie norms, escaping his roots as far as possible. However, life kept bringing him back to his family as other members of his family died or were seriously injured. This was when MacDonald was probably at his lowest in the book. He felt that he was doomed no matter what he did to get away, and he felt his time for death was just around the corner. Again, he felt like he was stuck in this cycle of his family. It’s probably fair to say that MacDonald would not believe life could change during this time. He was brought to a point where he said that “none of the ugliness or pain mattered. Nothing mattered.” MacDonald was in so much pain and he just didn't care about anything, he was stuck. However, MacDonald later reflects “...painful things can transform, you don't have to stay 21
stuck.” This just shows how life in certain moment can bring you down to your knees where you want to give up hope but that it can change and you can overcome those obstacles that come in your way. This is exactly what MacDonald was able to do when he travels to Europe. In Europe MacDonald loved every minute of his life as he travels around. He was just excited to be in a new environment outside of Southie, similar to his love of New York. When MacDonald ran out of money he was forced by his grandfather to visit Ireland because that is the only way his grandfather would loan the money to him. He was hesitant to go because of the mixed feelings of his grandfather towards Ireland where he would praise it one time and then condemn it the next. Also, MacDonald had a feeling that the Irish would all be like the Southie residents. He did not have many positive stories from Southie so just the thought of going to a place where his roots came from made him nervous. However, while in Ireland MacDonald falls in love with the country and the people. MacDonald details the generosity that was shown towards him by total strangers which must have been a shock to him. He thought the Irish were incredibly racist because of comments about “black face” towards white soldiers but found out that it was a nickname given to the English soldiers. MacDonald’s experiences a change in his life. He found out about his roots and was able to understand Southie. His old, negative perspective on the Irish was replaced with his positive experiences in Ireland. MacDonald said that “...life can change,” and this just shows how his life changed from visiting Ireland. If he did not go he probably would have remained the same person from Southie hating or misunderstanding his roots. MacDonald is relatable to a lot of teenagers or at least me particularly. In school growing up, teachers are always telling students that they can be anything they want to be as long as they work hard. Reminding us that working hard in school is important in order to having a good life. Most teenagers, like MacDonald are looking where they fit into the world or just what clique in high school they belong in. Some who are unsatisfied with where they fit in are hopeful life will change and people who are satisfied are hopeful that it won't. I grew up similar to MacDonald in the sense that we both didn't have a lot of money. I knew when I was younger that I didn’t want to live the same lifestyle as my family 22
just as MacDonald discovered that he didn’t want to be a normal kid from Southie. I think we just went about it in two very different ways. He found punk music was his way out and I feel that school is mine. It has been a struggle growing up so when MacDonald says that “life can change, that painful things can transform, you don’t have to stay stuck,” people like me are just hoping that it is true. People going through a bad time are often like MacDonald where they feel like life can't change that it won't get better and there is no way out. MacDonald using the nest is a smart way for him to remember that that is not true. He didn't believe it at one point and was ready to just die basically. I think people going through a bad time who forget that life can change are the ones who give up trying. They grow complacent because they don't think they can do anything about it so there is no point in trying. Luckily, I was able to hear enough stories where I feel like it is inevitable that life will change. I can't even imagine that my life right now is going to be the same as it is ten or even five years down the road. My mom is the one who really ingrained in me that my life can change, when I was younger. I remember we all believed it at one point. Now it seems like I am the only one holding out hope that things will get better. It seems they are just going through the motions of everyday life accepting the fact that nothing will change. I remember my mom used to play the lottery every day when I was growing up, I didn't care about it then but looking back I see that she was at least hopeful that she will hit the jackpot one night and our lives will change forever. MacDonald is able to look at the nest to remind him that life can change. My family doesn't have a reminder because it has not happened yet. It is only hope until it is realized and it is easy to lose hope when obstacles keep knocking you down no matter what you do.
Conclusion Philosophy is an interesting subject. The great thinker Socrates believed that if you are not motivated to learn then you will not get anywhere in life. The attainment of knowledge was the most important thing in life. His greatest student another great thinker by the name of Plato believed that people couldn't handle the truth and lived with a veil over their eyes. They were ignorant to the world around them and only a few would be able to grow and handle the truth. Plato was succeeded by his greatest student Aristotle who created the “Theory of Potentiality.” He, unlike Plato, believed that everyone had the potential to be great. The catch is that they just had to work for it. All these great philosophers promote education. Not just through books but in life. Many people, like Plato, said go through life with a veil covering their eyes hiding the truth around them. They are These great thinkers seem to know a thing or two about life. They laid the framework of what Michael Patrick MacDonald went through in his memoir, Easter Rising. The residents of Southie didn't seek any knowledge past what was in front of them. They like all of us have the potential to be great but only a few really want to work for it. MacDonald was one of those few. He saw past the day to day life of Southie and sought a new lifestyle and knowledge. His ignorance reduced as he experienced new things outside of Southie and especially when he visited Ireland. MacDonald disconnected from his Southie roots and discovered more about himself as an individual. He shattered the expectations of his community and was able to move past the lifestyle he didn’t want. It is really good to hear stories from people like MacDonald. Not everyone is able to do what he did. Some people are too afraid to live outside the comfort of their lives or they simply give up on trying. Life can definitely change as MacDonald says but it requires effort and a willingness to disconnect from expectations. I grew up with not knowing who to look up to. I never had a real role model that could teach me what steps to take next. I originally thought my brother could be my role
model but I could see where his life was heading and I knew that is not what my family or I really wanted for myself. Iâ€™m figuring it all out on my own. I am really treading in unknown territories. Even, when I was applying for college I could not rely on my family for advice because they didnâ€™t know much about it since I am the first one to go on to college. My biggest fear is failure. I have an idea of where I want to be in the future and I try hard to get there because I honestly believe in the Theory of Potentiality and that I can one day be great.
About the Author Steven Colon is currently a freshman at Nichols College pursuing degrees in Marketing and Hospitality. He hopes whatever career he ends up in that he is able to travel often as he has never even been on a plane yet and he really wants to see different parts of the country and the world. He was born on July 14, 1993 to Gloria Santos and Ray Colon. He is the youngest of three children but he is the first to attend college in his family. This is his proudest accomplishment to date. Steven grew up with his family in a three decker apartment while struggling to make ends meet. Struggles included, Steven has said that he wouldn't change a thing about his upbringing. Colon has been working at Notre Dame du Lac for over two years now as part of the wait staff for the dining room. He is motivated and has set high but manageable goals for his future. His current goals are to maintain his 4.0 for as long as possible, join a gym to work out more, and to spend less money.
Published on May 1, 2012