Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Home Alone

By Lindsey Elder, Collegian Columnist

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“There’s no place like home,” they say, but I’ve noticed my extended visits home over my past few years at UMass have certainly made me question that verse. My home is South Boston – “Southie”, as it’s better known, is the home of the “L” Street Tavern, Irish pride and the worst drivers in the nation. “Good Will Hunting” and the race riots surrounding forced busing in the 1970’s gave the town its tough and racist reputation. It is a small, working class inner-city neighborhood with a few schools, few churches, public housing areas and a bar, bank or pizza parlor rotation for each and every corner.

What South Boston is not home to, however, are many college students. Keeping busy when at home or school had always been easy, as I am very lucky to have always had a fairly large circle of friends. Going home since I have started college, however, the number just dwindles. My first impression was the reason I didn’t get together as much or enjoy it in the same way was that it was because my old friends were simply too busy in their separate lives, moving on and expanding. But it didn’t take me long to realize it wasn’t that they were moving on, it was that I was, and leaving them what seemed to be light years behind.

Anyone that grows up in inner city neighborhoods I think can agree that, although a great place to grow up, they are the kind of places that if you’re not smart and self-assured, it’s very easy to fall into several of the city’s more frequent problems. Drug addiction, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy. Sad to say the majority of people I grew up with are the ones I still see when I go home wasting their time hanging on corners till all hours of the night, drinking, doing drugs, or just being an overall drag on society and each other’s chances of success.

Now, this isn’t to say that all college students are mature representatives of our society today by any means, but there certainly becomes a tear between the social classification of those that do go to college and those that don’t. It’s not that I feel above my peers, just different. I reached maturity, in the sense of common sense, thinking for myself and not worrying what others thought of me, very early in life, unlike most of my former classmates.

I bumped into my friend Chris that I hadn’t seen in five years this summer during my few days before coming back to school. I was in line at the local grocery store getting some ham for my grandmother when I recognized him standing beside me. He asked how I was doing, and I told him great. I’m a senior at UMass, I’ll be commissioned an Officer this May, and my family is good. The general run down of what I’ve been up to. When I asked him what he’d been up to, his response was that he’d just gotten out of prison for assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

The sad part is this is hardly an isolated incident for my visits home. The group of kids that I went to middle school with, I can go right down the list: in jail, druggie, working, working, jail, look out my window and see her on the corner right now hanging out, pregnant. Southie is a great place, but it can be depressing to know that we all had the same opportunities and to see what different outcomes we’ve had. In some cases, my classmates who some would argue had even more opportunities – by going to some of the better private schools in and out of the city – are the ones that seem to have progressed the least since we were in school together.

Its strange having your social networks change or be pulled right out from underneath you like mine were. Where you live and who you hang out with inevitably shapes the kind of person you are. If the stereotypical teen is one seen as a punk and you’re not, then that makes you someone of strong character but at the same time a social outsider. I’ve had times when I’d question whether or not to just give in and go hang on the corner for a while and just talk about people or trade funny drunk stories like they do practically every night of the week. Or, I’ll rethink that offer to go have a few drinks at “The Point” just to feel like part of the gang at home again. But I’m not like that. I can’t say I’m not “anymore” because I never really was in the first place.

As much as I feel like a loser some weekends asking my grandmother what errands she needs done or taking the dog for a long walk as my Saturday night events, being a college student may be the cause for the separation. But it’s also the best thing I could have done for myself. And I just want to remind those who don’t feel as into the loop and happy at home as they once were; I always keep in mind that it’s a good thing that those of my peers that are still home are having all the fun. Because, until they smarten up, they’re going to be there for a long, long time.

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