Being Ashamed

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.” – D.H. Lawrence

Growing up in the city of Los Angeles, I saw how Latinos were already up at 5am working to survive. They were packing fruit to sell, driving loads of fabrics, cooking fresh tortillas and different kinds of meats, or signaling cars with bright orange flags to enter parking structures. I saw kids, as young as 11 or 12 years old, already helping their father or mother take orders,  peel fruit or vegetables, and carrying crates of merchandise. I know this because they wore their elementary school sweaters. Their sweaters all had quotes about education being the key, but here they were working on school nights and weekends. Not one of them: men, women, or child, ever felt sorry for themselves. I can quote many that said, “I will work till I’m dead,” or, “I’ll work like this so my children can have a better future.” What kind of future can they have, I thought? The kids were working all day long when they could’ve been doing homework or studying. What kind of college can they afford? I have lived and passed through this myself. I know damn well the chances that these kids have, and what kind of future their parents have. We will work until we die.

The days come and go, and holidays pass. I have spent the majority of my life working. I worked more hours than the hours I spend with my family. We are all working towards this dream that things will one day get better, but I don’t know how that will happened if we live paycheck to paycheck, scraping every dollar. I can be halfway done with my life, and all I will have to show for is work experience. I am going to die without ever doing anything  with my life, but I don’t pity myself, it’s a sacrifice so the next generation can hopefully have a better one. We won’t ever have self-pity. We will get up, dress up, and go to work, without ever feeling sorry for ourselves, just to show the next generation that we will give up our lives so maybe one can make it. Out of the three or four pairs of hand on deck, two hands will be free to pick up a book. We hope that one pair of hands can pick up a crate of fruit with one hand, and a book with another. The community I am talking about shows admiration to those who are studying, more so if they are studying and going to school.

For that reason, I remember I would wear my backpack proudly when I was younger, like I was a hero. When I was young, I was lucky enough to have others to look up to. I would see them put on their backpacks like they were superhero capes. People in my community would always talk about their college children with such enthusiasm, and with much respect. It was all I ever wanted to be when I grew up, just a college student, and a graduate one day.




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