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Life, choices and accepting people as they are

I remember when I was just me. Just an innocent girl who had no idea what was going on. Now I know better. Before I was happy, but now it is sometimes very hard to find a smile. My name is Bella and I have had a rough life so far. You may say after reading this that my life isn’t rough but the way I see it, it is. I am sixteen about to be seventeen, not even a month away from my birthday. Some worry about birthday gifts, but I worry about life. “What will life throw my way?” is now a constant thought in my head.

I am currently in a terrible school. I have been in many schools so I should know. Because of the school I am in now, it is hard for me to get motivated to go. I have had a CHINS placed on me by the school because of not going. We talked to the court and had notes from my therapist and the person who did my testing. They read the notes and understood that the school wasn’t helping me but I still had the CHINS put on me. This school is an alternative school. They call it a “therapeutic day school,” which I find is funny, since in my opinion they do not help. I know they try to help but they usually make it worse. All the staff there are nuts and they don’t catch much of anything. For example, I was getting beaten up by a kid one day in the small cafeteria. A staff walked in and asked what was going on. The kid said, “Nothing,” and then left. The staff believed him! I was shocked and honestly I felt hurt inside because these staff are supposed to protect you. And they can’t even handle that task. So that added to my school refusal. I don’t really trust anyone there except for a select few kids.

My home where I live is alright. I still live with my parents and my sister. I love them dearly but sometimes they can be a pain. My mom was in a car accident before I was born and has PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from it. My dad was laid off at the end of January this year. My sister has had a lot of bad stuff happen to her also.

My sister is one of the nicest people I know. She speaks her mind and is original. But most of the other kids want her to be just like them. Except she isn’t just like them. So naturally she’s been bullied. She wasn’t only bullied by the kids, she was also bullied by the teachers sometimes. There was this one guy who was a guidance counselor who would intimidate people. He intimidated my sister and my mom. If I met him I would have given him a piece of my mind because he claimed to have a child of his own with mental health/special needs. Honestly, I don’t care if the kid is purple, has tentacles, or has three heads, you don’t treat people like that. While I may not be big on religion, I still hope that people can learn how to treat others correctly. As in learn to help others and not harm them in any way.

I find all people are different. Some can be similar but never exactly the same. No matter what, we are all original. You just have to embrace it. If everyone embraced this concept, it would make the world a better place. If we accept people as they are, with their quirks and faults, and become more understanding and considerate it would be better for the world. And for humankind as a whole. This is what I believe.

As much as I feel alone, I also want to be known. I want to be who I am and remembered for who I was. I want my name to be remembered. I want to be my own person and remembered for it. And I want to be there for others just as my friends have been there for me.

I don’t want to give in to peer pressure. Sometimes that’s others making bad choices, trying to make it seem okay, and trying to get you to make the same choices, too. For example, underage drinking. I don’t see what’s so great about drinking at this age. And drugs, why is that so great? Does it magically fix all your problems? Does it pay your bills? I don’t think so. I think it is just going to cause you more problems in the long run. For example, if you get caught you are going to go to court and possibly jail. Was it really worth it? Smoking is a different story depending on if you are able to buy it on your own. But still it can cause some lifelong issues no matter what your age is.

I have not given into peer pressure for anything yet; my choices are still completely my own. I have not done drugs, drinking, or smoking. But I have still made some poor choices. Yet, I do not regret anything I have done. Just because I do not regret my choices doesn’t mean I am necessarily happy or proud of all of them.

No matter how many mistakes I might make, I don’t want to regret them. I won’t be able to change choices that were made in the past, so I don’t dwell on them. I want to continue down the path I have chosen until I reach the next fork, the next decision. As much as I might want to change choices, I cannot, so I just try to make better ones the next time.

Bella is a member of Youth MOVE Massachusetts. She lives in Central Massachusetts.

A real spitfire

Everyone brings with them their own presuppositions about a new environment. The City of Lynn is no different. When one hears the phrase, “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin” confidence in personal safety is not the first idea to enter the mind. That said, as we enter the Centerboard Headquarters, it is difficult to ignore the feeling of safety and calm that emanates from the walls.

We walk into the office in which we would be interviewing Dalene Basden to see her sitting behind a desk as if ready to run her household from a comfy armchair. Dalene is a Family Support Specialist, who has supported and mentored countless parents over the years. Prior to our meeting, she had been described to us as a real ‘spitfire’ and community member, and this description is proved accurate right off the bat as, when asked to describe her family, she responds first with a haughty chuckle and then proceeds to explain that while she does indeed have three biological children, all of the young ones in her neighborhood are her children. “Most kids call me ‘Nani’ and my husband is ‘Big Steve’”, she explains, pointing out that though her neighborhood is filled with a large variety of people, her door is never locked to the curious and friendly children.

How is this whole oneness of a neighborhood so achievable with such diversity? Not to say that different cultures cannot get along, but simply that different traditions may not always lend themselves to social harmony with one another. Dalene would simply scoff at this question. “My community is my culture,” she says, an idea that pervades her life as a mantra of sorts as both her way of living and her dream for Lynn one day. “I live, work, play, pray, and shop in my community…I work 24/7.”

She explains that the city is a big place, full of all sorts of people. The trick is finding a way of knitting together the close-knit communities throughout. Lynn is growing at a fantastic rate and the city is changing just as quickly. And with this change, Dalene advocates for the idea that “It’s all about the kids.” Here is where Dalene really starts to come alive. The passion in her eyes only grows as she starts listing off how she would work toward a day when “Lynn” would be synonymous with harmony and family. “If I had a million dollars, she says, “I’d open a gym.” Anything to keep the youth easily involved in their communities and anything to keep the parents involved with their kids, because if anything fills Dalene Basden with pride and happiness, it is seeing her children succeed and make lives for themselves. When asked what her proudest moment was, she chuckles at the thought of reducing it to a single moment. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, she says. “I have a family.”

From talking with Dalene, it is clear that she is grateful for her life in Lynn, boasting proudly that all three of her biological children were real Lynners. She is proud of her culture. She is proud of her family. She is proud of her children. She is proud of the work she’s been able to do. She is proud of her city. As we leave Centerboard, we are struck by how fitting a place Centerboard was to meet Dalene Basden as both are bastions of safety and reconstruction, and are reminded of Dalene’s words: “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin? I don’t buy that at all.”

Will Foritier, a student at Gordon College, wrote this article as part of “A Day in the Life” project led by The Centerboard, located in Lynn Massachusetts. It is reprinted here with their permission. Please visit their facebook page here.