Do I want to become a mainstream person?
My visions for myself have been (1) becoming self-supporting while still staying at the shelter; (2) obtaining a small, studio apartment with a laptop, radio and cat. The second one really represents all I aspire to, in terms of material comforts, in life. But it has occurred to me that maybe I need to envision more than that for myself, if I am to find motivation to really work for these things.
Circa 2008, while I was living in Barclay and working at a dollar store that served a very Barclay-like population, a brother pulled a stunt to bring about an ad hoc family reunion, of my immediate family, at his house. It lasted two or three days. It was as if I’d been transported to heaven.
My brothers live in a world of beauty and harmony, not to mention material comforts, that my neighbors and customers absolutely cannot imagine. It is totally beyond their ken. Conversely, my brothers (and other mainstream people; we grew up in the mainstream) cannot possibly imagine the squalor my neighbors and customers took for granted.
This country is, or can be, a beautiful place. For anyone. There are all kinds of material comforts, all kinds of beauty, all kinds of opportunity available — if one is willing to, and knows how to, “go there.” Disadvantaged people don’t. I developed the ambition of equipping people like my neighbors and customers to “go there,” to gain access to everything America has to offer.
Now comes the question of whether or not I want to “go there” myself.
To the end of equipping a more comprehensive vision of what I may want for myself, I began a list of attributes of the mainstream, what life would be like there. I can dream of these things. These are in no particular order; I may update this list from time to time. Some items may paraphrase others. Typical of my personality, I note the prevalence, in that list, of intangibles.
• Peace and quiet
• I will choose what music I hear.
• I can come and go as I please.
• Social norms: honesty, diligence, responsibility, marriage
• Social norms: respect for self, respect for others, respect for property(*)
• Social norms: practically everyone has a high school diploma
• Social norms: practically everyone is self-supporting
• Social norm: working for a living
• Few tattoos; few piercings
• Few untreated mentally ill; few addicts; few felons
• Clean streets and alleys
• Nice houses
• Most people know how to act.
• People live orderly lives.
• I’ll have a choice of clean clothes to wear every day.
• I will choose what I eat.
• I will cook my own food, clean my own house, wash my own clothes and dishes.
• The corner store isn’t built like a fortress.
(*)There is a related discussion of self-esteem, in Courage to walk unarmed.