My Thoughts…

Looking Back on The Corner

Earlier this year, I started on a journey of reading one of the most heart-wrenching, raw and powerful books I’ve ever picked up.  David Simon & Ed Burns’ The Corner had been on my reading list for a long while, but it was only this year that I finally lifted the cover and began turning the pages, taking me to the gritty corners of Baltimore.

This was a world that I was already familiar with after watching The Wire, which coincidentally was created by Simon and Burns.  The Wire is a show that has a special place in my heart and tugged at my heart-strings a number of times, so much so I’m surprised they didn’t come apart.  However, The Corner did so much more than that, because these were the lives of real people unfolding and unraveling in front of my eyes.

Reading this book was a process that took a whole lot of reflection, which was necessary after the completion of each part, because this book is seriously heavy.  I needed time to think over all of the situations that had been brought to my attention, consider the utter brokenness of the system and sometimes cry a little in despair or anger.

Anger was a common feeling while reading The Corner.  My anger was not only directed at the system, but also the members of society who look down on those who are caught up in this drug culture, without actually wanting to help or even accept that they are part of the problem.  This is a dangerous, heartbreaking culture that no one should have to be part of, but unfortunately many are and it is a cycle that is beyond difficult to break.

One of my stand out passages for The Corner reads:

“…We’re furious at the drugging and terrified by the shooting and unnerved at the notion that unless something is done, it won’t be contained, that this horror show will creep beyond the rotting cores of cities.  We have lost patience with the idea of our own culpability, with the corruptive message that accompanies the bribe.  For three decades, we bought them off with the small coinage of charity at the beginning of every month, telling them they were not necessary, that their nation could do without them.  Now, with that lesson of helplessness learned and learned well, we feel entitled to say that we can no longer avoid the coins.”

I began to realise that those on the corners are in a country of their own, ostracised from the United States and living by their own rules.  Their life is nothing like the lives of others and trying to get out of that life, off those corners, is like entering into foreign territory.  What I think broke my heart the most was reading about individuals trying to get clean or break free of the corner life, but finding themselves right back where they started, because being back in the “real” world was too difficult and complicated.

That isn’t helped by a government and the other powers that be who simply do not understand or have the best interests of these individuals stuck in the corner world at heart.  As I read the final parts today, this segment caused fierce anger to burn up inside of me:

“Just before Christmas, a few months after Fran had celebrated a full year of being clean, she was laid off — the result of a federal audit of the detox center.  It seemed that the grant money funding BRC required all counselors to be fully trained and qualified; to preserve its budget, the center was forced to let go of some of its best and most reliable staffers, men and women who had survived the corner and were now using that experience to great effect.  Fran, Antoinette, and about a dozen others were corner veterans on a hero’s journey, trying to salvage something of themselves, trying to give a little back.  The government, being the government, could not see it.”

You see, this paragraph – like the whole book – remains incredibly relevant today not only in the US, but also in the UK and many other countries in the world.  Problems surrounding the lower class continue to persist while those in power continue to thrive off it and act as if they are coming up with solutions, when it is blatant that their solutions do not work.  More and more of the same was a major issue in The Corner, and I’m sure that it is an issue that continues to persist today.  It genuinely makes me sick.

These are human beings and members of society who deserve to be treated as such – it was evident that many of them did not want to be in that corner life, but what other alternative did they have?  As I mentioned earlier, breaking away from the corner is no easy feat.  Getting an insight into their lives was honestly a privilege and it broke my heart to see the tragic endings for many of them, particularly for one individual who I was especially rooting for – I was tearing up by the end.

The Corner is honestly one of the most devastatingly, beautiful pieces of work I have had the opportunity to read.  It has vastly opened my mind and made me more adamant that we should not put labels on others, or judge others by the labels put on them.  We have no idea what life can be like for other individuals and we don’t know how we would act if we were in the same situation.

If you have not read this book already, I seriously suggest that you do, because it is something that we can all learn from.  I challenge you to be the same person you were before reading by the time you get to the end.

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Your Favourite Line

“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”

That’s your favourite line.

Sorry, I mean

That’s your favourite lie;

Recited over and over again

So that now,

Even you believe it.

I’m wondering though,

Do you actually believe it?

Cos the last time you said it,

Your eyes shifted,

Voice lowered,

Telling me you were lying

Even as you tired

To reassure me.

Your want to be seen as real,

Honest,

Different,

Reeked a little of desperation,

As you emphasised that your words were true,

You had nothing to hide,

When we both know that you do;

With the aloof answers,

Evading questions

And repetition of,

“I’ll tell you eventually.”

I granted you the benefit of the doubt,

At first,

Cos I’ve got a guard around me too,

Not sharing everything,

Keeping things in

Until I’m sure of you.

I thought we were one in the same,

Meaning I couldn’t stay mad at you,

But I began to see

There was more to it;

You weren’t being real with me.

With no words,

No explanation from you,

I question if you were ever real.

Were your feelings fake,

Your charm a charade,

Your sweetness a scheme

To try and seduce me?

You’ve left more questions than answers,

More confusion than clarity,

More uncertainty than closure,

But the one thing you’ve left me certain of,

Is that you would definitely say something

And not mean it.

 

Dreaded 25

Next Tuesday, I’m turning 25 and I am absolutely dreading it.  Everyone asks why or is very surprised, but the dread of getting older can’t be that shocking can it?  I was feeling my age since I turned 24 last year and although 24 is still young, I don’t feel young anymore.  Don’t let this baby face fool you – I’m an old soul and my body feels like it’s breaking down at times too.

In all honesty, it’s not even the dread of getting older that is the biggest issue, even though I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like growing up anymore.  Turning 25 also means I’m halfway to 30 now and that actually scares me.  Imagine, responding to the question of how old are you with 30!  That’s just mad.

However, my main issue is where I find my life at 25.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a whole lot in the past few years and there are so many things I can be proud of.  I’ve found my true purpose and I genuinely love what I do, despite the difficulties it throws at me, but this isn’t where I intended to be.

I know that I cannot control everything and I’ve had to relinquish the majority of my control over the years, but if my life was going to plan – my original plan that is – I would be in the process of setting up my fashion business by now.  I would have gained some years of experience after graduating and I’d be preparing to branch out on my own.

Ideally, I’d be married or even engaged, preparing to get married at 25, not flying solo with no prospects and giving up on love entirely.  I should be in talks with my husband right now about having kids, not giving up on the idea of ever having kids on my own.  And I should have been closer to having my own home.

It is funny though, because although I’m not in the process of setting up a fashion business, I am in the process of setting up a business; just in a totally different field.  And even though I’d hate to admit it, there is no way I should be married at this time of my life, because I am so messed up and not at the stage where I’m ready to simply be in a relationship – marriage would be too big of a step.

I may want to be further along than I am, but life has thrown me countless curve-balls and I’m on a journey of growth that I cannot rush.  I need to procrastinate a lot less, but I cannot hurry along the growth and learning within myself.  What I would like though, is a time machine so that I could be the beautiful age of 22 again, take the leap into certain areas of my life rather than living in fear, and rectify some of my silly mistakes.

Did I mention that I hate getting older?