I recently had lunch with an old friend and the subject of “living the fast life” came up.
My friend, who mentors young Black males, told me of an encounter he had with one of his mentees. To respect other people’s privacy, I won’t reveal the real names of my friend or the young man, but throughout this column, I’ll refer to the friend as Robert and his mentee as Eric.
Robert told me that he was at the mall and saw Eric from a distance. Robert observed Eric speaking in a very loud and belligerent way. In addition, Eric’s pants were sagging so low his underwear were visible.
When Robert approached Eric, he asked his mentee why he was behaving in such a negative way. Eric quickly responded, “That’s what they do on the streets.”
Understanding that Eric was seemingly impressed with the lures of the “fast life,” Robert began to explain to Eric the ills of the fast life. Not sure if he was getting through to Eric, Robert boldly asked one question: What if you die?
Eric’s response floored me.
“I don’t care. I’m not going to live past 25 anyway,” was the recently-turned 20 year old’s response.
A couple of months ago, I wrote an editorial that focused on the health care reform. In the piece, I explained how President Barack Obama’s new law was going to give all people access to quality health care… people who for years paid for life insurance rather than health insurance. People who were preparing to die instead of planning for life. Those people’s perspective has nothing on Eric’s comment. Those people planned for when they died, obviously not knowing when that would be. Eric, however, plans to be dead by a certain age. Eric felt there was no reason to live past age 25 so according to his own estimation, now was the time to “hustle” hard and live life to the fullest because he only has a few more years.
Our children are in a very unfortunate state when they feel that they will be dead by age 25. They’re even worse off than imagined because they are OK with such an ill-fate. People like Eric have internalized it and are actually at peace with such an outcome for their lives.
As Robert and I continued our discussion, we began to talk about the lures of the fast life. I wanted to know what he felt attracted our youth to illegal activities such as selling drugs, or robbing people.
While I felt it was they are attracted to the “easy money,” which often translates into a lot of money, Robert said he thinks people are more addicted to the lifestyle that comes with dealing drugs.
Asking him to explain, he said, “For the amount of work they do, they don’t really make a lot of money. But from the lifestyle position you look like you have a lot of money and you’re the cool kid. You’re the person everyone wants to be around.”
After Robert’s explanation, I was able to see things from his perspective a bit more. People get a rush from the lifestyle.
What’s unfortunate is that many of these drug dealers and others who live the fast life possess the skills necessary to be successful businessmen. If they applied the same knowledge and strategies associated with being “successful” drug dealers to something legal and more positive, the long-term results would be far more beneficial.
Maybe I’m a bit too optimistic, but I believe that by investing in youth early on and being constant mentors in their lives, we can collectively transform an entire generation.
Many people don’t agree with me.
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