Both Sides of the Tracks

Editor's Note:

Jack recalls growing up in two very different neighborhoods and comes to the conclusion that no neighborhood is perfect. This story is part of a series of reflections about growing up in neighborhoods that are labeled gang hotspots.

I first remember living in Los Gatos, it is a very nice neighborhood full of wealthy white people.

As a kid, being Mexican wasn't a problem until I realized that I was the only brown kid out of all the white kids at my school. It really didn't affect me that much, but at the same time I kind of felt weird. I don't know how to describe it but I felt different. Sometimes parents would look at me weird and I couldn't understand it. Sometimes my friends would make little jokes about me and I acted like I didn’t care and laughed along with them. I'll be honest, sometimes I wished I was white and I would ask myself, why am I brown? Why are they white? I want to be like them... I wanted to feel “normal.” I do remember feeling safe and never having to worry about the outside world. My mom wouldn't worry about her car being locked at night because it was such a nice neighborhood.

One day I was informed that we were moving. I didn't know why we were moving, but now that I’m older I realized it was because they raised the rent. My mom wasn't able to afford it so we had to move.

We moved to a “gang hotspot” but during this time I didn't know that. After our first two weeks living here, my mom’s car was keyed. That kinda scared me because that would never happen in Los Gatos. We didn't even want to have mail delivered to our address because the mailboxes were constantly getting broken into so we used a P.O. Box. All of this was new to me and was kinda scary. Cops drove by our house everyday when I was playing outside checking out the neighborhood, my mom would never let me out after dark. Two years ago when I was 11, this was a very new experience for me. 

My older brother’s girlfriend worked down the street at a nearby Denny’s and he used to pick her up late at night. Sometimes I would go with him and felt scared. I don't know what I was thinking, but I do think that I kinda had a right to be scared because crime near that area was pretty common. I had a neighbor that had a number of incidents happen to her. One time she almost got her car stolen right in front of her house. People’s garages would constantly get broken into. It was a scary place to live. 

Moving from Los Gatos to a lower income neighborhood was a big change in my life but I wouldn't change it for anything. It made me wiser and more aware of the world around me. I don’t want to be a rich spoiled white kid and I don’t want to be a gang banger, I just want to be me. Living here wasn’t all bad and I did have lots of fun memories just like I did in Los Gatos. I'm not trying to say one neighborhood is good and one is bad. Both neighborhoods have some flaws, even Los Gatos wasn't perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect neighborhood.

I'm glad I was able to experience living on both sides of the tracks. I know the struggle. I've had to move multiple times and I've seen a lot in life. No one can say to me you don't know how it is to live in a “bad” neighborhood or you've never experienced a rich life. I've lived on both sides of the tracks.

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