I’ve been home for six months now. It has been quite a struggle, but it’s a struggle that I’m willing to endure to leave one lifestyle in order to enter another.
I came to the Campaign for Youth Justice as an intern back in 2008, but I was living a double life, a life that led to re-offending and going back to prison for three years.
While incarcerated, you have nothing but time to sit back and reflect, but the million-dollar question is: What are you reflecting on? Most people don’t really take advantage of that time for productive planning. But I chose to use that time to ask myself what I wanted out of life and what were the costs and benefits of the life I was living.
As you see, it cost me family members, relationships and time I could’ve been using to do something productive. The life that I was living in the streets has taken more from me than I’ve gained. I realize now that I have to live one way or the other, because playing both sides eventually catches up to you.
After being exposed to two totally different lifestyles, I appreciate the opportunities that I’ve been given in the past six months. I worry less and have a real sense of accomplishment. I now worry about the basic stresses of life, such as being late for rent or late to work.
If I were living the other lifestyle, I would be worrying about getting arrested or killed. I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor with joy, happiness and an understanding that there is a much larger benefit when you do things the right way.
I want to say that I was not a bad kid to begin with. I was exposed to circumstances while I was young that put me into a position where I believed the way I went about doing things was okay. But, in reality, we all know that’s not the way a child should be raised. Living a double life has cost me quite a fair share of my youth.
As of this moment, I leave everyone with the challenge of exposing the younger generations to a better way of living with opportunities and dreams, rather than exposing children to prison. Trust me, that only makes things more complicated than they already are. How would I know? I've seen it firsthand. But now I choose to live a life where success is at my fingertips. Why do I choose this life? I choose it simply because I've now been exposed to it.
What are you exposing the youth to?
Michael Kemp, 22, lives in the District. He is a member of the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop and is a fellow for the Campaign of Youth Justice in Washington.
Read more on The Root DC