Has anyone ever lived through a violent environment and then moved to a non-violent one? Does your history of violence affect the way you live your life now?
This thread is an attempt to iron out the different ways living through violence can affect a person. I’ll share some of the things I’ve noticed about myself, and hopefully others might tell me if they have similar experiences or if I’m just insane.
I went to an inner city high school and middle school across the street from the projects. Most of the students had ties to gangs or knew someone in a gang. Fights broke out inside school grounds daily. There were special areas of the school where people smoked weed and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to have sex on school grounds.
I avoided getting robbed by never taking anything of value to school, and I gained some protection by letting people cheat off me in class. Unfortunately that did not stop me from being harassed or assaulted several times outside of class and on my way to school.
Now I’m in law school and live on campus. I’ve noticed that some of the students have radically different outlooks on life than I do. Here’s my list:
Eye contact isn’t threating. I used to assume that when someone looked at me that they were looking to start trouble. Now l’ve determined that normal people make eye contact to see if they know you or not, so that they can say high if they do.
Complements are not threating. One way to rob someone one was to get them into a false sense of security by being extra nice to them. After this happens to you once you become suspicious of complements you don’t deserve. Yet I’ve discovered that normal people complement others just to be nice, and not because they want to rob them. Go figure.
People are a lot more boring. In high school people talked about drug deals gone bad, in law school they talk about commutes gone bad. I obviously don’t want to hang out with drug dealers anymore, but that means I have to get used to the uneventful lives of normal people. I have nothing against boring lives. I prefer the boring life I have now to the chaotic you-never-know-when-you-might-get-stabbed life I had before. However, it’s hard getting used to people being so enthusiastic about experiences that I can’t help but find so unremarkable.
There is no need to be aggressive. In high school I had to show everyone that I was tough. That meant that even if someone did something minor like steal my pen, I had threaten to cut his balls off if he didn’t give it back. Otherwise people would notice how I wussed out when someone took my pen and would mark me down as an easy target. Normal people wouldn’t think much over a stolen pen and would let it go. Yet for me a lost conflict meant people saw that I couldn’t defend myself, and would try to hurt me later.
Confrontation is easier. The only positive on my list. Once you figure out that some people will not physically attack you if you say something they don’t like, then it becomes much easier to confront them about anything.
That’s about it (if you don’t count all the wonderful memories I wish I could forget.) I’ve managed to deal with 1, 2, and 4, but I’m finding 3 to be the most difficult. Anyone else have similar experiences?