Gang Life This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I grew up in a town called Yakima, and as a kid I always wanted to be like my brother. Everything he did, I did, and I followed him everywhere even though he didn't like it very much.

I was about 12 when I got into gangs. At first I was just hanging out with them because all my brother's friends were members. I thought they were cool, beating up people, not going to school, and staying out late. I wanted to be just like them, so on my thirteenth birthday, I told my brother I wanted to get into his gang. He told me no but I didn't listen. I went to his friend's house and told him I wanted to get in. When he asked if my brother knew what I was doing, I lied and told him he did.

So he called up some of his friends. By the time they got there I was thinking about forgetting the whole thing, but if I did, they would think I was a punk. When they took me into the back yard, I knew what was going to happen. I had seen what happened when other kids got into the gang, and it didn't look like fun. They surrounded me and told me that when I get in the gang, I'm in for life. And then all of a sudden, somebody punched me in the face. I fell down. I thought about just lying there and letting them beat me up, but I'd been told that if I fall down to get right back up. So I did. Every time I got knocked down, I got up. I was starting to think that they weren't going to stop until they killed me. After a while, they let me up.

I wasn't sure if I should keep punching or if it was over. I got up, and everybody just stood there looking at me. I guess they expected me to cry. Finally the leader shook my hand and said I was one of them now and there was no turning back. They asked me what I wanted to be called. I told them I wanted to be called Smokey, but they said I would have to be Little Smokey until I earned my stripes.

I didn't want to go home, because I knew by then my brother had heard. Sure enough, he was waiting and started yelling but I ignored him. I tried to walk away, but he grabbed me and said, "You want to be down for the gang? Then come outside and fight me." I knew my brother would beat me up, but I also knew that if I backed down, my brother would tell everybody.

So I worked up the guts to go outside. Just as I got off the porch, we started fighting. I got beat up, of course. Afterward, he told me I didn't know what I had gotten into. The next morning I woke up so sore I could barely get out of bed, and from then on I was going out to beat people up and get beat up. I thought it was a game at first, but I was wrong.

I knew that I had messed up, but there was nothing I could do. I was in for life. The first time I started thinking about getting out was when I got hit in the head with a rock. I spent a day in the hospital. I made a promise to my mom that I would get rushed out, but I didn't.

A week later I was out there just like before: drugs, partying, not coming home. I thought I was bad. This went on for two years.

I had just turned 15 when I came home one night, and my mom was in the hospital. I figured she was sick, but it was me who had put her there - she'd had a nervous breakdown.

It was then that I realized what I was doing not only affected me but those who cared about me. I stayed in the hospital that whole day apologizing to her, but those were just words. So I told myself I would not do any more of this crap. I was tired of hurting my family, and the person I love the most, my mom.

The day my mom got out of the hospital, I went to one of my homie's house. I asked him to call a meeting, so he did. I told all of them what I was going to do. I already knew what they had to do, so I took off my sweater and started throwing punches. This time it was worse than getting in. There were a lot more people beating me up. They weren't going to stop. My brother had to stop them. I got up off the floor, smiled at them, and said good-bye.

It wasn't the last time I got beat up by them. Every time they saw me, they'd call me a ranker and start beating me up. This went on for about two months, and finally it just stopped. I'm glad I'm out of the gang. I don't have to watch my back all the time. I can talk to anyone I want, and most of all, I made my mom proud.

So when you think about getting into a gang, think before you act. If you join a gang because you feel that you're not wanted, don't believe yourself because it's going to get you six feet underground.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
today at 6:00 am
i love this so much!
Taya2013 said...
Oct. 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm
This was a very powerful story and it kept my attention more than the other ones.
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