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

   This is the story of my life as a teenager. When I was 14, my life seemed normal. Iwent to school every day, worked hard and went home. I took honors classes, whichI enjoyed. I began high school on the right track, but somehow many thingscontributed to a dramatic change, a change which turned my life upside down.

It all started when I made friends with some older students. They seemedlike a cool group to hang out with. When they smoked cigarettes and weed in frontof me, I became curious, wanting to know what it was like. My curiosity temptedme to try it, though an inner voice told me not to. I resisted the first offer,and the second. I kept resisting the temptations, but I would watch them whenthey were high and wondered how they felt. One day I decided to try it.

At14, I took my first hit of weed, a single hit that began to cloud my life. Iremember telling myself this would be a one-time thing, but the next thing Iknew, I was smoking it almost every day. As I smoked, my grades started to fall;I wasn't paying attention to schoolwork. Classes I once enjoyed became a waste oftime. I knew I was getting lazy, but I did nothing to change. Instead of thingsgetting better, they got worse.

My downfall was a chain reaction ofevents. First, I was doing drugs. I smoked weed since it was always around me,always making me feel better. At school I wasn't doing any better in my classesand convinced myself I was a complete failure. I started ditching school to thepoint that I showed up once a month. I flunked all my classes, and failed tenthgrade because of all my absences.

I didn't know what to do or where toturn for help. Then an acquaintance asked if I wanted to join his gang. I didn'tknow much about gangs or what they did, but I did know one word that describedgang activity: violence. I knew I wasn't cut out to be a gangster and rejectedhis offer because I remembered a vow I'd made in elementary school: I would neverjoin or become affiliated with a gang.

I tried going back to school withhigh hopes, but a second chance at my old high school was out of the question. Irealized I had screwed up my education. I'd also been disowned by my parents, andwas left in a deep depression. I thought of my options, and could only think ofone. I had nowhere to turn but join a gang. At the age of 15, I got jumped intoTGP, a gang that has influence in the San Fernando Valley and in Los Angeles.

I thought smoking weed was a bad choice, but I never thought about what Iwas getting myself into. I broke my own vow, not realizing this decision wouldchange my life. It still affects me to this day.

Life as a gang member wasnew. I didn't know how the game was played. The members welcomed me with a bottleof beer. I was surrounded by drug dealers, thieves and cold-hearted killers. It'squite amazing that an innocent honor student could end up hanging out with thesecriminals. It started out fun, getting used to this new lifestyle, but it got tothe point that I would carry a gun for protection because I learned that life onthe streets has no rules. You either kill or be killed. I also learned from oldergang members who gave me advice and asked about their lives as gangsters. Irespected them as brothers since they respected me as a new member.

Inthe three years I was in the gang, I met many other members, did drugs, andcaused trouble. We considered this fun. We used to cruise around looking fortrouble. Anybody we considered an enemy, we would be ready to fight. It was funbecause of the adrenaline rush that comes from getting in a fight. It's like anatural high that runs through your body.

I was having fun, too much fun.Slowly, the gang started to become a second family to me. I was having so muchfun that I didn't see how much pain and stress I was causing my family. My dad'shealth deteriorated because he would stay up all night worrying until I got home.One day my mom told me he was in the hospital with a heart condition. I blamedmyself. I started thinking twice about the gang since it was hurting my dad. Ialso thought about my future: I did not want to end up in jail or dead.

Iwanted to change so everything would be back to normal again. The gang wasbecoming demanding; the leaders wanted every member to prove their worth bycommitting a violent act on an enemy. I was already in too deep; the gang wasquickly taking over my life by forcing me to commit criminal acts. All I wantedwas my life back.

I found out the hard way that it isn't easy just toleave a gang. I was warned that leaving would mean betrayal and I would putmyself in danger, since the gang would then see me as an enemy. I had options:either I risked staying in the gang, or I left for good. A close friend I'veknown since elementary school supported my decision to leave. I knew it was theright choice, but would it really be over?

I got my answer when I startedreceiving threatening phone calls telling me I was a target. I not only fearedfor myself, but also for the safety of my family. Nights seemed like endlessdarkness as I lay awake with my gun, not able to fall asleep because I felt Ineeded to stand watch to protect my family and myself. Hatred for the gang I oncehad pride in started to grow. This was all my fault, and I prayed that I wouldnever wake up to see another day.

The support of friends and family helpedme through my depression, and got me back to school. I wanted to make it up to myparents somehow. Getting out of TGP was a step to escaping what would have beenmy downfall.

I still see myself as the same person I was before all ofthis. I knew from the start that gang life wasn't the kind of life I wanted, butI was easily influenced into making poor decisions. Sometimes I wish I could goback in time and change what I've done wrong, to make it all right. People whoknow me still see me as the same person they've always known, nice andunderstanding. What I've realized from all this is that even though time andpeople change, I've learned not to let it change who I am.

I see gangs asmini-terrorist groups because they try to terrorize neighborhoods and wholecommunities. They make innocent people afraid to be out late at night or lettheir kids play outside. The spray of bullets from drive-by shootings causesdeath for far too many. Gangs share a common characteristic with terrorists: theycommit acts of violence, driving terror into the hearts of people they dislike.Like terrorists, gangs fight and kill for what they believe in, and those whooppose them are targets. Gangsters' lives are tragedies, starting with anillusion giving teenagers a picture of fun, a sense of belonging, and a pridethat grows until it becomes an obsession that their minds obey. The only tragicdeath a gang member suffers is through the same violence as that inflicted on awhole community.

Whether from a spray of bullets, the blade of a knife ora rumble of fists, gang members face these dangers every day. One question I hadbefore I got out was if it were worth it to die for a name, a name that meansnothing more than words and letters put together to terrorizecommunities.

Long before September 11th, I left the gang. Unfortunately,the scars of my past still remain in my mind because of my affiliation. In thegang I did and saw so much, from horrific scenes to learning the reality of howhard it is to live on the streets. I decided to leave not only for my family andfriends, but for the life I still have to live. People can make poor choices, butI believe that in each crooked path taken, there is always going to be a path tostraighten out, opening up positive opportunities. Since I left the gang, I havenot once broken my determination to never affiliate myself with gangs again. Ibelieve this promise brings closure to that chapter of my life. I can move on tothe next chapters, stopping to reflect on what I've done, knowing that anotherchapter of my life is yet to be written.

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...
yesterday at 7:09 am
i love this so much!
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