After all of the mistakes we make as kids, there are things we wish we could go back and change. Decisions we have made that could’ve gone totally different. We all wish we could’ve had someone to be there and tell us what our life is going to be like and some things we can prevent or some things we have to prepare for.
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Older Self: When you are young, everything will be provided to you. You will be spoiled, your father will be in America sending money almost every week for your mom to take care of you. You will be about nine at the time and you have no idea what it’s like to live in this world. For you, in your mind, it will be all about going to school and coming back home, eating and just having fun. The hardships of living in this world won’t exist to you. Death won’t be something you think about. The thoughts of one day going to work and learning how to be independent won’t be something you worry about. Now, you are about ten, your mother will make her way to America so you will be left alone with your uncle and other relatives. I mean as a young kid, all you want to do is play and have fun, but at the same time the thought of your mother not being next to you is very tough. A year after your mom leaves, you will be on your way to America with your younger brother. I wish I can tell you that life is only going to get easier, but that won’t be the case. When you first get to the United States, your whole view will change. The way Malian people talk about the United States make it seem like people pick up money from the floor, or as if the buildings here are as tall as the sky. You have no idea. Back there, I can tell how you view the United States, fancy buildings full of TV screens like they are in Times Square, clean streets, no dirt anywhere; fancy cars everywhere. If they tell you at the time that there are people here that don’t even have food to eat you wouldn’t believe it. Some people wish they could have the opportunity we have back home or our lifestyle back there. No house bills to pay, no car insurance to pay, you can buy as much land as you want, you can build as many houses as you want.
Sitting here with you today in this empty room, looking at you I can only visualize the hardship you will go through when you first get to this country. When you are back home, you are not bothered by anybody, you have no one in your ears telling you do this or do that. I wish I could’ve told you how you could’ve handled some situations differently. Situations like when you were offered a course to learn English, you didn’t show interest and you should’ve. That will be the main reason you will not be accepted in the American society or fit in with rest of the kids. The society where a non-English speaker is viewed as an animal, animals can’t speak back to us even though they might understand what we mean, so they act based on what we tell them to do, they don’t talk back. This is apart from what you will be going to deal with at home. The students will be making fun of you for mispronouncing words like “character” and they will be mocking you, by repeating the words you say over and over. They will try to bully you, pick on you after class, or when you go to the bathroom they will surround you, maybe about three or four of them. They have a saying “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” Meaning don’t let the same thing happen twice, after their first attempt to hit you, don’t let it happen cause if you do, it’s never going to stop. You don’t want to live a miserable life or a life full of regrets.
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Younger Self: It’s my pleasure to have you here today, we all wish to go back in time and change things, but luckily I won’t need that because you are here. So with that being said, I am absolutely with you when you mentioned how we viewed America back home. When I was there, I thought the buildings here were going to be as tall as the sky with screens all over it, but obviously I was wrong. When I first touched down in America I was about 12 years old, coming from the airport to my house, the streets were very different from the streets in Mali, out here you got driveways and ramps on top of each other and the bridge is held with strings, unbelievable. While in Mali things are very different, no ramps on top of each other and a basic bridge where they have building bricks under it to hold it. Things are a lot more secure here than in Mali. When I first got inside the building I was going to stay in, my whole view changed. I asked myself if this is what everybody had been going crazy about back there in Mali. I was expecting to live in a building tall as the sky and with television screens all over it. I guess I was wrong, but at the same time I felt reality hitting me. I watched my father struggle going to work seven days a week just to take care of us and to make sure we were living in good conditions, so the pressure to do good in school was too much. My parents failed to understand that I was just an English learner trying to fit in with the rest of the students. Their expectation for me was to have a higher grade than anybody in the school. I am only 13 and turning 14 soon, having you today sitting here and telling me how to avoid certain things and make sure that I don’t regret any decision that I am going to make later on in my life is just a blessing and I wouldn’t know what to do without you. One thing that stood out to me is that you mentioned how I will be picked on in school. That worried me a lot because I haven’t had this kind of experience back in Mali. I fit in with everybody, nobody bothered me or picked on me. Your solution is to fight back. Do you really think that will be a good idea? Don’t you think that will make them come for me even more? I am scared, scared for my life, scared to not be accepted by this society, scared to be picked on by those students. I don’t want to end up in a struggle, a struggle where I will be scared to even approach people.
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Older Self: I am sorry, it wasn’t my intention to get you scared. Don’t worry, the fight will be broken up, but you have to at least attempt to fight back, no matter how many of them are there, at the age you are at right now, if you don’t fight back in this society, you will be seen as weak, but that’s only for those who know no better. As you grow, it will be less and less necessary to physically fight back because people will see physical fighting as a sign of weakness and being immature. Silence will be the new way of fighting back. You will get through that, after you graduate from middle school, now heading to high school your life will get even more serious. Higher expectations from parents, you will start thinking about getting a job because you want to help your parents out in the household and take care of yourself, but they won’t look at it like that. They will think you are trying to quit going to school. This is where things starts to get serious in your life, you will meet this coach by the name of Brotheron, he is a light skinned guy, about six feet tall with huge hands, he will be wearing a kufi every time you see him. He is not going to be just a coach to you, but more like a father. He will build some kind of relationship with you that you are not going to have with your father. You will trust this guy with anything, you will share any kind of problems that you won’t be able to share with your parents, like female problems, basketball problems, and religious questions. This man will be like a prophet to you, he will have answers to everything you ask him. Through your high school career, you will have to put trust in him, basketball-wise and everything else. Every problem you approach him with he will relate to basketball, for example when you mention something about fighting back, he will say put it in a basketball term which will be your pivot foot and you don’t take a step unless the defensive person takes a step and even though you are on offense you are still on defense because you are protecting the ball. He believes that if you apply basketball to your everyday life, your life will be great.
Younger Self: I will trust your words. With the bullying situation, I will try my best to stay calm so they won’t continue to take advantage of me. Last but not least I appreciate everything you have done for me, I will be more careful with the decisions I make and I will follow my coach’s lead who you refer to as my prophet because he will have answers to all my questions.