The following is an anonymous piece by a local teen discussing their experience working and supporting their family at a young age.
If I had a dollar for every time I felt like my efforts weren’t good enough, I could probably solve all of my problems. I’m from the South side of the city, where not everything is pretty but most teens work for money to make sure everything seems pretty. I’ve never owned a pair of Jordans, my family is so broke I don’t even think my mom can afford to spell that.
All my life, I’ve been told to work hard in school and I’ll be able to have a wonderful future but I can’t even enjoy today because I’m hungry. No, my little sister and I are hungry. Sure I can cook something, but isn’t that a mother’s job? Nevermind, she bought herself earrings.
No, I’m not mad at that, I’m mad that she’s so depressed all she does is sleep. I’m mad that if I bring up the broken AC on the 2nd floor it’s an argument and I’m “ungrateful.” I’m mad that my older sister asked for me to chip into the phone bill. Meanwhile, I could barely afford to fix my damn phone. You claim you could barely afford the phone bill, yet you’re eating out every fucking day while your sisters are starving.
I’m mad that I almost make as much money as my father, and he’s a janitor and I’m in fast food. I’m mad that he has too much pride to let me open up a lemonade stand and help out like everyone is telling me too. I’m mad that I’m not 18 and I need to be an adult right now because no one else will.
I don’t remember partying and chilling with friends. I just remember getting a call from my mom in the middle of the school day and her telling me that because I watched “13 Reasons Why” my little sister is now suicidal. As I’m feeling like everything is collapsing, I tell her to stop yelling at me and just pick me up so I can be with her. I couldn’t care less about the test I had the next period, I needed to be with her. I hated that I had work that day, I couldn’t focus on shit and I forgot to clock out before I left.
I’ve been told for a very long time that I think like an adult and I’m more mature for my age, which explains why I don’t have many friends and I always confide in adults. I cried the next day to my favorite teacher. Although no one can physically help me, adults give much better advice than my friends do. All of the adults I confide in have agreed on one thing: I should move out as soon as possible. I agree, but how can I walk away when I see that my family needs help? That is the reason why I have two jobs.
The thing that you’ll find most disturbing about this truth is that most kids from the Southside share a similar story. Some of us might not have a job, but some choose to make “dirty money” because they see it’s the only way to help out there family. At the end of the day, I don’t know what it’s like to be you.