In life we’re bound to cross paths with many people, some stay with us, others pass through briefly. Although our paths have crossed, where we’re going might be entirely different. I had this thought a few days ago when I was walking towards campus and watched a NYC Corrections bus leave the neighboring courthouse. In the sun, I was able to see the silhouette of the individuals on the bus, and I wondered to myself, “how did they get there?” What had happened in their lives for them to end up ensnared in the criminal justice system?
I thought about the various choices they did or did not make, and where they’d eventually end up. Would they get a second chance? Would they change and be rehabilitated or would they end up in a revolving door of arrests and court dates? I realized that the two buildings, the courthouse and the college, represented two very different life paths, yet they sat side by side. This is the case with people we cross paths with daily, strangers on the train, acquaintances at work or even people who live down the street from us; we live side by side but represent so many different lifestyles.
We see people every day on the street and briefly assume or make up their life story in our heads. We see a well-polished man in a suit and think, “is he a big shot CEO?” or “he probably has a lot of money”. In reality though we know nothing about that man or where he comes from; for all we know he could be a recovering addict on his way to a job interview at Macy’s. Choices shape our lives and too often we make these choices based on what other people think not realizing people will never really know what you did to get there; unless you tell them.
The roads we travel need to be the best road for us, for our goals and for our future. Looping back to my original sentiment about the corrections bus, I truly wonder how many of the people on that bus ended up there because they made choices that led them down a path someone else chose for them. I think about my teenage years and the shenanigans I often found myself caught up in; cutting class or sneaking around and I realize how much of it wasn’t me. Well, it was me, but I wasn’t choosing those things for me. I was choosing those things to fit in with or cater to a crowd or to fit a mold someone else had for me; one I probably knew I didn’t fit.
I wish I had done a lot differently in my adolescence but I can’t change the past. I can however pass these lessons onto my own daughter and to the peers I mentor with the First Year Learning Program. I can turn my negative experiences into tools to help others and I can try to make a difference and at the end of the day we should all, always try to make the world a better place.