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GIARDINIERI: Suburbanites are ill-equipped to handle harsh life realities

Opinion Column: Thoughts From The Back Of Class

Some people might view the city I grew up in as a ghetto. I just see it as a pretty urban area with a diverse group of inhabitants. 

It is the kind of city where you do not really want to be walking outside after dark by yourself. There are, let us just say, interesting activities going on at night. My family and I live about a block away from a large government housing facility. These facilities are subsidized housing administered by federal, state and local agencies to provide rental assistance to low-income households. 

My friends and I refer to these buildings as "the projects." It is not uncommon to hear “fireworks” going off in the dead of night. And by “fireworks," I mean gunshots. 

Why am I reminiscing about where I grew up? Well, the other day in class I was at my desk working on my lab report when I heard a student near me talking about what kind of work he did in the summer. I was not having too much fun doing my report, so I decided to shamelessly eavesdrop on this conversation. 

In the next 5 minutes, I discovered that the student worked a relatively stress-free job that was not physically demanding. It involved something to do with filing away documents and running Microsoft Excel all day. He also mentioned that he woke up every morning incredibly tight and sore. 

The student said that he had never felt more physically drained in his whole life and that he did not know if he could work a real job after college. Upon hearing this, I thought to myself, really? Was being paid to sit and move documents all day really that demanding of a job? Probably not. Then I sat back and contemplated for a while. 

His comments got me thinking about all the jobs I have had in my life. Some were hard, some were easy, some were weird and some I would like to forget. But through all my work experience, I have always had a resilient attitude toward work and life. Even when work was tough I would suck it up and find a way to make it through. I thought, maybe this student does not have enough grit in him. Maybe he  needs some of that suck-it-up attitude that most of us seem to have. 

That grit allows us to trudge through the heavy swamps of life when it is pouring dreadfully over you. I thought, maybe someone needs to tell this student that there are children in Yemen who are living in a war zone and might not live to see their teenage years. Why was this student complaining about a job that, quite frankly, he had no right to complain about? The only answer I could come up with was that it probably had something to do with his upbringing.

I truly think there is a difference between people who grow up in urban areas and suburban areas. Look, I am not saying that one is better than the other. All I am saying is that I think people who grow up in urban areas are better suited to deal with the crappy parts of life. From what I have seen, people who grow up in the suburbs seem to live sheltered lives that do not really expose them to the real world. People with urban roots tend to find out that the real world can be a scary place sometimes.

My high school was a smörgåsbord of different cultures. Unfortunately, in such a diverse environment, there were an eclectic group of individuals. There were the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, MS-13, etc. Due to these people, my school had metal detectors and two cop cars parked outside every day. And because of these people, I learned about consequences. 

I learned that if you offended the wrong person, there would be severe ramifications. Those ramifications would sometimes come in the form of a beating that was usually dealt by a group of enraged teenagers. Witnessing events like that at an early age makes you realize that life can be pretty cruel and unfair sometimes.  

But it also toughens you up and gives you the resilience needed to deal with the stresses of life. I feel that some people are lacking that exposure to the real world. I think this lack of exposure to stressful situations will create individuals who would rather just quit when the going gets tough instead of persevering and finding a way out of the darkness one can sometimes free-fall into.

 Kevin Giardinieri is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering. His column, “Thoughts from the back of the class,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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