Borders; Keeping People in Their Place

Borders are a part of our everyday lives, we cross them going from one side of town to the other, from one city to the next, and when traveling state to state there is usually a sign along the highway happily welcoming us into the next territory. There are borders separating neighbors properties, fences to keep that dog that is always getting out of his yard out of someone's trash cans, even if they live in an isolated area with some farm animals borders are there. They are there to keep the chickens in the coop, keep the pigs in the pen, and to keep the sheep from wandering off. As hard as it may be to believe there are some people who live in one place their whole lives and never venture outside of the city of their birth, maybe some never leave the house but even they encounter borders in their daily lives. In a lot of low-income areas, there are people, as previously mentioned, who never go far from home. A high school friend never saw a mall until she was in her twenties, she never saw the ocean until she was in her thirties. The boundaries that kept her and her sisters living in one town for most of their lives were unimaginable to me. Even as a teenager, my sister and I would jump on a train and head to Newark N.J. to go shopping, or hop on the bus and go to the mall. We would go down to the shore, that's going to the beach if you're from New Jersey, with my grandparents at least twice a month in the summer as children. The world outside of my hometown was never out of reach for me, but there are people who were much younger than myself, who never crossed the local borders. There are things that keep people stuck in one place, poverty being one of them. With this being a factor for many, the part of the world that they see is very small, except on television. Introduce gang violence into the equation and their borders become even smaller. When I was in sixth grade, they were still busing students to different areas for elementary and middle school. Your friends would be people from every part of town and as children, people got along as well as children do. In 1979, a movie called The Warriors came out, around that time is when I remember seeing the older guys where I lived start to form “gangs.” They were quite mild by today's definition of what makes a gang, but it's after that point that the invisible borders began to appear in the area. You knew what part of town they were from by the name they chose, the guys where I lived were called Queen City Rollers, named after a bar that was on a corner adjacent to the apartments we lived in. There was a movie theatre that every kid and teen in the area went to but after the teens started to identify as gangs, it was a gamble to go. One incident that I remember clearly was an all-out brawl that started the process of the owner closing the place down. The movie theater was located in an area that was considered to belong to one group, so any other group who made their way there risked getting into an altercation. Eventually, these guys could not go far from where it is that they lived, this was the reason some of the older guys dropped out of school, there was one high school and for them, the risk was too great to care about education. This, of course, put a further limitation on what borders they would face in their lives. A lot of these guys ended up incarcerated at some point, some only went once while to others, it was a home away from home. This invisible boundary that was created by their own actions assured that the borders that kept them stagnant in life would be greater than the opportunity to move beyond them. With there being so many outside influences that could create situations and circumstances to keep one locked into a certain sector of society, self-imposed boundaries to me, would be the most hindering. In my adult life I've broken through quite a few borders, set by my family, society or even myself, and I've learned that getting out of your comfort zone and moving beyond what you know is one of the most freeing feelings you could imagine. Even if you venture a little too far and long for home, escaping the ties that bind you gives you the wind beneath your wings, or possibly wings or your sneakers. Wherever the wings land, breaking through those borders is guaranteed to make you soar far and wide, seeking other boundaries to cross.

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