It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since I was your age. I just turned 25 a couple weeks ago and a lot has happened in life between 15 and now.
As you used to say, “peep game.” I’m about to lace you up on the life that you’re living.
At 15 I know that it seems like you’ve got nothing to live for and so much to die for. From trying to come up as a little homie to living lavish with those Ecstasy pills you’re running through like candy. Everything is about the moment and anything else is irrelevant. I know you don’t think like that, but I can say that that’s the way you’re living.
Young Sharky, the life you’re living and the way you’re going about it is going to change drastically in the years to come. Right now I know you still feel the pain of losing your best friend and seeing Enrique die, but I promise you that you will come to terms with it in time. It’s not going to be easy by any means but the drugs and the violence are only sidestepping the problem. Still I know that to you it’s all that matters.
You want revenge against the guy that killed your cousin and you’re mad at God for taking Danyelle. I’m telling you now you will never settle the scores for those deaths. In the process of your pain you will only harm innocent people that had no hand in either of your losses.
It’s hard to understand right now but I promise you I know what I’m saying — from personal experience. Have you noticed that every single day you take handfuls of Ecstasy, drink liquor by the handle and smoke weed by the ounce, yet still every night you lay down to sleep wondering why the pain returns?
You spend stupid amounts of money on stupid stuff, yet with each transaction you’re wishing one of two things; that your cousin, Enrique, was enjoying it with you or that your best friend, Danyelle, was picking outfits out for you.
Ten years from now you’ll be trying to stop the drugs but won’t be able to put together more than a couple months clean. And it’ll no longer be party drugs and alcohol in your system but a needle in your arm that you can’t remove.
If you don’t change now and seek help you’re gonna be lost. Your mindset will still be that of a young street thug, only now you won’t be affiliated anymore because your so-called homeboys turned their back on you. Your capacity for learning is going to be wrecked by all the poison you put in your body, so I hope you’ve learned all that you want out of life.
I bet you would never guess this, but in a year and a half one of your closest homies is going to be someone you once deemed an enemy. And he’s a damn good dude, maybe better than you.
I’ve seen all these things because I lived your life from 15 to 25. The only thing is I didn’t learn any of this until just recently while I’m sitting in prison serving life without parole. So take this game I’m giving you and get help. Open your heart and mind to the fact that there is a better life out there but you must go and grab it. Nobody will hand it to you.
At times it’ll seem too hard and you’ll want to give up. Your mind will tell you that it’s all too hard and that the drugs are the solution. The street life and the struggle will make you want to turn to horrendous acts of violence. In the end you’ll only hurt yourself.
The most beautiful things in your life are only four and five years away. At 19 you’ll have a daughter and you’ll name her Danyelle after your friend you lost years ago. She’s so beautiful and perfect it’ll be a fitting tribute. At 20 you’ll have another daughter and name her Adrianna after yourself. I promise you she’ll be your mini me in every way, shape and form.
Change your life now and you’ll be able to give them the life they deserve. Keep at it with all your twisted ways and you’ll be writing them letters from a cell, with tears in your eyes. I know you think real men don’t cry; well, we’ll see about that when you’re my age. Change or don’t. It’s up to you, young self.
—Twenty-five and looking back
Adrian Castillon is serving two life terms for his association in a 2013 double homicide when he was 21. He is in California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster, California.
The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth, was founded by David Inocencio in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.