Untitled – Joseph Howell Soto

I was born on July 21st 1999, and I was raised by my grandmother from birth, so I didn’t really know that there was something different about my life. I always knew my grandma was my grandma and not my mom, because I saw my mom off and on since she was in and out of prison and jail. One of the reasons my mom would go so often was due to her use and selling of drugs. When she was out, she would come and stay with me at my grandmother’s until my grandmother told her it was time for her to leave. My grandmother did not like having her around. She kicked my mom out when she was 11 years old, and years later, even after that I was born, she still wouldn’t make an exception and let her stay.

My grandmother raised me well. She taught me how to behave around people, like saying “please” and “thank you.” My life would not be as well off as it is if it was not for her. She did not make my life perfect, but she did what she felt was best for me. She made home-cooked meals and made time for me. She let me be a kid and learn from my own mistakes. Like, if I wanted to do something, she would warn me what could happen, but in the end it was my choice. I feel learning from your own mistakes is the best way someone can really grow.

My grandma always made dinner for me and told me to be home by dark or call her if I was going to stay out late. Looking back on that, I see that it was her way to show that she cared. She also let me watch scary movies with her. That was how we spent our time together—sitting in the dark on our couch with a blanket. When the movie was over, if I was scared, she would let me sleep in her bed. My grandma was always there. She helped me be a better person. She was my guardian—she kept me safe but let me learn as well.

My mom was around when she could be, but she was in prison so much that my dad left when I was four and my sister was born. From what I was told he loved me. My mom said that he would say things that he shouldn’t, like he would tell me to go get him a beer and then call me a name. But he didn’t want me to leave his side. My mom has told me that he loves me, but I wouldn’t know myself because I do not have memories of that time. He meant well. He just did not know how to show love. That is kind of how I am too, so I am okay with that.

After years of addiction, my mom finally got clean and now I am in her care. It feels weird to be with her. She is so much more demanding and protective than my grandma. I don’t really want to do anything around the house for her because of this. With my grandmother, I was able to do almost anything. I helped with whatever I wanted to, like taking out the trash and things of that nature. I could do as I pleased, staying out or sitting in my room. My mom tells me to do a lot more, like cleaning the house and the dishes, when I am not the one who dirties them. And she expects it done almost immediately. I am not used to that.

With my grandma I only had to deal with one sister, and she was able to do things for herself. But with my mom, I have a brother and two sisters, and only one of them really takes care of herself. I don’t really like being around kids, so I just hide away in my room and let my mother or sister take care of them. But then I get yelled at for doing nothing or for not helping as much as she wants, just for her to turn around the next day and say I help so much. She confuses me and makes me mad so often. I don’t really know what to do.

I just close myself in my room and watch YouTube or listen to music, which are my favorite things to do. Speaking of music, I found a group called “I.C.P.” (Insane Clown Posse). They talk real and are outcasts, kind of like I am. They have become my family. When I listen to their music, it makes me feel not so alone. They come off as violent due to their graphic lyrics, but if you pay attention and really listen, there is a greater meaning. Their music is about cleansing the world of bad, meaning bigots and rapists, and making the world a better, safer place. I.C.P. has made me so much happier and calms me a bit when I am angered. It is crazy how music can change your life for the better, making you think and realize you are a part of something more.

My mom not being there as much as she should have been when I was a child has made me question her ability to tell me what is right and what is wrong on multiple occasions. But I listen because she is my mom and I love her. I wish I could say that I am mad at my mom for not being there, but I’m not. I feel crazy like a psychopath because of it. It would be so much easier to be mad and tell her, because it would be over and done with. But I’m not mad. I don’t really care, because I like my life. I feel she could have possibly made it better but I’m not mad or sad. Everything turns out the way it is meant to even if it sucks. That is why I don’t trip off of anything. I just go with it, like the flow of a wave.

Being in Project WHAT! and writing this story is like therapy and makes me feel as if a stress has been released, because I don’t really talk to anyone about this stuff. Even though I didn’t feel bad in the first place, this job makes me feel better. One of my favorite things to do is help people, and I feel like I will eventually be able to help people with their problems. I’m glad my mom told me about this job.

When I was getting ready to move in with my mom, I went back and forth on the idea about moving. At times I don’t want to live with my mom anymore, but other times I am glad that I am. Sometimes I miss my grandma, but it’s usually not on my mind. I go up to see her every once in a while, but not as often as I would like because it costs a lot and is a long trip. My grandmother probably didn’t think I should live with my mom. She never thought highly of my mother. Another reason might be that I am already 15 and my mother has already missed so much. I feel my relationship will improve with my mom because we are living together and it is already getting better than it once was. Something I’ve learned is that you have no control over what happens in your life. So there isn’t a reason to get upset over things. My mom was incarcerated. Things happen. I have no reason to look back on the negative.

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