Squeeze by Kenneth ChabertAudio version <a href="http://ripr.org/post/squeeze" target="_blank">www.ripr.org</a>I believe that your personal history shapes you for the moment, but you ultimately decide who and what you will become.Hold my breath, close and open my eyes, tighten that grip, and squeeze. This was the first time I shot a gun. My heart was pounding, my body drenched in sweat, my hands trembling from the pressure of the gun blast. This was the trajectory of my life before I realized there were other ideas, goals, people to meet, and ways of life. Growing up in the inner city of the Bronx, NY is the toughest situation I've had to endure. Many days I was paranoid about last night’s shooting. I would step outside, my heart pounding. I take deep breaths while I walk to the train station. But right before I cross the street, I see gang members throwing up gang signs. My mother yells from the sixth floor window, “Kenneth you forgot your bus passes.”In those days, every trip to school was a challenge, because I wore a uniform and embraced school. Part of me knew that the acceptance from my neighborhood is more important than the acceptance of teachers and serious students in my school, because they cannot help me survive in my environment. But I also knew I’m very knowledge driven, because I want to be successful when I grow up. My teachers always said, “You’re going to go far,” and “there is something special about you.” Yet every time I was told this, their words were drowned out by the overwhelming problems and dangers in my neighborhood. Straight A’s don’t matter out here; toughness is what matters out here. The neighborhood voices used to taunt me: "You're going to school?! Boring!" I always felt like I’m too tough for the nerds, and I am too smart for the gangsters.I now believe that we ultimately control our fate in life, that our personal history shapes us for the moment, but we ultimately decide who and what we will become.Nobody can stop me from becoming what I want to become, and I've refused to let my environment or anyone stop me from being “great.” Along the way I've learned to use my past and my environment as an advantage in my academic world as a student at Providence College; I've learned to embrace my unique circumstances, and use them to propel me forward. But strangely, no matter how much success I achieve, I know that it all started from my life on the streets in the Bronx. And in my world at Providence College, often it feels like the trauma starts all over again. The first time I took an exam, I relived that moment on the streets: Take a deep breath, close and open your eyes, tighten that grip, and squeeze.