Jared is from Oak Park, Illinois, and was living in the western suburbs of Chicago at the time of his interview. He was spending his days “either working, or taking care of my five children.”
Jared’s Most Likely To is: Most Likely To Bump His Head But Come Back To Make A Difference
He explained what gives him the ability to get back up after “bumping his head”:
“From the beginning, I’m an African-American [who was] adopted by a White family. So I’ve never known my roots. I’ve never known where I came from. I’ve never known my medical history, or what my [birth] parents did for a living, or why I was adopted.
My adoptive family was great; they instilled a foundation in me. My father was a doctor; my mother was a social worker…so I had a good life. But I still had to go out there and find out what makes me tick. What’s brought me back was the foundation they instilled in me.
They instilled good qualities, good morals, [and] good character in me, so when I was out there bumping my head, I knew that [life] wasn’t meant for me.”
We talked about what it was like for him to grow up as an adopted child:
“I was adopted into a better situation…so my situation enhanced. However, it also left a void. I’ve been in counseling and seeing therapists my whole life…I’ve gotten better at covering it in certain situations, and in certain areas, but it leaves a child with a void.
And either they find it out, or they neglect it and deal with it later in life. I’ve been searching. Since I was probably in 4th or 5th grade, I’ve been on the hunt. Again, that’s why I say I’ve bumped my head so many times.
A lot of people try to cover it up and act like nothing’s wrong and deal with it when they’re 30 or 40. And that’s just not my personality.”
Jared talked about the people who have the biggest influence on his life:
“Well I get influenced in a different way. I don’t look at what somebody has or what somebody accomplished and get influenced. The people who have potential and aren’t using it, or are using it, or are trying to use it…that’s who influences me.
I look at it like we’ve got so many kids and youth out here that are trying, or that have the potential to succeed and aren’t – or they are – and that’s what influences me to do better or get better or stay better. I can’t pinpoint a certain person or a certain group necessarily…if you’re striving; you’re influencing me to want to strive.”
We talked about the importance of the idea of “coming home” for people who have served time:
“To actually come home means to come back to your wife, your kids, your extended family, your friends that have been waiting on you, and rooting for you, and writing you, and praying for you. And now you have a chance to walk out those gates and say either ‘the time did me’ or ‘I did [the time]’.
For me to come home, I had all the cards stacked against me, and I’m still out two years later. And I’m kicking, and I’d like to say I’m making a positive difference in my household and in my social circles…I’m able to be out here free with a new chance to stay out.”
We talked about what it feels like, as a man, to be incarcerated:
“For me being 24, with a wife, kids, this, that, and the other…you’re brought to nothing. Being incarcerated as a man – as a real man – not as a boy, but as a man…you have nothing.
You’re told when to shower. You’re told when to eat. You’re told what to eat. You’re told what soap to buy. You’re told what food to buy. You’re told when you can get on the phone. You’re told when your family can come visit you.
You don’t have a name. You’re offender ‘whatever your number is’. Everything’s stripped from you. If you can’t assess your situation when incarcerated as a man, I feel bad for you. Because it’s breaking. That was my rock bottom.”
Jared talked about the love of his children and his love for his children:
“That’s my motivation. They’re the reason why I woke up on that hard mat…They’re the reason why I kept breathing…they love you no matter what you do. They might look at you a little different, but their unconditional love, is unconditional love.
My kids would write [to] me and draw me pictures. No matter what darkness I [was] in, in there or in the streets, they make my heart beat. They make me keep wanting to fight, keep wanting to breathe, keep wanting to give more of my effort.”
Jared offered some final words for young people who are on the verge of deciding which way to go in life:
“I’m begging y’all…I am begging you to do the simple things in life that the people who care about you [ask you] to do.
The simple things. Go to school. Do your best in school. Get your grades. Find a job. Go to college if you can. Find a career.
College isn’t for everybody, but do something productive. Because the way things are set up is that they have a place for you if you get off that path, and struggling is not a must. You can totally have a better life.”
Check out some of the organizations that inspire Jared: