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Carlitos' World
by Carlos Correa

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If there is something I have learned time and time again, it is that you have to value what is being given to you and not something you necessarily want.

Life is hard, but you only learn the hard way by taking chances. All my life I have been in many situations which I doubted myself or there were times I lost sleep over contemplating on decisions, but all in all it didn't stop me from taking a risk. It's easy to figure we only live once and whether we fail or succeed doesn't really matter so as long as we can say we tried.

As a young boy in high school all I ever wanted was a brand new car. I had already burned up many miles on my father's 92 Dodge Shadow and was ready to take on a new vehicle probably to do the same. I knew that purchasing a used car was not in my near future and if I did I knew that I wouldn't make it on the cool list among my friends. You see it was this time in my life that all I ever cared about was how to impress my friends and fit in. I really didn't care about what my folks thought so as long as my friends approved.

I took for granted what I value so dearly now and that is my family and their opinions and thoughts. This familiar behavior seemed to be the theme among many teenagers: friends come before family, which was also a bad mistake. If I bought a used car I knew that my entire minimum wage check would be submerged with fixing up my tore-up vehicle, which did not include insurance or gas costs. I knew buying a used car would be a burden on my young life and it was something I did not want to deal with. From going to classes, taking finals, working on after-school projects plus hanging with my friends and going to work—I didn't want to take a risk on my brand new used car clogging out on me at the wrong time or place. Getting from one place to another in a car was what I needed, and since I was so spoiled, taking public transportation was totally out of the question. Taking a bus was far from fitting in with the cool kids in school, it was an action so unthought-of, and the biggest insult to my coolness I have ever heard of. I was worried more about luxury than I was about how to get to where I needed to go. By 1995 I had picked up a valuable lesson when my parents bought me a Honda Civic of that year for my high school graduation.

I drove my brand spanking new vehicle everywhere from block to block. I took it downtown; I rode it to the South Side to the West Side, from Evanston to Glenview. I went to Deerfield, Hyde Park and even drove my brand new car to Cleveland, Ohio.

By the time I was ready to trade my car for a new one I had practically ruined it with putting a lot of miles on the poor thing. I had no choice but to leave it at the dealer, take what they gave me and try to figure out a way to buy another one on my own.

When I was ready to purchase again, I was already used to riding public transportation. My friends had gone their own separate ways and began living new lives. I was out of high school and in college making new goals and reaching old ones. All of a sudden other things looked cooler, like being part of a fraternity and doing grown-up things. I was merely 21 and already going to the bars with my new friends. I came to appreciate all the things that were given to me or put on my lap. I developed love and care for all those things that I had, no matter how bad they worked, to the best of my ability. 'Work with what you have instead of complaining on what you don't have,' my grandmother used to say to all of us, and each time I remember that it brings me back to my teenage years when I took everything for granted.

Carlitos Trivia

He became the first regular Latino cast member to join Saturday Night Live straight from Chicago's Second City. Who is he?

A. John Leguizamo

B. Horacio Sanz

C. Paul Rodriguez

D. Cheech Marin

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