Chris Sims sits on a set of porch stairs near 38th and Auer in Sherman Park. Sims, who sports purple and black to match his flat-brimmed Baltimore Ravens hat, wears the words “Loyalty” and “Respect” on his forearms.
“I don’t know what I really wanna do,” he says. “I guess I’m just gonna have to go explorin’ somewhere. I can’t stand still — gotta move around and get what you want.”
Sims has lived in Milwaukee all his life. He grew up in a couple different places, just off Center Street. He says life there was “up and down.”
“Sometimes you’ve got good days, bad days,” says Sims. “Bad days: somebody gettin’ killed, you know, car accidents … all the violence type ‘a stuff. But good days, it was just everybody can enjoy they-self, you know?”
Chris is an only child and, therefore, learned a lot on his own. That penchant for self-education was magnified by the fact his father wasn’t around.
“I didn’t know my dad; mom [was] always good, made sure she provided, you know, taught me what I needed to know.”
He adds, “It was cool; I came out with this head on my shoulders.”
Chris attended Wisconsin Avenue Elementary School, which closed down, so he switched to Townsend Street School. He went to Washington High School and then an alternative school after being kicked out; he finished at Custer High School (now, Obama). Sims wasn’t much into school, except for the social aspect, which “made it alright.”
The 23-year-old Sims has worked “regular” jobs to pay bills since he graduated, a situation he refers to as “ordinary.” His most recent gig is a long-term, temp-to-hire job packing soap, detergent and other household items in a warehouse.
“It’s gettin’ me by,” he says. “It’s alright — I know I could do somethin’ better, but … it’s workin’ for me right now.”
When Sims thinks about his future, he says, he wants to go back to school. He just doesn’t know for what. Even his childhood dreams of wrestling and playing basketball have fallen to the wayside. “You know, I never really … had, like, a real role model, so I don’t know what I really like, like that. That’s the only problem I got with myself right now.”
Not knowing, not having an immediate direction, is frustrating and upsetting, for Sims. “I’m supposed to be further right now,” he says.
“It’s like, what’s next? Where’s my steppin’ stone, you know?” Chris asks. “I know I’m gonna figure out something ‘cause I think [about it] every day — people tell me I’m good at a lot.”
And Sims doesn’t intend to wait forever. If what he’s looking for won’t come to him, he’s determined to go and get it. That includes leaving Milwaukee.
“Prolly startin’ off here, you know — start off small — then move around the state and all that,” Chris says.
“You’ve gotta start from somewhere.”
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