My past I leave behind as I churn my way into a brighter future, but I cannot forget from where I came because it consumes too much space inside my head. How can anyone forget decades spent inside a cage with thousands of other men, all living in the Insane World of Incarceration in the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons?
Never Forget: September 11, 2001, is a day America cannot forget because each year the media reminds its citizens of the day terrorist used jets to attack the World Trade Center in New York City.
Cannot Forget: I cannot forget because I walked the tiers at the United States Federal Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana when the attack occurred, which is the way my brain works (by associating events with my location at the time of occurrence).
Positive Thinking: Though I cannot forget such events and my life inside the prison system, I choose not to allow those thoughts to influence my behavior in a negative manner. I prefer the positive. Had I not been sentenced to prison for the crimes committed on June 21, 1988, I would not be alive today or would have committed even worst crimes if not arrested and put in a cage, which I wrote about in The Price of Change, an essay in one of my books.
In Fence Rows and The Price of Change, I write about a person those who know me today does not see because I am not the same person because I changed my life seven years into a 420-month federal sentence for armed bank robbery and associated charges. Both essays are in the eBook and paperback sold on Amazon Essays & More Straight from the Pen or separately as an eBook at Smashwords.com, originally published by Midnight Express Books.
Excerpt from The Price of Change
I started this sentence in 1988. The fear of prison had left many years before I decided to change. After a while one becomes accustomed to the insane ways of incarceration and the depravations included in prison life. Shutting down emotions helped me cope with the murders and acts of brutality I was exposed to as part of being in prison. I continued to shoot dope and live a miserable existence until 1993 when I sought help through the prison Psychology department at the penitentiary in Atlanta. I had to learn how to be intimate with others. Trusting others was difficult because so many people proved themselves untrustworthy, so I built walls to keep people out. To recover, I tore down the walls and shared the secrets of the soul. It took over a year of therapy for me to make noticeable progress, but I ultimately succeeded in learning how to live with myself without using drugs and alcohol, which I have done since April 5, 1995.
Today, I use my experiences to help others recover and can accept myself; character defects included and have come to terms with my past: it’s overdone with. I can’t change it. I can be a better person by treating others the way I want to be treated, and not the way I may feel they deserve to be treated. If I’m being judgmental of others, which I often am, I think about the biblical parable of the adulterer whom some wanted to stone, and Jesus Christ saying, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and I know I cannot throw any rocks. My ego says I am better than those I wish to judge, but reality says we are all the same—flawed human beings. By accepting others, I can accept myself, flaws, and all.
Another process was praying for people I resented—without making suggestions about what I thought was deserved. Then I became willing to make amends to those I had harmed as suggested in twelve-step programs, and then to forgive others and myself. In a sense, the way I live my life today is one way I make amends to those I cannot make amends to for whatever reason prevents it. An example of my living amends is in this: when I was at a penitentiary in Lompoc, California, I stole loaf bread and bought Ramen Noodle Soups to feed the birds. Some of my friends would come by and joke with me about feeding the birds because of the process that follows feeding them. I often said, “I’m making amends to the ancestors of birds I killed when I was a kid.” And then I would laugh, but I was serious; furthermore, I enjoyed feeding them, as I enjoy the relationships often restored as the result of making amends.
I wish I could honestly write that I no longer experience resentments or anger, but I cannot. I’m still human. However, whenever I experience anger or resentment, I know what to do to find relief: look within myself as I write in my journal. When appropriate, I share it with another person, and when the situation requires it, take the right course of action that coincides with living my life in harmony with the Universe. As a result, I rarely have conflicts.
I am now a model prisoner with a good reputation amongst most staff and prisoners alike. More importantly, I’m loved by my family and friends and am a good human being, which is a priceless gift that I never thought I deserved. People actually like me these days. The price I paid to get here was tough, but it took what it took. And by the way, “here” means alive, not in prison. Prison is just the place my body resides for the time being.
Speaking of prison, as a matter of principle, I really should not be in prison, but the law is such that if a person fails to jump through the hoops at the proper time, any violation of the law made by the government no longer matters. They call it procedural default to avoid addressing issues in the name of the administration of justice, and since habeas corpus laws changed drastically in 1996 to make it more difficult for a person to obtain relief without satisfying extremely stringent standards, very few ever succeed at obtaining relief through the courts. Spiritually though, I know I am right where I need to be. Had I have won my case, I would most likely be dead by now; therefore, I am grateful for the way things turned out, mostly.
The Price of Change comes from the collection, ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN [$8.95 USD]
My worst enemy looked me in the face every time I looked into a mirror.
In Breaking News, I wrote about a variety of issues related to reentry, including recidivism, and the lovely Kim Kardashian standing beside President Donald Trump in the Oval Office inside the White House, after she had assisted Alice M. Johnson with having her federal sentence commuted.
To prepare myself for release and to do what I believed would assist me in obtaining employment upon release, I took a program called WorkKeys that gauges a person’s ability to apply textbook knowledge in the workplace. In other words, a GED or High School Education or College, gives a person a knowledge base.
From my limited understanding, WorkKeys tests a person’s ability to take that knowledge and to apply it in practical situations, as well as to demonstrate his or her ability to solve problems by comprehending written or implied instructions to accomplish a goal. Whatever the case may be, I first scored Gold Certification and then returned to be retested because Gold wasn’t good enough for me.
I wanted and received Platinum Certification!
My certificate verifies that Platinum certification shows that those who receive it have “Skills for 99% of the jobs in ACT’s extensive database”; however, when I walked out of the prison doors with a plan to secure employment by demonstrating my vast amount of accomplishments and skill sets, and a high Grade Point Average in college, none of the things I had accomplished meant anything in regards to getting hired.
On June 17, 2017, my publisher posted my blog, Seeking a Real Job. I wrote it to help others find employment, with a firm conviction that I would not have a problem finding a job because of my education and skill sets. I was wrong!
Since I walked in the prison doors at the age of thirty-one and out of the doors in my sixties, I failed to understand that Age was my enemy, a factor beyond my control.
I posted my resume online with several job sites (Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, Jobcase, Career Builder, etc.). Job recruiters called often. Many of the recruiters literally hung up the phone after I responded to questions relating to my age.
My criminal history never entered the equation.
During the job seeking process while at Dismas Charities, a Residential Reentry Center in Atlanta, an employment counselor at the Georgia Department of Labor suggested I dumb-down my resume and said I was overqualified for most jobs available through them, and that I should start my own business.
Eleven months later, Goodwill of North Georgia hired me as an Environmental Service Technician, which is a long name for a janitor or custodian.
Three months after being given a chance, I was Employee of the Month, and then on the following month, I was featured online in the November 2019, Goodwill Employee Spotlight.
The pay was not providing what I needed to survive on my own. I liked my job because I saw it as a way to help keep customers and employees safer by keeping the environment sanitary.
But on a more personal level, I NEEDED more money to prepare for my future. A few months later, I saw an internal job opportunity that paid a lot more. I applied and was hired as a floor technician and though I work like an Alaskan Malamute, I do get paid more and have better hours.
Business: On my days and time off from that position, I work on a business I started one year ago today, on September 11, 2019.
Now I am investing in the stock market and am working on building affiliate marketing websites to earn money by referring others to quality products and services.
Financial Success Shines Ahead!
My plans for getting involved in an intimate relationship are still pending. I’ve had opportunities but turned them down; others who I was interested in turned me down, well, kind of. To get involved in an intimate relationship probably requires asking someone out for a date or at least a Roll in the Sack, but …. I only played around with that aspect of romance.
I got what I had coming by rejecting a couple of cougars who were stalking me: What Goes Around Comes Around!
The truth is that I know I need to focus more on building a financial future, and unless I were to find that special someone who would be an asset in that endeavor, an intimate relationship would be distracting because I’d want to spend more time with her than working toward becoming financially secure.
Regarding my children and familial relationships, those haven’t worked according to plan either, but … I know that everything is working according to God’s will for my life.
The most important thing is that I have remained free and am in good health. I continue to live my life without using mind-altering substances and strive towards building that bright future I KNOW God has in store for me, one day at a time.
Everything else will fall into place when it is time for me to step into another life. Going for a ride on a pontoon sounds like a great idea, too, so I can watch the water churn behind the boat as we head towards our happy destiny.