Updated: Apr 21
by Ricky J, prisoner “When I get out of here, things are gonna be different!” How many times a day do I hear men make that statement? I’ve said it or thought it myself down through the years. Most guys in prison have a lot of good intentions when it comes to making parole and doing something positive with their lives. The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. Many of us go through the bargaining phase. We pray, “God, if you just get me out of prison, I promise to do better.” However, this is just a cruel psychological game we play on ourselves.
We lose faith and get bitter at God when the parole answer is not in our favor. Some religious people tell me that my time in prison is “a wilderness experience” or that I’m like “Jonah in the belly of the whale.” Although I understand the point they are trying to make with these analogies, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable with the logical conclusion of such statements: that life while in prison is somehow “on hold” and that the only way I can overcome this situation is to do the best I can until I am released, and life starts back up again.
I’ve gone through periods of regret, replaying my past repeatedly in my head, thinking about everything I should have done differently. I’ve also done my fair share of wishing for a better life sometime in the future. Over the years, I’ve realized that the past is behind me. I must learn from my mistakes, but living in regret only brings depression. The future is not promised to me, so I can wish and hope all I want, but my plans may never come to be.
All I have is here and now.
The present moment is the only moment when life is available. Freedom has little to do with where my physical body may happen; it is a state of mind. Happiness is not dependent on outward circumstances but on the human heart. Since I cannot change my present circumstances, I must change the way in which I view them. It is a matter of perspective.
I’ve learned to find pleasure in the simplicity that life offers: walking in the rec yard on a sunny day; hugging my mom and dad when they come to visit; laughing at a good joke told by a close friend; enjoying the fresh orange in my Johnny sack; basking in the stillness and perfection I sense during daily meditation; these are the things that bring me joy and peace in the midst of all the negativity of prison. I’ve discovered that life is a miracle and that every second of existence is a precious gift. I choose to accept that gift.