Over the past few weeks I asked about twenty fellow inmates the following question:
What’s the best thing about being inside and/or this location specifically?
I asked because I wanted to write a posting saying something like, “It’s Not All Bad Inside.” I thought that by asking others I’d hear perspective and views differing from my own. What surprised me was that all the responses fell into one of three categories, each garnering about one third of the total.
The first category is:
“There’s nothing good about being inside or at this location.”
Even when I pressed them to be more thoughtful they couldn’t come up with any positives about being here, inside. Perhaps this response isn’t surprising on its own however it came from some of the people I’d thought were most pragmatic about their incarceration. Don’t misunderstand, I’d rather not be here either, yet I am and I try to make the most of it. When I fall into this line of thinking it slows time down and makes this experience more burdensome.
The next category is:
“It’s relatively violence free here.”
I’m at a low security institution and I’d have to agree with this assessment. It’s not that I haven’t witnessed, or heard of, fights but you generally don’t have to be constantly looking over your shoulder to know who’s behind you. You do have to be aware of your surroundings but as long as you keep your nose clean you’re relatively safe – it is still a prison and you’re still dealing with people who may have been violent in their past. One person even described this location as, “A highly dysfunctional community college campus.” I don’t think I can agree in total but it is highly dysfunctional here.
These first two categories made me think of all the people in the world, maybe billions, who would gladly trade places with we inmates – the homeless, the hungry, those in war torn countries, and those without sanitation or safe drinking water. Would they say there’s nothing good here inside? And wouldn’t they appreciate the lack of violence?
The final category is:
“Time is the best thing wherever you’re imprisoned.”
Time to reflect and be introspective. Time to look at your own history and envision a new future. Time in these ways is the school of thought I think is indeed the best thing about living in exile.
When I was on the outside I took time to think but I concentrated on worldly things like material belongings, money, success, and feeding my addiction. It’s not that I didn’t ever think about the truly important things in life like family, faith, and health but it was out of balance. I thought too much about the former and too little about the latter.
It took being stripped of all the good things in my life to show me where I should have been focusing my thoughts and introspective time. Now I can say without hesitation that there’s nothing more important than my faith, family, and health. Think on it a while and I’m sure you’ll find this to be true for you as well. I know it seems obvious that these are the important things in life but if we’re honest with ourselves we’d admit that we let other less important items cloud our thinking and take our eyes off the truly critical facets of life.
Keep your eyes on the true prizes of life. ~jdoe