March 29th, 2017
Finally, I am back home. In my warm comfy bed, alone with my Fiance Anna. After all this time, I have made it back. As I lay in complete comfort I feel the bed begin to tremble. The tremble grows into shaking the entire room. An irate voice shouts, “Main line is Open! Go to Chow!” I wake up from my dream on a steel rack bunk. My bunkie below me must have moved around, shaking the rack; and the C.O. on duty felt the need to belt out over the camp wide intercom a breakfast announcement. I’m still in Federal Prison, but not for much longer. I will be home in less than two weeks. Many thoughts surge through my mind. Reflecting back on the day I voluntarily surrendered into Federal Prison; it was just a few weeks after arriving back home from a magical vacation driving up the California coast. Over 19 long months ago. Now, only a handful of days remain. A variety of emotions arise through each of these final passing days. In a laborious manner I attempt to grasp the actuality that this chapter of my life is coming to a conclusion. Time does go on. Somehow, the days tick by, no matter how, they do.
To continue my spiritual journey. To cultivate my relationship with Anna and use our weekly dates to strengthen our bond. To come out of prison stronger and wiser. It has tested my will power, my drive, my determination. It has tested my relationships, revealing meaning where it truly lies. It opened my mind, inducing a deep search within to places never explored before.
It will be 562 days when I walk out these doors and embrace Anna. She made a commitment to stand by my side, from the very beginning, essentially serving this sentence with me. Having drove over 18,000 miles in her determination to support me, coming to visit me every single weekend. Supporting our relationship daily. Showing her vast love for me in ways I will forever be grateful. Repaying her daily by showering her with all my love is something I look forward to greatly. I was one of the fortunate to have this incredible support. Including support also from family and those friends who went out of their way to give a caring word, or thoughtful gesture. Actions I will always be more than grateful for.
As I get shorter, my release comes up in conversation ever so more often around the compound. Its one of those things that no matter how different we may be, its a common thread connecting us. All the men here long for that magical day – the day of release. We all want the next guy to go home. Not only so they can be free, but so that then we are that much closer to our time. We compare sentence lengths and most know the next handful of men due to leave. These are common threads, between men who many would ordinarily have never crossed paths in life- let alone live together in highly confined spaces. It shows how we are all the same, we are all human. It breaks down the walls we create, or society creates, between race and income level. Between cultures and backgrounds. While some may remain in their box, others break free. Getting past the persona or image, to the person. Some may have made poor choices, and many were also dealt a bad hand. Environments influence, laws change, criminal areas of focus adjust, and political movements occur. Some of the recent political movements resulted in many men receiving a second chance. This prison, Pekin Federal Prison Camp, has more than a few who were blessed with Clemency from President Obama. Each with a powerful story of navigating their way through their life challenges, with a new outlook on life.
Although extremely limited resources are available here for preparation to successfully reenter society, I see those few who constantly take action, and work to prepare themselves. The System of Corrections may perpetuate failure, but the empowered come out on top. These men have a different attitude. Its positive, its strong, its filled with a purpose, with a large bright image of their desired future constantly in focus. Its about striving to find the positive in each day, even if you have to really look hard, and then look even harder.
42 months of imprisonment hit me hard at sentencing. Yet, I held strong that it would all be ok, somehow. I just recently spoke to a man Carl. He is serving 21 months out of a 27 month sentence. A more typical reduction on a federal sentence. I am ecstatic to be going home after serving 18 1/2 months out of 42. This reduction didn’t just come my way on its own. I worked for it, and put in a 100% commitment that I would do everything in my power to get home as soon as possible. Filed Administrative Remedies to the Prison Staff, the Warden, and the Regional Office of the BOP. Went through the legal process of an appeal with the 7th Circuit Court Of Appeals- by going through trial I saved my appellate rights. Completed a 10 month 500+ hour long RDAP program. Followed the Case Managers recommendation to take Ace (education) courses. Along with many hours invested into letters Anna and I wrote to Senators, Congressmen, and my Judge, leaving no stone unturned.
Federal Prison is a life changing experience. For those incarcerated and for those loyal and committed women who stand by their man. For the children who have no choice in the matter and are without their father. For all the loved ones who carry along through the struggle. Life changing, for the better and unfortunately for some, the worse. In comparison to some my sentence was extremely long, while to others very short. The longer the sentence the more challenging, but no matter the length there is nothing simplistic about it. It takes a deep mental strength to come out on top. As life does, it brings each one of us unique challenges to face in our life. We all make mistakes at one time or another, some big and some small. I believe its possible for anyone to grow, if there is 100% commitment. With the right attitude, strength from tenacity, and the right perspective. As Albert Einstein said “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”
I dug deep for all the opportunity, wringing it out to get every last drop. At times I have questioned these positive aspirations, but I always refocused to continue on. We can read countless books on being great, on mindfulness, reaching goals, achieving happiness and success, or overcoming adversity. There are endless self growth reads to be absorbed. Yet, when in the moment of pain, of isolation- when the challenge is a monster towering over us- all those teachings could be thrown right out the window. The books can be stacked up and burned. It is in ones own power of will that determines it all. The will of your mind will bring you to greatness, or it will bring you to great difficulties.
As I have discussed with some friends I’ve made here at Pekin, there is nothing easy about being here. There are moments better and moments not. Its knowing the painful ones will pass, as everything does. It is to not remain in that lower state of mind, and to grab hold tight of those higher up moments. Riding them as far as they go. The more I practice this, the bigger these waves become. When I think of the one thing I took out of my time in prison, I can never just choose one. To commit fully to who and what you truly love, which that makes you the happiest you can be. To stay true to your morals, true to your self. To always give the Love which can be given, at every given opportunity. That any challenge can be conquered.
This esoteric experience will be forever embedded in my mind- as a powerful resource. A time to ponder on, keeping me grounded and on track. Assuring I do not allow myself to get caught up in the web of life that holds empty purpose and false meaning. I will never forget how it feels to be without my Freedom.
I hope these blogs provide help and give hope. To those who may be in a struggle of any kind, especially when in the face of a monster. Those of you who may find this as an inspiration to make positive changes. Or those of you who may be unsure how you will make it through the next year, month, or even hour- to know that there is a way and you can do it. To find the silver lining and never give up.
My next stop, Chicago Halfway House. The time I have been waiting for since September 28th, 2015. It is finally here. My day of release. Baby I am coming Home!