While kids my age graduated high school, I sat in adult prison fighting with goon squads in solitary confinement–me against NFL-size men in full riot gear. Hard men became my professors, and I majored in hard time. Released at twenty years old, I found myself out of touch and unable to relate to my peers in the free world.
I tried to reinvent myself. I fell in love with a girl in Seattle and became a father. Not knowing how to be a dad, I fell short of becoming the man I wanted to be. I held a grudge against the world. It owed me something, but I didn’t know what. I was broken, but I did not know how I was broken. Drugs became my god, and I worshipped at the altar of selfishness.
I could not look in a mirror when my addiction led me back to prison. I felt like a fucking loser. I had become my father–my biological father–a man in prison leaving a fatherless boy in the world. “Never again,” I swore. I would use this time to become a better man. I had to get back to my son. He deserved more from me.
A man lays in bed reunited with his son. Missing each other for so long, they talk about everything and nothing at all. The young boy looks to his father. With wisdom past his age he implores, “Dad, promise me something.” “Anything, son,” the man says. “Promise you will never hurt somebody and go back to prison again.” The man unknowingly lies, “I promise son. I won’t.”
My determination to fulfill my promise was no match for my dysfunction. When the challenges of life overwhelmed me, I turned back to drugs. I hated myself for using again. I tried to escape my pain through pipe and needle–a vicious cycle of destruction that ended with me shooting a man in the leg.
My third trip to prison not only broke my oath to my son, but it also took my life. Struck out for my crimes, I am sentenced to death by incarceration–entombed by my mistakes. But it is a fate I refused to accept, nor could I accept the man I became. So I went to work.
Through sincere introspection, I figured out that the problem–the only problem I ever had–was me. That is where my change–the real change–began. Then I learned to serve others, to be a part of a community and to make a difference in other people’s lives. This is where my healing began. Somewhere along the way, prison stopped being the place that kept me from doing bad things and started being the place that keeps me from doing good.
I stand bare-chested today, not on the arm of a sofa, but on the edge of something greater: I stand on the precipice of freedom, the possibility of release due to progressive legislation. I have the cape of experience tied around my neck, the floor is still concrete. I know well the gravity of my decisions and I will land on my feet. Look, I am Superman.