I always enjoy walking down the long corridors of the correctional facility I currently inhabit. Whether on my way to a call-out or visit, I can almost imagine myself treading down the wide halls of some campus on the way to one of my classes. Granted I’m not allowed to leave but I do feel free for however briefly it takes for me to walk down this expansive hallway. This day was different though. On this day I was on my way to meet with a counselor for the first time, a very rare opportunity given to an inmate and a welcome change from the normal tired routine that is prison life. I felt privileged to have this opportunity.
Walking into a small, cramped office, I was greeted with a handshake and a welcoming smile that instantly put me at ease. After introductions and a quick overview of my case, she wasted no time and immediately jumped into the topic at hand. I held nothing back, admitting to all my transgressions as I watched her surprised, but very pleased expression looking back at me, for I’m sure she expected there to be some hesitation and maybe even denial. But as I would explain to her, this was a process I’d been conducting internally for years, so any difficulty she might expect, I had found a way to work through long ago. It wasn’t until she asked me the question, thee question, that I finally found myself at a loss for words. A question I’d been struggling to answer for many years and one that has continued to consume my conscious, even today. The Question..? Why did I do it?
How do you even begin to answer a question like this, a question which encompasses a lifetime of behavior and recollections and all within the short time we had allotted for this counseling session? Normally when asked a question, any question, I can jump right in without hesitation or any kind of sincere consideration for what I was about to say. Something like a gunfighter with his guns holstered at the hips and ever ready to fire, shooting off at the mouth had never been a problem for me and a skill I honed every day. Instead, I turned my head to look out the small window of her office, letting the memories of my past play out in rapid succession, like some distorted movie montage on loop. Something important was happening to me at that very moment, so I let it snowball and burst through the years of misconceptions and self-delusion. A new awareness and insight was taking shape in my conscious, shedding light on an issue I’d misunderstood all along. Whats that you ask? Not all questions have an answer and even those that might, still deserve more than some ready-made response that tend to come off rehearsed, like an overused line in a politicians stump speech. Life isn’t like one of our beloved sitcoms, in which you can expect to find a glorious, emotional resolution, by the end of the episode. Sometimes there is no right answer. Sometimes, no matter how sorry we are or how hard we try, we can’t make things better.
I used to take great pride in this gift for words. A consummate bullshitter that went through life trying to maneuver through most of my interactions with others to get my way, no matter what the cost. I could turn on my charm at will, in order to glide through life with as little work as possible and get myself out of trouble if ever necessary. Even to this day, words appear and sentences form, ever ready to try and gain advantage in any given situation placed before me. But the difference between then and now is that I see it and I do my best to rein in those old habits so I don’t follow the same old, tired paths from before. In those moments, I remind myself of something I read years ago and that is that “we have to be truthful in order to speak truthfully” usually we tend to think this only applies when interacting with others but sometimes, many times actually, this means being honest with ourselves.
So I sat there thinking about the question she’d just asked me, trying to evaluate all the different factors that led me to this point in my life. Only the more I thought about it, the more I became aware of the fact that I couldn’t answer the question, not at that moment. As I shook the memories clouding my vision, I refocused my attention on the counselor, looking her in the eyes I could answer, “I don’t know.”
Now I have a decision to make. Do nothing or try and give back somehow. Change or stay forever trapped in a cycle of depression and despair. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in this life, was my failure to look into and recognize my faults. If we can’t bring ourselves to admit our mistakes, trying to hid and cover them up or we can’t find the courage to face them, the opportunity to put things right may pass us by. In this garden of life, we reap what we sow. Most of my life has been spent planting bad seeds, so now it’s time to plant good seeds and cultivate noble causes that may bring about positive outcomes. It’s never too late.