Six Months of Freedom
(The author, fresh off his motorcycle, says, "Even waiting in traffic, I'm smiling.")
On August 12, 2014 I reached six months of freedom. It isn’t the fact that I reached six months—I had no doubts about that—It’s the surprises I encountered and change in my perspective that are worth noting.
I was surprised at all the people standing at the intersection medians and holding signs for money. I was surprised at the cost of everything . I was surprised to realize I hadn’t seen a tree close up in a lifetime and how beautiful they are. I was surprised how nice strangers can be when you smile and wish them a good day. And I’m still surprised at finding joy in everyday things. Life is good.
Clearly I was in culture shock six months ago. It was almost sensory overload—so many colors, smells and sounds. Yet I adapted quickly and felt that I was acclimated after a fairly short period of time. While I may have been making progress quickly, I can look back now and understand just how much I was struggling without being aware of it myself.
For any long-term ex-prisoner making the adjustment, acclimation has an increased chance of success if they can gain a sense of belonging. I truly did not feel I belonged out here, at first. Oh, I knew I had earned it and I wouldn’t allow anything to derail me, but I also felt apart. Now I actually feel I belong and I have an interest in making my community better in some way. I believe it’s imperative to afford long-term prisoners the opportunity to invest in society before they are released through charity or some similar method in hopes that they could begin to build connections with the foreign land they are about to be dropped into with two-hundred dollars.
One subject no one thought to speak to me about was women. Since the early 80’s we had been bombarded with scary stories of AIDS and STD’s. If that weren’t enough to be concerned about, then I had to determine at what point to mention to a prospective mate about my past. If I blurted it out too soon it might scare them off. Mention it too long into the relationship and it would appear to be deceptive. Quite a balancing act for someone who rarely even got to speak to women for decades. Gratefully I met someone who understood my situation better than I could have hoped for. It has been a wonderfully scary time as I experience some very intense emotions and navigate my way through some of the greatest joy of my life.
On February 12, 2014 I was reborn. The countless wishes over the decades for a “Do Over” had finally arrived. Every breath I take today is sweet. We are breathing the same air… How does yours taste?
me again, Tom...............so good to hear you are doing well. Hey, I always told my dear first graders to try hugging a tree to help "ground them"...........I see you love trees as well. Dear God, I pray my friend Tom will contact me here in Regina, Saskatchewan, CANADA. ..............................AMEN AMEN AMEN.........................
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