From deep within the Texas prison system days away from my 37th birthday, I balance the framework of hope, against the weight of the world. I think about who I am today, and who I was ten years ago. How I’ve managed the complexities of adhering to an underground world and, at the same time, somehow keeping my head above water.
Under the intensity of buzzing lights, the slamming of steel doors, and the continuous chime of keys, I diligently search for priceless moments of silence and peace. The ramifications of having little to no escape becomes toxic and debilitating. Running on fumes, there are times when you unconsciously become a part of the herd. Everything and almost everyone here challenges you. I’ve had to bend, mold, and intrinsically emulate all the aspects of what it takes to survive in a Texas maximum security prison. There is no such thing as being a wallflower. Take everything you imagine and multiply it by 10… That’s the first 30 days.
The man in the mirror I see today isn’t afraid to look away. From the inside out, I’ve faced head on the elements of my character that have often failed me. I haven’t reached inside this place in hopes of finding justice or forgiveness. I’ve dug for answers inside myself, when all that was left was my tempered heart barely beating. If I hurt you, I’ve spoken to you and I’ve cried a million times the tears caused in your world, in your life. How do you search for answers to questions your soul is afraid to ask? You rebuild yourself from the ground up, and you become the man you were created to be.
I don’t suffer these days from the claws of the past that gripped me ferociously. I don’t stand unevenly on a foundation build of shame and torment. Neither do I ignore the tragic result of having done so for many years of my life. I take each day one day at a time, though I have never counted them. I collected the moments of my life that are priceless, and will forever save them. My faith in God, in my friends, and in myself, is much greater than my fears. I feel like I’ve spent the last ten years learning how to untangle myself from a place and time that wrapped around me like a spool of thread. Mentally and emotionally breaking free from the very things that caused me to be physically held captive by a ball and chain.
I have lost so much in my 37 years. My life has not ended, though it feels like it has repeatedly time and time again. I have not given up, even though they say the road ahead dead ends in concrete and steel. My heart still beats like the wings of wild birds in a cage. My purpose and reason is not defined, but I am entirely certain it has already been planned. Do I succumb in the absence of freedom, of forgiveness? Or do I stand firm knowing that I’m a changed man who still deserves to celebrate his next birthday.
–Keven James, September 2015