My visit to Walla Walla to see an old friend in prison was quite an experience. For sure, it will be motivation for writings in the future. Our conversation was quite frank about everything. There’s no room for bull or trying to be someone you’re not. A majority of people think of prisoners as the scum of society. Granted, there are quite a few that simply are scum and don’t deserve to be let out into society again. (Rapists etc) On the other hand, many are there simply because they got caught. How many of us have done something that we shouldn’t have? Drove while drunk? Speeding a little too fast? Fudging numbers on taxes? Trying to come up with examples is futile because no matter what, unless you get caught or kill someone, you’d never really admit to things you’ve done wrong. Lets say you tie off a few too many and head home thinking to yourself that everything will be fine if you can just make into your neighborhood. You might say ‘Thank god I made it without getting pulled over.’ Little do you realize that as you were thanking your god, you drive up on a sidewalk and run over some neighbor kids. Killing both of them. But you’re a flawless person right? The life you live is something only really special people can live right? This can’t happen to you right? You’re better than so many other people! Maybe you let your pride get in the way and you think no one saw you. It’s dark out and they didn’t even have a chance to scream. No one comes running out so you decide to drive off. Phew! Made it home right? Assuming you can squash your conscious, you think you got away with it. Until someone’s hidden camera on their porch captured the whole thing… So the story writes itself from here on out.
My friend is not in for anything like that above. But it could’ve been him. Just as it could have been the Mayor of Port Orchard who just a few years ago got away with a DUI. Just as it could be you! Just imagine… your name on a prison roster. Chances are, many people can’t truly fathom the idea.
My friend is making amazing progress from the person he used to be for so many years. He is of course hardened from doing time, but his sheer understanding of how things are puts me almost at a loss for words. Nothing like prison to truly understand the side of the human condition that is rarely acknowledged but influences so much of our life.
He was worried that since we hadn’t seen each other in such a long time we’d have little to talk about. I was a little apprehensive as well because the last time I saw him he was pretty much a zombie. We ended up talking for all three hours. Of course we talked about stories from the past and people we knew then he was extremely open about things that he had done that he wasn’t proud of. All the reasoning for his punishment really doesn’t mean anything now. The lesson he’s learning can make a profound impact on not only his life and family, but of others as well.
Something that this visit has made me think about today is how I used to feel about things when I was coming out of high school into the real world. I felt the world owed me something. I also felt that the few things I had done in my life commanded respect from anyone, regardless of their background. I knew it all! When I was turning twenty one, the world was my oyster. My confidence was through the roof. At that time I was promoted to an Alignment Tech for Goodyear, making ten bucks an hour, drinking like I knew what good alcohol was, planning my life out as if I knew every possible scenario. I even quit my job at the drop of a hat because I thought my boss was being a dick. No worries at all! I even had a girlfriend that I could do such awesome things with that made me so much more of a person! We would have… Brace yourself… Sex! I knew what love was, and wasn’t. Short of taking another human life, there was nothing else I needed to learn to become everything anyone needs to be.
A few years later when my ass got handed to me, he offered me my old job back. They were also going to pay for me to go to school and get ASE certified. A better opportunity came up at the time so I couldn’t take up his offer but I did ask him why the hell he wanted me back after I walked out. His almost exact words were ”You were a stupid kid that thought your shit didn’t stink. We saw through it and want to give you another chance.” Now at that time, I wasn’t anywhere near being the person I wanted to be, but I was realizing on a daily basis that my arrogance about life had absolutely nothing backing it up. Granted, I was pretty damn good at what I was doing but I had no grounds to think that anyone should respect what I had to say about things.
To this day I’m given ‘gems’ from people who have a better answer for things than anyone else. It comes in many forms. Sometimes people say ‘you should…’ or ‘don’t let it get to you…’. Other times it comes across as advice to stand up and be a total dick to deal with a situation. Everything in between as well.
Luckily I never got caught doing bad/illegal things. Just as some common criminals live with the consequences of their actions, I live with the consequences of my choices in life. My desire to keep driving on is fueled by a desire to never be content with a sub par life. I’m ‘doing time’ per say, but it’s on my terms.
I’ve learned that the best advice I can take from someone, is advice I give myself. I find motivation from others by the actions (or inactions) that they take in life. I apply it as I see fit and formulate a way to cope with this life I’m living. I’m surrounded by kids just like I was. I wasn’t as outwardly expressive about things as some but the general attitude is the same. Through some passive aggressive commenting and blog writing I tend to vent a little of my frustrations. Some people talk shit to voice their opinions, I like to play by a different set of rules. (insert: if it bothers you, then quit reading it)
I think back to my manager, John at Goodyear. During my untouchable phase I think I even told him to fuck off a few times as I was quitting. I failed to realize at the time that he sat there without a hint of shock on his face. My opinions and assumptions about him seemed pretty solid back then. He drank an eighteen pack a night and looked like death every day at work. What a loser right? His ‘stupid stories’ never quite sunk in. He’d tell a story about something that had happened and I’d think to myself ‘Im better than that. That’d never happen to me…’ He was sixty years old at that time and after some digging, I learned that his drinking (and other activities) wasn’t because he liked the taste of beer. Needless to say, he had some pretty damn good reasons why I should have listened.
The end result of this rambling comes down to the idea I wrote about before. Being humbled. I imagine being able to sit in a theater and watch my life happen with a few people beside me. One of my favorite lines from visiting my friend was about a guy that came in bitching about having to do time at that particular prison. My friend says ‘shut the fuck up you idiot, my time earned for good behavior is longer than your entire sentence.’ It’s funny hearing that from him because he’s one of those stoic people that never has to say anything like that. He lets people be who they are. He humors them. He watches them act the fool then they fall flat on their face. I think one of the reasons I’m friends with him is that I understand his level of sniffing out bullshit in people. He gives a little smirk when he sees right through you and is already planning his next move. There are plenty of other people on the non-criminal side of society that I know of that have the same traits. Just like John, who sat there probably thinking to himself ‘who does this kid think he is?’ Gently shaking his head as my ego and I walked out that door.
Maybe one of my favorite quotes is wrong for some people. ‘Your playing small’ might actually be serving the world quite well…