A Personal Essay by William Abbott
“Abbott, get your shit and roll it up,” said the King County correctional officer. Those eight simple words had never made a man happier. Well, I didn’t have to be told twice. Finally, the day I had been not so patiently waiting for, and the final moment in that day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Moments before I heard those words, as I sat on my bunk, alone in my thoughts, conscious of the snoring in the back ground and the overpowering aroma of last night’s meat surprise stew, I anxiously waiting to hear the words I had heard so many times before. I wondered what it is that I must do differently this time to change, to change a life filled with pain, loneliness, and despair. The majority of my suffering had been at my own hand, so I believed the only hand that could change the course of my future and my suffering was my own. I was so tired of sitting on this, or any other bunk.
My mind started to wander to the many times over the last six months I had sat in this very same position making plans and goals for this very day. On those days I would sit making my plans, writing my goals and building my self-confidence. I wondered if I was, again, just wasting my time as I had so many times before. Going through the motions, building my dreams that would never come true. So many times had these well thought plans, these realistic dreams been laid to rest because of a left when I needed to go right, or because I went south when to the north was my salvation.
I don’t even think I realized it then. The changes I’d made. The confidence I’d built, and the work I had done would be all I could and the only thing left for me to do was to sit here and wait so that I may carry out those recycled plans, this blueprint for happiness I had known for years yet never felt like I was in a position to peruse, never had the opportunity that I had now. Even in my new mode of thinking I would be able to come up with another hundred excuses why change was not possible until this very moment. I could tell you about all the cards that were stacked against me and all the reasons, in my mind, that failures that had not even taken place yet are still somehow someone else’s fault, no, this time something feels different. The way I felt was kind of like when you have to do something that you had to do a lot in the past. It’s a means to an end and you have to do it but you still don’t like to. You know what I mean? Well it’s exactly like that, but, completely different.
This physical experience happened so many times. So many times in the past have I gone through this process that I could do the complete booking and release procedure for the officers and myself and get it done (as if that would ever be allowed) but no, the difference is not a physical one, it’s not something you will be able to see when I change my clothes or brush my teeth it won’t been seen in the geographical change I choose to make because the change is in my attitude and behaviors, Thoughts, and feelings, Decisions, and results, after all, until today these were the only decisions that were available to me and this was the only aspect of my life I still had control over. That is, if you really think we have control. These were the only decisions I was capable of making. There came a time in my life when the fear and frustration of responsibility were almost too much to bear, or so I thought. That was one of the methods I used to justify risking the freedom that most cherish. One of the many things I have learned is that freedom is a state of mind and subject to interpretation. The reason I say this is because it was behind a twenty-five foot razor topped wall that I found my freedom. But that’s another story.
As I waited for my name to be called, I started to get nervous, and with the nervousness came the pacing. I was not nervous and pacing because of the things I knew were about to happen. Oh no. That was as comfortable to me as the sun to a flower. It was the unknown that had my attention, the what if’s and the unforeseen’s. I was being asked to trust and accept that everything would be as planned. And whose plan was it anyways? Did I really want “The Plan” or was that what was wanted for me? No, no, no that’s the fear of the work ahead, The fear of the failure, the fear of the success, the fear of everything in-between because… And then it happened, the words I had been waiting for for the last one-hundred and eightieth day.
As I went through the humiliating motions for the last time, I thought to myself, not for the first time, why do I need to be strip searched? I’m being released from jail? Is it really necessary to molest me this one last time, subject me to this final humiliation of “Grab your cheeks and spread em,” yelled the overweight officer as he leaned against the poop filled, metal toilet. This time I would not ask. I would not make this or any of the other snide “Rage against the Machine” type comments that made me such a rebel. No, I would not make the ass out of myself as I had done every other time. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not because I was not capable of making a complete idiot of myself either. I can be a bigger ass then anyone I know and make sure that everyone knows it, I was the undisputed king in that department and my record, even after over three years out of the lifestyle that thrives on such behavior. No more red pajamas all day long with sandals. No more subjecting myself to the humiliation of that life
It has been well over three years since that fateful day. Three long, not always pleasant, years. Don’t get me wrong, I would not give back a single moment of this time for anything in the world. Everything I have gone through made the proud, Honest, Trustworthy man I am today but when you are trying to return from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body and you are using a Very unconventional method’s that have proved very successful despite the controversy surrounding it.
Yes, that day, that moment, that second was truly “the first day of the rest of my life” because it was on that day that, and in that moment, and for that fleeting second that I made a decision. A decision so profound and yet so simple in its actions that it effected the rest of my life and led me to this moment, this education, and this freedom.