The other day I experienced one of those moments where another human being’s actions simply shocked me, and not in a good way.
Out of 1,500 people at this prison, about nine of us take college courses through UW-Platteville. Logically, in order to combat the continually rising cost of education and our significant lack of resources, we all look out for each other. So, when my annoying former celly started taking courses we overlooked our shared dislike of him and lent a hand. On my part, I helped him start his first assignment, made sure he saw an important newspaper that another guy received, and worked it out so he could get a $150 textbook for free.
A month and a half later I started taking one of the exact same courses as him, and because I was using an older edition of the textbook I needed to write down several questions from his new edition. This would take about 15 minutes, otherwise I’d have to spend $120 for the entire book. However, when I went to his room to get the questions he seemed to be caught in the throes of a stupid attack.
Suddenly, he was unwilling to “get involved in anyone else’s studies.” Despite having the officer’s permission to do so, he wouldn’t so much as bring the book out to the dayroom and turn to the pages I needed to see. I didn’t even need to touch the damn thing.
Everyone in our group was thrown off by this turn of events. After we’d helped this dude out for the past two months, he was pulling this crap. He knew I’d planned to copy those questions and that I needed that $120 for another course. Then, in the textbook style of someone with no character, he gave three of us different reasons for his actions. If you’re gonna be a prick, at least own up to it
On the flip side, this situation has given me a great opportunity to confront my biggest demon: vindictiveness. On the streets I had a powerful taste for revenge (Tupac’s opening line in “Hail Mary” was an understatement for me). I held on to virtually every stupid grudge, as a result of which I ended where I am now. Since then, however, I’ve overcome this former menace, yet I haven’t been this tempted to embrace its deceptive warmth in a long time.
With my proximity to him and the large number of inmates and staff who both like me and dislike him, there are many ways for me to get back at this guy. But I refuse to feed the monster that used to control me. If I’m serious about not only staying out of prison, but finding success in society, I have to be able to always act the way I would if I were being watched. What would I do if my PO were around, or a cop? What about my boss or a potential employer? What about my kid? Furthermore, what good will it do me to get involved in the high school like drama of what is essentially a petty beef?
I know my flaws and because of my criminal past I feel especially motivated to strengthen myself against any part of my nature that could ambush and sabotage me. Ultimately, if I don’t police myself now, someone else will later. And I know who I’d rather obey.
Keep boxing temptation and chasing your dreams.
TIP: With an organ transplant waiting list of over 100,000 – and growing daily – it’s unfortunate that he more than two million inmates in this country are unable to donate to anyone outside their families. Even those waiting execution aren’t allowed to donate before or after death. For more info on the efforts to fix this problem, go to www.gavelife.org. If not now, odds are that eventually you or someone close to you will be able to benefit greatly from a larger pool of available donors.