There Are No Holidays in Prison and That’s Just Fine

With the Summer Holidays coming to an End and the Winter Holidays Approaching I can’t help but reflect on how I spent my Labor Day Holiday.

I am Lashonia Etheridge-Bey. I survived 18.5 years of incarceration. I say that not as a badge of honor, or as a victim, but simply as one fact of my life. At age 39 I guess it’s safe to say I spent ½ my life in prison.

This Labor Day I spent my holiday week end in the gym, at home, cleaning and resting… mostly in solitude. For almost two decades this is how I spent every Labor Day. With strangers who became more like family than biological relatives, working out and pretending days like these do not matter. It’s just another day, right? Just like Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Year’s… What’s a holiday to a prisoner?

I spent most holidays incarcerated imagining that I was home, celebrating with family and friends—all the while convincing myself that I could survive without doing so. Now being with family and friends is one of the most difficult challenges I face. I think we all thought things would be different. I was surprised to discover that obtaining employment, enrolling in college, and securing housing has been a cinch compared to re-connecting with my family and friends.

This Labor Day—although I was free to do what I wanted—I was content to do nothing social. I was free to be with who I wanted, but I was content to be alone. My best friend hosted a cookout at an awesome park to mark the end of summer. My mother’s family had a reunion in North Carolina. I avoided both events. In fact, en route to the gym, I avoided the opportunity to visit several family members. I thought of them all specifically as I rode past where they live. My niece, my son, my mom … the idea of visiting them was not as appealing as the lure of the familiarity of the gym, the clank of the machines, the awesome sensations in my brain and body. I wanted to want to visit, I wanted to want to be with others, but the fact of the matter is I was content and more comfortable being alone. When I walked into the gym I was almost saddened by flash backs of the recreation departments in the prisons where I served time. They (Recreation Departments) were ever present and consistent throughout my journey. Nevertheless, I shrugged off those memories and got into my routine, and before I knew it I was in my zone.

I ignored all of my calls that day until one came from a comrade from the inside, a woman I served time with. Instinctively I answered the phone. I almost chastised myself for that decision, but found myself deep into a conversation about how anti-social and institutionalized “I am.” Is this really who I am? Is this who I want to be? Her sound of agreement further annoyed me and I shouted, “Do you realize how abnormal we are?! The fact that you agree with me and feel the same way I do makes me feel worse. We have been through some abnormal situations and emerged with abnormal social issues. It’s not good!!!” Calmly she replied, “I hear you, but my response is that “It’s normal. For me, it’s perfectly normal.”



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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