Someone once told me that they saw a sign inside of a prison where they were housed that read, “Welcome to Hell. Leave all of your hopes and dreams behind.” I couldn’t phantom something so cruel. Why would someone create and post a sign like that? How many inmates internalize such notions? I can only imagine the number of people who lose sight of their dreams when they are confined in such a dismal place.
I know for me the only thing that kept me going at times during my 18 years of incarceration was the understanding that I had to be held accountable for my actions. I knew that as long as I continued to work toward transformation I would stand a chance of one day being released. I strove to maintain positive thoughts, set and accomplish goals, and develop my potential. I never stopped dreaming.
Eventually I began to envision a different life for myself, a life of freedom, happiness, love and success, a life where I could pursue my academic endeavors and build a career for myself, becoming financially independent and making a difference in the lives of others. Yeah, that’s what I hoped and dreamed about. I refused to let prison snatch my hopes from me. Some days hope was all I had to hold on to. There’s a quote I have loved to love: “A man can live for weeks without food, days without water, minutes without air, but not a second without hope.”
I know some women who never had children and spent all of their childbearing years in prison. I know some women who never obtained a high school diploma and after years of drug abuse getting a GED was impossible. I know some women who were elderly and had a host of grandchildren that they never got a chance to meet. Then, there were women like me who had toddlers when I became incarcerated and watched my children grow into young adults through a barbed wire fence. I lost my father while I was incarcerated. My hope that my father would live to see me released was suddenly crushed on a dreadful day in 2001.
Prisons are a living hell to most of us. Nevertheless, no person should debase him or her self to a state of hopelessness and disregard their dreams. Doing so will undoubtedly add to an increased sense of anxiety, stress, depression and sadness. Once a person is incarcerated and they succumb to such a state, the chances of re-offending are greater, and the chances of a successful reintegration and family reunification are reduced.
When a person is in prison he or she MUST remain hopeful that they will prevail despite all of the evidence around them that says that they will not. A friend of mine encouraged me once, “Always remember the darkest hours come just before dawn.”