My name is Curtis Brothers. Growing up I had guys in my neighborhood that tried to tell me to do the right thing in life, but I always let their advice slip in one ear and out of the other. These guys were the worst role models ever. I guess they were living by that old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do” because they used to tell me to go to school and stay out of trouble, all while they were standing on the block selling drugs. I looked up to those guys. I wanted to be like them.
Now 20 years later I’m still recovering from my mistakes and searching for new role models. I have been able to build some camaraderie with an older guy who served a lengthy period in prison about 30 years ago. He works for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and he has a lot going for him. Like those guys on my block when I was younger, he has a nice car, a lot of fly gear, and he listens to the latest rap songs. The odd thing is I can see how he is different. He is a law abiding citizen and he doesn’t just “talk the talk,” he “walks the walk.”
One day when I was feeling down on myself, I called him and started venting about how difficult reentry is. He told me, “Always remember, your worst day out here is better than your best down in there.” Every time I start beating myself up about the state of my life, and sulking about my finances, my living situation and my lack of transportation, I remember his advice.
In total, I spent approximately 25 years in and out of prison. The first time I got locked up I cried for three days straight. I swore I’d never go back. But, somehow I found myself caught up in a tangled web of recidivism and the feel of handcuffs became all too familiar.
Every time I was incarcerated I lost friends and the ones who were left were still on the block when I returned. They were doing the same old things, looking much older than their age, and doing virtually nothing with their lives. I’d find myself back in the mix in no time. It was as if the street life was the only thing I knew. It was the only thing that seemed to remain. Old girlfriends had moved on, and even family members washed their hands of me.
It’s really true what they say about starting over and changing your people, places and things, but additionally you have to see yourself where you want to be in order to succeed at reentry. Moreover, you have to be incapable of seeing yourself where you don’t want to be.
I can’t see myself being locked up anymore. My longest stint was 12 years and I’m done. Today I’m striving to create helpful patterns in my life. I’m trying to be a positive role model to others by being the message that I bring. I’m also looking to the positive role models around me to keep me motivated and inspired as I strive to rebuild my life. It’s a struggle, but compared to being in prison, this is a cinch.