Second Guessing & Regrets
It may sound strange, coming from a man in prison, but I wouldn’t change anything about my past. I have done some bad things but I’m not a bad person. I have regrets and resentments but I have also learned and grown a lot. Who I am now is because of everything in the past.
On the way here, I ended up terribly addicted to drugs, I ended up in prison, I threw away opportunities, and I let down plenty of people. If I had picked a different path myself, there is a good chance I would never have had my daughter, and I can’t image life without her. I tell people that I wouldn’t do anything differently but that they should. Does that make me a hypocrite?
I used to say that I don’t believe in regret but after writing and reflecting about my life before coming to prison, my life in prison, and the life that I am now planning after prison, I realize I do have regrets. And that’s okay.
In order to take an honest look at my life, I must look at all of it. When I think about my past, I tend to put the positives first. I am alive and healthy. I have a 9-year-old daughter who loves me. My family loves me. I have a job and a home and people waiting for me when I get released. I know where I want to take my life. This is more than most people have coming out of prison and I am grateful.
When I also look at all the time I have wasted through my addictions and my time spent locked up, it weighs on me. I have damaged relationships or ruined them completely. I have hurt people. I am looking carefully at it all and am working steadily on all of it through my recovery.
So would I do anything differently, knowing what I know now?
Most people, especially in prison, spend their time second guessing and wanting something different. Many inmates are unhappy where they are: something is always wrong with this facility, whether it’s the staff or the procedures, and they talk about how the last prison was better and how they need to get to the next one. They complain all the time only to get to the next spot and find out it’s just as bad. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I have learned in prison that different doesn’t necessarily mean things will be better and at the same time, things aren’t always as bad as they seem. Mostly, it comes down to how you choose to look at it.
There are contradictions in what I’m saying. I like my life, but I wouldn’t wish for anyone to have to live it. I have so much but could I have had more? I believe in fate but then I also believe I have to actively choose my attitude.
It pains me to say it, but truthfully I would do things differently if I could. I think any sane person would. If I could go back I would have lived a different life. Maybe gotten married and had babies, even if that baby wasn’t Melrose, I may have found a career I was passionate about. Maybe I would have still been an addict, but I would have asked for help sooner. These things may have made me happier and they may not have. I will never know. I believe I would have been happy either way, prison or no prison, because I am happy now.
Thankfully I don’t have to make that choice, I did what I did and I am both paying the price and learning the lessons. All I can do now is do the best with the life I have left.
There are many things that are about to be reintroduced back into my life that I can’t wait for: fishing, golfing, family time, padded seating, comfortable beds, being submerged in water. So many luxuries that I always took for granted. My past allows me to appreciate these things again as if they are happening for the first time, and that is pretty amazing.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. None of us knows what might happen. What’s important is to make the best of what we have. Start with today. If you are in high school, do your best at it. If you don’t know what you want to do, then go to college or find a job until you do know. If you are unhappy, change something and create new opportunities. If you are already in jail then do your best there: use your time for self-reflection and self-growth, take a class, learn a trade or work a program. You can’t change what you did, but if you work hard, you can change who you are. Today. Right now.
At a recent Narcotics Anonymous meeting, the topic was the value of your past. Fate or destiny. I was led here to where I’m sitting for a reason. Even though my past has been filled with pain, there is still plenty of value in it. Through this time, I have found who will stick with me through difficult times. I have a road map of past experiences and now I know the direction that I want to take. I have been able to share those experiences with you, family, friends, and complete strangers. Even though I would have done things differently, I am happy with who I am today. All of that is amazing, too.