Preparing for Happiness Through Adversity

By · Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The headline that crossed the news this morning revealed unemployment rates for March at 8.5 percent. That’s a number I watch closely, as it suggests the struggles I expect to face after I complete a quarter century in prison. If the unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent for all Americans, for those coming out of prison I expect the rate is much higher, perhaps ten times higher.

Throughout my prison adjustment I’ve thought about the steps I could take to earn a living after my release. I began serving my prison term when I was 23 and my lengthy sentence suggested that I would remain incarcerated until my late 40s. By working to educate myself I hoped to create opportunities that would lead to a meaningful life. The one thing I knew was that I would not want to return to prison once I was released. I made all decisions pertaining to my prison adjustment with hopes of preparing for the challenges that awaited me.

I had never been confined before, so I didn’t know what type of obstacles I would face. The responsibility would be mine to overcome them. My prosecution and imprisonment had resulted in the loss of all my belongings. I knew that meant I would leave prison without financial resources, clothing, or shelter. Now I am advancing to within three or four years of my release, and the economic crisis suggests many challenges await me.

I heard a commentator on CNBC announce that more than 24 million people were out of work in our country. Although economists predict the recovery is beginning, and we should resume growth in 2010, I still see reports of tent cities in Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle, and other metropolitan areas. The unemployment rate for California is even higher than the national average, at more than 10 percent.

As a newly released long-term prisoner who does not have a work history, I may not find a job upon release. In fact, I’m preparing for that likelihood. Instead of searching for work, I’m trying to position myself for a career as a writer/speaker/consultant and teacher. My loving wife, Carole, helps me work toward this vision. We visit each week and together we plan for such a career.

Through my writing, Carole and I have earned an income that was sufficient to support her through nursing school. That was a plan and investment we made as a team to ensure our family would have stability. Carole works as a nurse now, and she will maintain the earning capacity to sustain our family as I work to establish my career.

Between now and my release date, I will work every day to enhance my chances for success. Soon I may submit another book proposal to my literary agent, as I want to have a new book ready for release when I walk out from prison boundaries. I must continue this prison adjustment of preparation, as I know the responsibility is mine to triumph over the challenges that await me. Carole is my inspiration, and through the work we do together, I feel confident that we will build our happiness to enjoy through the fall and winter seasons of our life. Our loving marriage is not an accident, but a deliberate choice we make each day.

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