At the time of this writing, it has officially been a decade since I got done with a two year stretch in a Texas penitentiary.
From 20 to 23, I was in.
Had my 21st birthday there, bounced around all over Texas for multiple court arraignments in different counties across the state.
I remember the first day: blasting down the country roads in a stolen Impala, the cops finally catching up to me and pulling me over.
When you’ve got a big ass .45 in your face, it’s not that hard to shut the fuck and do what the officer tells you.
I was loaded up on speed and Xanax and had probably been up for months.
I had been trying to catch a nap at a local watering hole waiting on a chick to get off work so maybe I could smash.
I had a feeling it was gonna happen that night, if I could just get that nap in everything would be …
The biker gang that worked the door told me to take my nap and get the fuck out of their establishment.
That’s when I decided to count my losses and steal a car.
Good times, but I already had a rap sheet a mile long.
Probation violation, fights, burglary, theft, and even bail jumping.
This was all during what they call one “criminal episode”.
Meaning that when you got one felony, until they caught you it wasn’t really going to hurt too much to get one more, especially if it was all the same shit.
For example if you stole one four wheeler, it wasn’t going to change the amount of time that you got if you went ahead and helped yourself to another one.
So I kept going and going.
The cops would try to find me everywhere they could; I just kept moving from place to place until finally the stolen car did it and I was caught for good.
I was getting tired of running, anyways.
There comes a time when you decide you’ve had enough of a specific time in your life, and for me running from the law was getting a little old.
I was missing out on the rest of my life by being a degenerate, but not only that I’d finally be going to the big leagues:
Everyone had predicted it, all my friends were breaking it down on what I could expect going in, and then one day I found myself trapped in a cell I couldn’t get out of.
I figured I’d probably be looking at something like five years.
I spent most of my days in there reading, writing and working out.
I never joined a gang and ended up getting into a couple of scuffles over it.
Nothing too major, usually shit you actually wanted to get into as people have the tendencies to push buttons there, and see how far they can push boundaries.
I was a pretty good prisoner.
I could never be a trustee because of the assaults on my record, but I worked my way up pretty high in the kitchen and then maintenance.
I established a pretty solid work ethic in there.
Scrubbing dishes had a way of making the day go by very fast.
One day, the chaplain came to me while I was whippin up chemicals in a lab.
I had worked myself all the way up to the statues of ‘chemical man’, and me and my partner sat in this room putting together different powders and chemicals the unit needed.
It was the best job because you could talk drug speak about basically soap and tooth powder (You gotta cut the work, flip it, pack it, serve it), and it was in an air conditioned building with all sort of bars on the ceiling to work out on.
Plus, we had a CD player so we jammed Breaking Benjamin on repeat.
The chaplain pulled me out one day and told me about the college unit.
I thought to myself “College? What the fuck… ”
Of course I said yes, it was the best thing going, and it got me thinking about changing my ways.
Me and school never did mix; no matter where I went or what I did, I could never jive with the teachers, the establishment, or general philosophy of the education system.
But maybe now, now shit would be different.
Maybe being behind bars and having nothing to do, I could finally buckle down and knock this shit out.
Concentrate on the work like I hadn’t been able to do in all the other grades.
Bury myself in the work, and be able to ignore the day to day drama that goes on inside the animal cage.
Once I got to the unit, I realized I’d made a huge mistake.
The prison was full of nothing but 25 year olds and under, what is known commonly referred to in Texas as a “Gladiator Unit”.
If you ever see those prison shows; they’re constantly following around the older cats, so you don’t really get a good visual of the action that actually goes down on a farm.
The places where it’s really “rockin’ and rollin'” are typically the youngster farms.
From the time I stepped foot on the place, I knew there would be no college going on here.
No studying, crunching for exams or any of that shit.
The would be no apple from the kitchen rotting on the professors desk.
This was a place for fighting, gang activities and riots.
And so it was, as I arrived in dorms and would see people getting roll called to go outside and fight hard for thirty seconds against two other inmates to show that you got down.
It was like waiting in the doctors office for people to get their shots.
One would go out and come back.
At that unit, they skipped me for some reason.
I heard them discussing it, but it never materialized.
I was getting a little bit sick of being in there though; being locked up in general.
About nine months in I really got used to it and time was rolling, but every time I moved it was always the same process.
There was always a new battle, new drama, new shit to go through.
This school unit was icing on the cake, but I knew I had fucked up.
I was almost at my two year mark; two more to go.
One day on that unit, someone kicked a ball and hit an officer.
They immediately sound the horns and lay everyone on the ground, just the officer and the kid who kicked the ball are standing.
The officer is yelling at the kid to get on the ground, the kid is not listening.
Just walking around, talking shit.
The officer says if he doesn’t get down, he’s going to unload the pepper spray.
There are groans from the audience laying on the ground as we realize we are going to catch the brunt of that shit, but the kid doesn’t care.
He’s probably in a gang, nobody is going to touch him except the gang…
And believe me, they probably touched him for that shit.
Suddenly, pepper shots start going off all around me, into the nose, the air and I am coughing up my lungs.
They finally take everyone back in and the on the walk back I realize that I am done with this shit.
I’m ready to go home now, I’ve had about enough of it.
I had put myself here, and now it was time to get out.
I remember thinking this as I’m walking back to my room that day.
I was laying down on my bunk reading the subtitles of Judge Judy when they opened the door and called my name.
I looked up…
“Grabbs, Roll it up. You’re going home.”
The process for going home from prison is pretty simple:
You either serve all your time and your out, or you get parole and you’re out.
On either of these situations, once they set the time for you to go you HAVE TO BE OUT or they’ll start incurring a charge for housing you past the deadline.
And they are having absolutely NONE of that.
So as soon as they get the call, your ass is going home.
If there’s a hurricane that blows in during the time you’re supposed to be getting out, those buses will still be moving around, finding a way to get you and the rest of the degenerates going home on July 9th, 2008 to the final unit – The Walls – where they can give you a nice swift boot to the ass.
This whole process was one of the most stressful situations I’d ever experienced.
Was I actually going home?
Or was some shit fucked up…
I thought it was a typo from the beginning.
This type of shit happened all the time.
Files get mixed up, maybe a mistyped letter and all of a sudden Horatio is coming home, dias mio.
Everyone is down at The Walls waiting anxiously, but when he reaches the Walls and is almost out the doors they say it was a mistake, or that he’s actually being deported, and back over the fence he goes.
All the time.
What’s worse, in each unit I would go to, the reviews from the locals were a mixed bag.
“Nah, they’re going to get you man. Don’t get excited.”
“Yes bro, yes you are going home. You should give me your supplies, you’re not going to need it where you’re going.”
And then another…
“Hey bro… have you thought about anything you might have sent the government lately on your behalf?”
Well, back at the Rudd unit I had ran into a jailhouse lawyer that said he could get my sentence lowered.
All I’d need to do is invest in him a small sum of 40 ramen noodle soups and I would be retaining Rudds finest prison attorney.
He came highly recommended, but I never thought it would work.
I said fuck it.
It’s better than gambling on Romo and the Cowboys.
Turns out those 40 soups ended up being the best investment I’ve ever made.
And I’ve invested quite a bit in various mentors and my own education since then.
Nothing will ever top hiring the right person for the job.
I got to The Wall and, after one final humiliation of cramming us all nuts to butts in a small cage for about four hours, they split us into two factions:
The Mexicans getting deported and the rest of actually going home.
My buddy told me this was it, I was going home, and yet it still didn’t set in until I was walking out of the prison, gripping the cheesy gold handrails, walking down a wheelchair ramp into a blinding hot Texas sun…
My family waiting for me; a momentous occasion.
That happened a decade ago.
I haven’t been back to prison since.
I’ve fucked up, I’ve had a DWI since then, but I haven’t gone back to my old life.
I just made a decision, just as I had made all the decisions that took me there.
I made the decision that I didn’t want to see where that story went.
I had learned all there was to learn about that experience.
That things are rough out here.
There are places you can go and nobody can get you out.
That you should never put too much stock into loyalty.
I wanted a different story, so I started writing one that day and never stopped.
Today is another day that I get to live in paradise.
Just as I can remember closing my eyes in a musty ass prison dorm and visualizing myself on a beach back then, these days I open my eyes and go straight to the beach.
Today I caught two waves, doing something I never though I would be able to do:
I’d watched people do it on video tape when I was younger, but never thought would be me.
Something that I could do, and now after four months of constant training I am getting the hang of it.
I caught two back to back for a personal best; the perfect waves arriving only when I finally released the desire for outcome and just enjoyed the beautiful sunset as I waited for my turn.
I am free.
It’s a state of mind.
It’s knowing what that feels like so I can always get back to it.
Each time I reach the next level, there’s another opportunity for me to experience that wave of freedom.
Knowing that world just opened up for you just a little bit more because you decided to bet it all on yourself again.
So I keep going and keep pushing the limits a little bit every time.
It didn’t take me much of being on the bottom to realize that it wasn’t for me.
And it didn’t take me too much of being on top to realize that some things can be done the wrong way.
I had to start figuring out a better way to do everything.
I had to do it MY way; play by my rules and bring my own voice into the world in order to change some things I noticed being done the wrong way.
One thing I noticed was that when I got out were that so many people were speaking the language of a prisoner, ie the language of the slave.
These people believe that something is beyond their control.
It’s hard for them to accept personal responsibility for anything, let alone their own circumstances.
Anything but the ability to believe that you actually had complete control over what happened to you this whole time, and what’s worse: You actually chose it.
You choose to give away your own power out of fear, self doubt or more often than not some…
You can’t take the power from someones mind; they’ll have to give it to you but usually it comes with a very small price tag.
And that’s what I noticed.
People packed into bars watching the same thing we watched, gambling just like we did, and saying we “cant wait to be finally be at our destination”.
I worked a job, working my way up to a nice car, a nice high rise downtown with nice furniture only to keep dreaming of a day I would be on the beach with a surfboard.
We can’t wait to that day to come when we are free.
Only this isn’t a day that arrives, it’s a state of mind you have to manifest.
You have to break the chains that have been programmed into your mind, every one of them.
Through the process of breaking down each simulation that has wormed it’s way into you psyche, helping mold the visual construct of the world you see in front of you right now, you will cause the change the begin.
It won’t even feel like the days are going by, things will just begin to slowly change as your mind continues to change.
Yes, you will take action but it won’t feel like action because you’ll finally be aligned with who you are truly meant to be; and once you have adopted that mindset you are there.
You can feel like that person feels and handle shit like they handle it.
That day will be a momentous occasion, just remember that.
Every win from that place will continue to be a momentous occasion: something that nobody can take away from you.