"If you don't respect and embrace life's good offerings, you will struggle through and feel the pain of life's bad offerings."
I come to you with a few humble words on this somber day. It's a day I could not let slide by without some form of recognition.
You see, today is a milestone for me -- but not one to be proud of.
Today, February 18, 2009 marks 25 full years in jail. And it has been laced with hardship and misery.
I call it a milestone because, in our society, we measure our lives with milestones -- major birthdays, graduations, weddings, re-locations, births and deaths.
This is, indeed, unique, but in such a painful way that I must examine it.
We're talking about 25 years -- two-and-a-half decades -- a quarter of a century.
Now that is a very long time just to be dwelling in this cold, lonely place.
But I'm not writing this to get sympathy. Sympathy is not what the young people need to be feeling.
They need to be feeling and understanding fear, confusion, shame and determination.
They should feel the fear of doing something foolish, which lands them nowhere.
They should understand the confusion about how something could happen and how they would survive if they made the same choices I made.
And they should try to understand the shame that I feel -- the same of knowing that I let so many people down.
Now I know that I'm better than that.
Finally they must learn determination in a way I didn't learn it -- the determination wish I had known: the determination not to throw my future in the toilet like that.
As I simply size up my milestone, I can only acknowledge that I had to deal with the pain of this hurtful milestone because I didn't respect, appreciate or fulfill life's normal milestones -- births, graduations, weddings, etc.
It's a simple lesson that I've had to learn:
If you don't respect and embrace life's good offerings, you will struggle through and feel the pain of life's bad offerings.
Although I still consider myself lucky to be rather healthy and because I'm able to give young people this simple advice:
- Be smart!
- Stay in school!
- Respect your elders!
- And don't look for shortcuts!
Thanks for listening.