One of the things I’ve learned is change is constant and inevitable. This is not a concept I originated but rather an intrinsic truth that exists in nature and in life. In my personal experience I’ve known people who were once strong who have become weak. I have seen people who were once weak become strong. This has taught me that you cannot freeze people in time and keep them locked in your own perception box, because people, circumstances and situations do change. Who a person is today may not be the same person they will be in the future.
As human beings we go through evolution, and there will be certain things we cannot stop or control. We cannot stop our hair from greying, our skin from wrinkling, or our bones from weakening or from growing old. That is a natural process of life, but evolving isn’t the same thing as personal growth. There are people who reach old age who do not mature or grow because they don’t work at it.
When I speak of personal growth. I mean spiritual growth, emotional growth and psychological growth. Growth in these areas requires introspection. It requires taking stock and taking a full inventory of yourself and checking in on yourself daily. I tell guys on death row that being sentenced to the death is not the immediate threat to our existence. No, the immediate threat is to our sanity and the struggle to hold on to it. I know many guys on death row who lost their minds. I know many guys dancing on the brink of insanity and who wind up teetering between a life of clarity and suffer from bouts of deep depression and emotional outbursts with schizophrenic behavior.
There might be a link to genetics or being on death row might be the stressor that activates these illnesses but I believe that mental health like physical health has to be actively looked after if improvements are to be expected. I found that a strategy to battle against insanity on death row is creating a purpose in your life and committing to it because having a purpose in your life gives you a reason for being and keeps you physically and emotionally intact. It also creates focus and discipline. For me, not a single day goes by that I don’t strive to grow stronger and to be better. I try to reaffirm this every day.
Prison may have taken my physical freedom but it has not taken my mental or spiritual liberty and it never will.
Poetry, writing & Lessons in Life from San Quentin death row