Thursday, January 10, 2019

I Got My Own Back

I got my own back 
- Maya Angelou

This Place Where I Live

By Lauren O'Dell

This place where I live is so different from your place, yet the parallels are many. It is eclectic, diverse, and annoying. It is a sorority we didn't pledge for  yet have an indelible membership.

In this place where I live we remember birthdays; comfort the sick and heartbroken. We share our books, magazines, potentials, and obsessions. We start our own businesses and learn new languages. We simultaneously love and loathe one another, for the two emotions always seem to end up entwined. 

In this place where I live you can always find someone either crying or laughing, worrying, plotting, celebrating, lashing out, loving, dying, manipulating, studying, changing, comforting, complaining, or clinging to traditions. We are self-sustaining and yearning for more autonomy. 

This place where I live may be the last and only place where your personal politics don't matter. We don't care if a player kneels during the anthem or if you should be 18 or 21 to buy a killing machine. Those things don't matter. In this microcosm it's all about finding a way to get through your day without the rug being pulled out from beneath you.

This place where I live runs on rumors and gossip. “I heard....” “They said...” “From what I understand....” “Did you hear about...” is the constant stream, the steady heartbeat and lifeline of this place. At times rumors are all we have, though they give no solace, only distress. Yet they serve a purpose: as explanations for the arbitrary changes that fly from one day to the next.

This place where I live strangles the humanity from you, then silently returns it just when you think it is gone forever. I often wonder: when was the exact moment I stopped caring? And then I realize, I do still care. The difference is how I express that I care, how I show compassion and convey my best humanity. 

This place where I live drives you toward the edge of apathy, dangles you over the cliff, just to pull you back at the last second. Once you return from the edge you are filled with that missing humanity, maybe as a result from the guilt you have for feeling so internally hardened. Nonetheless, it's there.

This place where I live is filled with people just like me, people trying to make a life out of chaos; to cobble together a semblance of control and normalcy. Isn't that all anyone wants?

This place where I live houses intolerance, bigotry, sexism, and every phobia imaginable, yet we are fiercely protective of our own. We may tear one another to shreds with our lies and vengeance, but don't you dare come at us with your stereotypes and assumptions. 

This place where I live is an island of Wonder Women, most of whom don't realize their power. We stand silent yet strong with the other women who say #metoo. Their strength inspires and urges us to be bold as well. We have this universal secret that we can finally share (and be heard!) that connects us to one another. We are part of the circle, here in this place where I live, that links us all. 

Lauren O'Dell 1181196
Fluvanna Correctional Center
P.O. Box 1000
Troy, VA 22974
My name is Lauren O’Dell and I have been incarcerated since 1994.  Throughout this time, I have consistently worked, taken classes, stayed connected with my family, and tried to be an active participant in bettering the community in which I live.  In 2013 I earned as Associate Degree in General Studies and am currently working on a B.A. Government and Sociology.  I’m an activist at heart.  Upon my release, I would like to work with refugees and immigrants new to the country.  In the mean time, I continue to support, and in my own small way, fight for all human rights.


By Simone A. Mendez

My mother was 17 de day I was born; my father 18. They were never married, ending their relationship when I was three.  My childhood was chaotic.  I was sexually abused by the hands of a relative, creating a confused and angry kid.  I began to drink and use drugs at 12 years old, following the footsteps of my addict-father.

Finding stillness for me was unimaginable.  I never allowed my mind a moment of rest from the stress of dealing with life at home to active addiction to this cell.  Over the years, I grew so accustomed to havoc in my life, I began to embrace it.  In hindsight, I was avoiding myself.

When I allow myself to stop and be present – not just physically – but emotionally, I´m forced to feel.  When I feel, I am often overcome by darkness; the darkness being painful memories from my childhood, failed attempts to overcome mental illness and addiction, and ultimately the crime that I committed, that led to my incarceration.

Surprisingly, allowing the darkness into my mind in the quiet moments when I´m alone, has somehow reignited a light within my heart and spirit. Only by beginning to understand the darkness in my world was I able to embark on this journey to heal, and to forgive myself as well as those who have hurt me in my life. Being alone with myself and my thoughts can be painful, but it´s a necessary part of this process. The place of stillness in myself in myself is reached when I simply stop and breathe even if it´s only for one minute a day. These moments bring light back into my life…giving me hope for the future.

Simone Mendez 404414
York Correctional Institution
201 West Main Street
Niantic. CT 06357
My name is Simone.  I’m 24 years old.  I’m a recovering addict and currently halfway through a six year prison sentence.  I love the outdoors. Music, writing, reading and my family sustain me. Upon my release, I hope to become a social worker.  I’m very optimistic for today and for the future.

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