Editor’s note: PW friend and researcher Carol Van Strum sent this piece to us today. She writes, “This was written by a prisoner who was Jordan’s cellmate for some years early on; a black man from rural Alabama. At the time he was in his early 50s and didn’t know how to read. Jordan started reading to him from the books and articles we sent daily, and taught him to read; a few years ago Paul sent a picture of himself proudly holding the GED certificate he’d earned. Since then I’ve continued sending him books and articles, and recently he sent this essay, which he asked me to type for him to give his son. The whole piece amazed me, as the only changes I made were to fix some spelling and break it into paragraphs. I hope others might appreciate it, too.”
Jordan wrote several pieces for PW under the name Enceno Macy while he was incarcerated. — Amanda P.
By Paul Grice
There comes a time in your life when you finally get it. You realize that it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to realize that any guarantee of happily ever after must begin with you.
In the process a sense of serenity is born. You have awakened to the fact that you are not perfect, and that not everyone will always love you, appreciate you, or approve of who you are. You have learned that not everyone will always be there for you, and that it’s not always about you. So now you are standing on your own.
In the process a sense of safety, security, and a new-found confidence is born. You stop judging and pointing fingers, and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings.
A sense of peace, forgiveness and contentment have been awakened within. You realize that much of the way you view yourself and the world around you is the result of all the messages and opinions that have been engrained in your mind. Now you have to redefine who you are and what you really stand for. You have learned the difference between wanting and needing. You find yourself discarding the doctrines and values you have outgrown. You have learned to distinguish between guilt and responsibility, and the importance of setting boundaries. You have learned that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry.
You have learned that God isn’t punishing you or failing to answer your prayers. You have learned to deal with evil in its most primal state, “the ego.” You have learned that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected, or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.
You have learned to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls. You have learned to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things that we take for granted. Slowly you begin to take responsibility for yourself. You make a promise to try never to betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart’s desire. You make a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility that comes your way.
With God by your side and courage in your heart, you have learned that what is most valuable is not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life. You have learned that a rich person is not one who has the most, but one who needs the least. You have learned that anything worth achieving is worth working for, and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success, you need direction, discipline, and perseverance. You learn that no one can do it all alone, and it’s okay to risk asking for help.
You have learned about romance and familial love, how much to give, and when to stop giving, when to walk away. You have learned to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You have stopped trying to control people and situations and others’ outcomes. You have learned that just as people grow and change, so does love.
You have learned that fear has no more hold on you. You have learned to step right into it, because you know that whatever happens, you can handle it, and to give in to fear is to give away your right to live.
You have learned that true happiness is not just achieving our goals, but learning who we are through striving towards them. And the greatest feeling is the feeling of triumph and knowing that though you have fallen into the biggest and deepest hole, with God’s help you dug yourself out and flipped it to make you a better person.
We are often judged by what we go through and encounter in situations. People often look down their noses on how we fell, rather than look at how we got up. Now that I have been awakened, they can’t hurt me any more. Everything is there to help me to become a better person — not just for myself, but for you, too.
This is my awakening.