I would like to say I take advantage of every opportunity I have but it’s not true. More often than I’d like, all kinds of different opportunities find themselves slipping through my fingers. Opportunities to be funny, to make more friends, to maximize my time, to tell someone about Jesus, to do something different, and even opportunities to speak out go unfulfilled.
Too frequently for my own taste I’m afterwards asking myself ‘why didn’t I say this or do that, praying for the moment to arise again. Like when my young friend said he’d been through so much out there he couldn’t just let the gang life go. I wish I would’ve asked him what he went through so he could release some of that pain, but I preached to him about that lifestyle leading to a cage or a casket, afterwards hoping the conversation would come up again so I could do it differently.
Such is life that it hardly happens; at least not exactly in the same way with the same circumstances. The hardest part about it is the internal struggle that takes place. Wrestling against the anger arising from feeling like I should be further along. At the same time, fending off the sorrow attempting to strangle me from behind, submitting me into believing I’m worthless for allowing opportunities to pass by in light of all I’ve thrown away already.
Honestly, I’d give in again if I only focused on all my failures; on what I didn’t have. But I don’t reside in that place any longer, it’s much too costly to remain in that perpetual state of despair. Not just in terms of my own physical and mental well being but more so in my depreciation of other human beings; accruing victims.
Sure, it would’ve been a great opportunity to connect with the youngster if I would’ve asked him what happened that made him feel unsafe in his neighborhood when he told me he’ll carry a gun again because feeling the cold steel of the pistol under his pillow gave him a sense of safety; but I missed it.
And if I only focus on that, I fail to recognize how I have the opportunity to ask him about it when I see him again since the door’s been opened. Instead of looking at what I didn’t do, I remember how I asked him to consider the consequences of carrying a pistol now. Far beyond violating parole, but how we instill in others the same fear we ourselves are tormented by. Focusing on what I have: the opportunity to learn from my miscues is an encouragement because in them I see greater chances for growth, for success.
When I go from this learning process that prepares and propels me forward in positive and healthy ways. So yeah, I may not immediately capitalize on every opportunity that comes my way how I’d like to but that’s okay. I’m always learning, even using my shortcomings to grow day by day into the loving, helpful, kind-hearted man that I want to be.
Although where I am in the process often irks me, overall I’m happy because I’m certainly not who I used to be.
Written by Lawrence Pela.
Lawrence is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.
You may write to him at the following address:
Lawrence Pela CDCR #AB-5053
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974
Re:store Justice works in partnership with incarcerated people, survivors of crime, district attorneys & the community to reform the criminal justice system.