“I might have to go to prison.”
Oh my. This hand grenade of a phrase was tossed in the middle of an otherwise muted, low-key, innocuous conversation I recently had with an old friend. We were making plans to do some outdoorsy activities and suddenly in the middle of everything, my friend gazed solemnly into the distance and said, portentously, “Well, Carlota, I might have to go to prison.”
Um. Surprised–because yes, maybe I had drunk 3 jalapeno-infused tequila shots by then, and wow when did I go on trial here?–I blinked and said,”…you mean, um visit someone or…what the hell are you talking about, Willis?” Long story short, my friend is being accused by his state government of having unlawfully received a meager amount of unemployment funds and, since he refuses to pay back the state, he’s close to being sued. He has an appearance scheduled before a judge. But to be clear, for my friend to go to jail, he’d have to walk into that courtroom, determined, fighting, to go to prison. He’d have to attack the judge, and his bailiffs. He’d have to spectacularly lose his sh*t. He’d have to want to go to prison.
With that in mind, putting my drink aside (*deep sigh*), I had a conversation with my friend, wherein I attempted to explain to him that his fear/desire/confusion over going to jail could credibly be described as a manifestation of how he was feeling about his life…about his clear desire to punish himself for some mistakes he made…about his own deeply felt self-loathing…about everything but reality.
My point in writing this is not to put my friend on the spot, or to toot my own Freudian horn, but rather to remind us all that we all. Have. Choices. And the act of not choosing is, you guessed it, a choice. If my friend goes to prison–oh dear lord–it won’t be due to the small funds at the center of this dispute, it’ll be because he’s miserable, and angry and heartbroken, and wants to punish himself, and the world, and feels, in some deep, dark place that he belongs in prison. Thus, he’ll go to the court and be hostile and belligerent, and refuse to pay back the state and be a martyr. Dear Lord, if I get a collect call, with the caller ID reading [RETRACTED] Correctional Facilities, you will hear me screaming. Don’t do it, punk, don’t go there. Watch Oz, don’t live it, ya feel me?
Anyway, I’m just saying, there’s so much we can’t control, but we can–and must–control our choices. Before you decide you “have” to go to prison…or continue at a job you hate…or go on a date with someone who bores you…or whatever, take five minutes and think. Are you going to this job because you like it, or because it will, in some way, advance your career, or because you were conditioned since you were a baby to think less of yourself, so you don’t think you can get (i.e. don’t deserve) a good job? You have to understand yourself to save yourself. (And yes, YOU have to save yourself; nobody else can or will.)
Are you single, for example, because you want to get to know yourself, or because you have a history of dating men who treat you like sh*t…because maybe that’s the behavior you saw in your home, growing up, so that’s what you think love is, pain? Are you single because you’re afraid to have a true loving relationship…or maybe you think that no good man could ever love you? Do you love yourself? Can you get to know yourself?
To succeed in this life is possible, I promise, to achieve your dreams is damn possible, but you must be willing to ask yourself the hard questions. You have to be willing to know yourself. You have to be willing to fight for yourself. Of all the relationships you will ever have, the one you must make work is the one you have with yourself. You are worth knowing.