This essay was written by an inmate who submitted it to TPRF on the condition of anonymity. It chronicles how the Peace Education Program (PEP) is helping him gain a new perspective on life.
All of my life I have felt that I was different—a bit apart from the others—as if I was missing something.
At the age of 12 I left school because I thought working would make me feel better.
I liked my family very much, but at the age of 18 I left home because I thought living alone would make me feel good.
At the age of 19 being alone no longer felt so good, so I got married.
At the age of 20 I bought my own house because I didn’t think paying rent to a landlord was right.
At the age of 21 I became a father. Something was missing in my marriage and I thought having a child would help resolve it.
Now I had a son, a house, and a lot of bills to pay. So I worked very hard. I worked lots of extra hours and weekends. I took all the work I could find.
I lived like this for years. I bought several cars. If I had a jeep, I’d think that what I really wanted was a sports car. If I had a sports car, I’d think that maybe a different car would be more practical. I never appreciated what I had. It always felt like something was missing.
At the age of 28, I separated from the mother of my son. I thought that getting married very young prevented me from being able to do lots of things I wanted to do. I thought being single would allow me to have new experiences and make me feel better.
One year after our separation, single life no longer seemed so good. I was used to having the companionship of a woman. I thought maybe the problem was that I had been with the wrong one. I thought a different partner would make me feel different.
So I started seeing another woman, and at 30 years old I got married for the second time. I had another house and a new person to live with, but everything felt the same. Something was missing.
I adored my son. I liked my family. But still, my life didn’t feel good.
At the age of 39 I committed an irreparable crime of extreme gravity. That’s the reason I am in prison. I expect to receive a sentence of many years.
While I sat behind bars waiting for the trial, all I could think about was what I did. I replayed it in my mind countless times, over and over again. I thought constantly about what led me to do it and for how long I would be in prison.
By the time I get out I might be 60 years old. So much time will be gone. I will lose so many possibilities and maybe some people.
I kept on thinking that there was no way to feel good, that it would be normal to feel like this, as I am in prison.
I went to the first Peace Education Program workshop out of curiosity, just to see what it was about. I came back for the second class and the third, and I kept attending because the message made sense to me.
The topics discussed helped me understand my different situations in life. I started thinking that if I knew the lessons I learned in PEP earlier in life, things might’ve been different. And then I started to think that maybe they still can be.
I gained a different perspective on life. I used to always feel that I could fulfill myself through external things. But it never worked; they can’t. What was always missing was the peace inside of myself. Without that, I could never appreciate anything. No matter what I had, it was never sufficient.
PEP gave me the tools to see life in another way. The course helped me to see that despite being incarcerated and deprived of external freedom, it is possible that I can feel free in my thoughts and in my actions. I can feel this way everyday as long as I stay in touch with my inner peace.
This feeling I have is not dependent on something external or on somebody else. It’s only dependent on me.
I miss my son, my family, and many other things. But I am not dependent on them to feel alive.
This learning process I’m going through is still unfolding. The main thing is already achieved: to understand that peace is possible and that it is up to me to be able to get it.
When I am not feeling well, I stop and look inside of myself. I try to find what is missing, and I breathe.