Years of being alone with my thoughts is exhausting

By Jamar George, from the federal penitentiary in Coleman, Florida

After living in prison for 10 years, counting down to 15, I’m afraid:

Afraid of what I may succumb to before I am finally released into society. Afraid of becoming a miserable, bitter soul. Afraid of going insane because I’m trapped, secluded from the rest of the world. Afraid that with 24/7 exposure to only those inside, I’ll adopt another convict’s thoughts and theories. They read a few books and think they have it all figured out, handing out advice for you and your loved ones. Yet they can’t figure out how to get their own kids to answer their phone calls. They want you to follow their way but lack the ability to lead.

The truth is, none of us has a clue what fate has in store.

I’m afraid of my own thoughts, afraid of the next adversity, which I know is soon to come. It’s not cowardice that makes me afraid though; it’s the anticipation. I won’t know the consequences until the adversity comes to pass.

I’m afraid of the other prisoners and the overweight correctional officers; I have no idea what they may say or do to ignite the timebomb that ticks within me. I live with regret because I lack tolerance and never learned self-restraint, allowing what shouldn’t matter to trigger my animalistic instincts.

Why me? I often ask. I find the answer when I open my Quran and pray. Am I enduring the curse of Allah? Or, maybe my fear is a way to bring me closer to my God.

Yup, I’m afraid, but determined not to fold. Every single day, I think of the people who turned against me to save their skins, ensuring my own enslavement. WHY? They lacked the ability to be afraid of the consequences, moral and physical, of handing over another man to escape doing the time. But I’m learning to say, never mind them.

I’m afraid to ask, What’s next?

But, although I am afraid a lot, I know the answer is to stop fixating on the people around and above me. Allah says to fear him and not mankind, for it is he who has the final decision. Man, including me, is only human. MAY ALLAH GUIDE US ALL.

Rob Barton has been incarcerated for 25 years. Pam Bailey is his collaborator/editor. Learn more at MoreThanOurCrimes.org