Moving On / Letting Go
Participant from Changi Women's Prison
As soon as the metal door to the entrance slammed behind me, I recalled being hit by the smell – an unpleasant yeasty odour. I could not quite identify, as though decades of hardship, hate and regret had condensed on the walls. I did not realise that I had started to clench my teeth, abominating on everything that came to my thoughts I blamed my parents for not raising me into a successful man.
I resent my wife for not understanding my needs and lastly, I accused God for taking away all my freedom and for the narrowed borders of my existence, for being the reason my best years are draining away from me. I looked up at the window, but it allowed only narrow slits of sky. I missed the wearing of my eclipse sunglasses. I missed the nibbling of cinnamon – flavoured cupcakes prepared by my wife while we stole glances of one another to the giggling of my children as they learned how love and affection blossomed between us. I longed for the moment when I would exit uncomfortable knot coming undone.
“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor do iron bars a cage.” Some people think that they would lost all their precious time to pursue their dreams and endeavors as soon as they are put behind bars, that it is the end of the road for them. Some even succumbed and spiraled into depression. ‘Bugs’ is a slang word for the mentally ill, and bugs are generally avoided in the yard as they are perceived as volatile. Here, you are in an institution. You are surrounded by hate. You are surrounded by opinions. Everyone in prison has an opinion. I understood something I had not when I first entered into prison. I learnt that the world did not see the inside of you, that it did not care a shit about hopes, dreams and sorrows that lay masked by skin and bone. At least this is what I felt myself. I learnt that human behaviour is messy, unpredictable, and unconcerned by convenient symmetries.
Nevertheless, I find comfort in it. I like the pattern of it, of the narrative of my life losing shape, like a photograph in a darkroom, a story that slowly emerged and affirms the good that I always wanted to see in myself. To me, this is where I move on and let go of the vice-like grip of lonesome and loathsome in my life. There is no way we can go backwards or stop the flow of events. Life is more complex and unpredictable than we can grasp. It is impossible to live it without slips and blotches. The way then is to move n and let go of the past that is haunting and holding us down.
Moving on after a great fall is never a walk in the park as it entails a great determination to change beyond mere words and empty promises. It requires concrete and concerted actions as well as responsible choices to strike the iron while it is hot, equips with hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. My choice of going back to prison school turns out a fruitful journey as I have now achieved some qualification to enter the working industry or further upgrade myself in the university. Subsequently after my ‘A’ levels, I jumped at the chance to work in the Multimedia Hub with the intention to expose myself to IT (Information Technology) – which I conspicuously lacked. Little did I knew that the world revolves around IT – like it or not – just like the moon revolves around the Earth. Before I know it, I was in charge of creativity and intricacies of video editing and involved in the monthly edition of a news programme shown to the tens of thousands of inmates. Education and the insatiable desire to seek new knowledge have indeed made all of these possible.
More importantly, I have reached to the point where I could dream big – dreams that I could not have imagined before. Moreover, I heard with enthusiasm of the help and funding from various organizations like the Yellow Ribbon and SACA, which provides financial assistance through continuous education and training. This is a commendable effort to drive vulnerable inmates towards positive commitments. Fortunately, moving on is not much of an uphill task for me and for those who share the same aspirations as there is always room for improvement and ample doors of opportunities to be opened and knocked on.
“When you expect the best of people, they will rise to the occasions.” My parents would, rain or shine, pay me their monthly visits, bring me magazines and take transport that eat up their daily expenses. The fact that I still have the unconditioned support from my parents has struck a chord in me to render my appreciation and unspoken promises (lest being sceptical upon, it is my third time in prison). Through my positive actions like pursuing academic success or even joining a writing competition! As sweet as it is emotionally moving, it is their moral imperative of parental care and unconditional love that makes a story more meaningful, a sacrifice worth mentioning and an inspiration for a dire change.
It has been four years of my incarceration. I have not had a drink or any of those destructive substances and I have started to see clearly now. I am able to speak with coherence and without slurring. The fine line between right and wrong and the consequences that entail seems more palpable; as honest and sincere perspective viewed literally from a sober mind, a remorseful heart and a reasonably higher state of consciousness – conscious about the future and the responsibilities involves. I used to have this uncharitable thought about getting out, terrified of change, terrified of facing a new life outside barbed wines and guard towers. However, being the crafter of my path in rehabilitation and actively participating in my own recovery have given me the strength and courage to face the word again.
There is something to be said for people who keep their dignity, when all is breaking out around them and they are enduring horrible things. Remember they are all human beings. Instead of questioning the mishaps and misadventures of my life, I choose to redeem my dignity by transforming into a responsible person who is also at the helm of a successful rehabilitation. I choose to move on with my head held high and let go of the meaningless trivia of my past.