From Planes to Prison
Written By: Chelsey Brink
One decision, although seemingly insignificant at the time, can affect a whole life. And in turn, has the ability to affect multiple lives. You see, before prison, I was a highly respected member of my community. I became a Registered Nurse in 2011 and worked and volunteered as such until 2017. I owned a 2500 square foot 5 bedroom house. I have 2 children who were taken away from me by their fathers. And like I said, one decision has the ability to completely derail a life.
I have been incarcerated since 2018. I did 10 months in county jail before coming to Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility. I came to WHV on October 15, 2019. I was only supposed to be here for six months for a probation violation. Six months has turned into a hellacious almost 18 months. I completed my required coursework in the first six months. It was required that I take Healing Trauma, Phase II Substance Abuse, and Beyond Violence classes. I put forth effort in my classes and took it serious thinking that it could only help me and would facilitate a faster release from WHV custody back into the community. How wrong I was.
These are weird times, I will admit. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic so much changed. Beginning in March 2020, all prisoners have been required to wear facemasks, which are suffocating. The prison has been shut down for a year now. It's only been in the last week that we have received new inmates. The school and all core programing have ceased to exist. On Monday, a couple of classes have restarted.
Prison is hell. There is no other way to describe this place. The food is nearly inedible. The healthcare and mental healthcare services are terrible to nonexistent. Not to mention I'm here 12 months past my ERD (earliest release date). I have been given too many unfair tickets and have spent 113 days total on sanction. I have been disrespected on every level. It seems that certain individuals at the prison have forgotten who I am. I guess I can't expect them to remember me when I had forgotten who I am and when I didn't stay true to myself. I've settled in and am working hard to make my situation liveable, pushing against the wildness, while the wildness pushes back with everything it has.
I remember when I was in county jail I kept saying to others that the system is broken.  But the thing I had forgotten along the way somewhere is that dying and killing are part of God's plan too. It's part of Life. The question though is am I dying or killing? Is it possible to do both? And whose lives are affected by dying and killing? And how? There are times I could scream with the frustration of the uselessness of my own brain. But through the last 18 months the thing I have found time and again is that the human heart proves the most confounding mystery of all. I have learned to be patient with myself first. And have remembered to only believe half of what I hear and all of what I see.
I've sometimes that that being loved a little less than ["only" crossed out] others can actually make a person, rather than ruin them. Trouble is the only thing that seems to stick to me with any regularity, but I'm learning to think that can shape a person too. I've never known how to handle money, I'm not sure I understand it. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, some have strayed from their faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. - 1 Timothy 6:10. Just because you break the law doesn't mean you have intentionally crossed the line into evil. Sometimes the line creeps up on you, and before you know it, you're standing on the other side. It is rare that what is expected and what is right are the same set of footprints. There are always exceptions to the rules and the same applies to the letter of the law. Since being incarcerated, I have remembered that what I don't say is probably more important than what I do say.
I don't want anyone's sympathy or to be coddled. I don't want anyone's pity or platitudes. I just want my old life back. And that notion, the utterly gut-wrenching, soul-crushing feeling that your life has been stolen from you is something that you cannot fathom unless you have been through it yourself. Every terrible thing you have been through in your life up until that point pales in comparison or seems downright ridiculous. You don't even know where to begin. I know I didn't. But I'm trying to make my way back to who I was and in the process I'm learning who I am but it is a difficult journey. I've had to remind myself time and again that we are not our past, no matter how traumatic or life changing it might have been. You don't have to be superhuman to survive the bad times and you can't always be at your  best. But even when things look there worst, you can still feel positive about the future. Being optimistic is simply a choice made possible by being creative and proactive. A happy ending begins with having faith in your own story and looking for ways to create joy for yourself and others. We are all our journeys, hopes, and dreams clad in mortal wrapping paper. And no matter how lost, lonely, defeated, or damaged we feel, accepting the love of others and loving them in return, to whatever return we can, will help to make us whole again. I find some solace when listening to music. And also enjoy the escape afforded when reading. When your body craves physical relief, you can only listen to so much music and read so many books.
It's been so long since I was I child that I've forgotten that there are building blocks of love, and that at the very bottom is comfort. Choice is part of what makes us human. Love isn't doing whatever the person you care for expects of you, it's doing what they don't expect, going above and beyond what you've been asked. Nothing stands out so conspicuously or remains so firmly fixed in the memory, as something which you have blundered. I have learned that sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing it's loveliness. There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely know. Some lessons WHV and being incarcerated have taught me are to soak up all the wisdom around you, make time to dream big dreams and find people who believe in them, learn from people who know how to roll on the road, And be ready to lay your own asphalt, know how to seize upon your own moment, keep your real friends close, make your mother proud, honor the place you came from, Do the work - then enjoy the ride. I have to choose between what hurts and what hurts worse.
It is a rare soul who would stand against a crowd.