Life on the inside

Reed, Karter K.



Life on the Inside by Karter Kane Reed I would like to start by telling you a bit about myself. Like any human being, I am a unique individual with my own eccentricities and idiosyncrasies while also sharing in common with you- and everyone else—many traits, characteristics, and quirks. I am very much different than you. and very much the same. - » Growing up, I was a pretty smart kid and learned readily, something I carried with me into adulthood. I like to think of myself as complex and multi—faceted with diverse interests. I am an electrician by trade, or computer repair technician, depending on whether you go by my first or most recent trade. Along the way, I've been a mechanic, carpenter, welder, computer programmer, network administrator, electronics repair technician, laborer, furniture mover, chemical engineer, clerk, graphic designer, prep cook, poet, dishwasher, barber, janitor, personal trainer, writer, and public speaker. And today of course, I'm the author of this essay. I am far more than the things I've done or been, so let me offer a bit more insight into myself. I am a reader——to call myself an avid reader would, at times, be an understatement. My reading list looks like a graduate student's syllabus, covering nearly every subject» imaginable-literature, history, science, mathematics, grammar, even commercial fiction. I have a fondness for the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz, and Rilke; share philosophical beliefs with Socrates, Nietzsche, and Voltaire, and am captivated by molecular biology and quantum physics. But I am more too than the things I have read. I am an athlete. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, handball, snowboarding, weightlifting, running, rowing. I am a musician. A guitar player really, but I can play the bass, violin, piano, and drums. Still though, I am more than my hobbies and recreation. I am talented, smart, funny, sweet, kind, caring, honest, loyal, understanding, generous, magnanimous, thoughtful, physically fit, attractive, and hard-working. I am the kind of person people want to meet, or to be; the kind that leaves an indelible impression, a good friend, good brother, good son, and someday, a good husband and good father. I'm an asset to the company, benefit to the community, a shining example. I am all of these things and more, yet nothing you would expect. I am a prisoner, inmate, convict, felon, criminal... murderer. You probably didn't see that coming~—— I know I didn't. And that's the funny thing about lifezit never fits the pre-existing cookie—cutter molds we expect it to. It's much more convenient to see life as black and white and easily —A.»-p1'ediC{ab1e;——eVen whgn —we'V€ geen—fifneea—nd—fi1neagain that—it13~nO’[;—It'S~ge0emugh—1€gg—ffig—htening~~————~—-~-~-e—-— —— ~ when everything makes sense and we understand it, when logic and reason are as transparent as a pane of glass. But life is far more complicated than that. As a quote I am wont to repeat says: “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple.” Today, I would like you to think about why: why is it that you are sitting in a college classroom and I am sitting in a prison cell? What is it that allowed me, or pushed me, to cross the l.ine from citizen to criminal? And what does it mean that I am not alone, that there are 2.3 million Americans incarcerated across the country, and millions more who've been incarcerated or will be incarcerated in the future? What does that say about our society? What does it say about me, and you, about our differences, and our similarities? These are questions that I have been asking myself for sixteen years, and I still have far more questions than answers. Prison is not like anything you've seen on television, or read in books, with perhaps the rare exception, because on television, and in those books, the prison population is comprised of two types: heroes, and anti-heroes. There's the stereotypical sociopathic, maniacal, predatory monsters bent on raping and pillaging without remorse, gladiators who live for the arena, who have never ' possessed, or otherwise been dispossessed of, any trait that might resemble human. They are -something else, something foreign, something no “normal” person could ever relate to or conceive of.‘ Then there are the wrongly accused‘Atticus F inch-type paragons of virtue who've been framed or set-up, who've never done a single wrong and in the end will narrowly escape total destruction at the hands of their nemesis. And that is the version of prison people are exposed to, an imaginative fairy tale full of characters, not fallible, empathetic, normal human beings like you and I, because people like us don't go to prison. . . or do we? I I Wasn't always destined forprison——at one point, I was on the fast track to college, probably with a scholarship. And not just any college, but the kind of prestigious institution that would never ever produce a “cri.mina1:”. Thankfully for that school, I trod down the path I did a few years before I could tarnish their pristine name, but the fact remains that I wasn't born a criminal. In fact, despite having now spent more than half of my life in prison for a crime that I clearly committed, and to which there are no mitigating factors that would absolve me of guilt, I don't consider myself a criminal. I do not commit crimes, do not have any intention or desire to commit crimes, and do not condone or support the committing of crimes. Therefore, I say emphatically that I am not a criminal. I am simply a human being; a person who made a horrible, tragic choice to harm someone in retaliation for one of my friend's being harmed. That's it, one terrible choice that turned on me and everyone else and became a word incomprehensible to nearly everyone, a word more red than any scarlet letter, more foul than any albatross, a word beyond explanation, and for far too ‘many, a word beyond redemption——murder. A word that catches in my throat and reaches the world as a nearly inaudible whisper, choked with shame and self-loathing, a word I want to erase from my lips and tongue, scrub from my brain's synapses never to be recalled, but which will live as long as I_ do, in and around me, extracting from me infinitely the pound of flesh I owe. I In what some would say was a controversial decision, I was granted parole this year, which means I will be going home soon, returning to the society that I so long ago left. And perhaps I will stop my car to let you cross the street, help you put your groceries in your trunk at the local supermarket, hold the elevator door for you, or offer you my umbrella in the rain, and you will think, “what a nice young man,” not suspecting for a moment that I'm one of them, one of the 2.3 million “others” you're certain are not like you. I will smile at the irony of this because I used to be you, used to be all of you, in as many ways as anyone who's not you could be. We are the same, you and I. ——————— —49ifferent~,efeeurse, but the same. ' ' i That we are alike in more ways than you can imagine is the first and most important lesson I would like you to learn, but there is another, just as simple, and nearly as important——to succeed in life, you have to be yourself. This means pursuing your dreams, putting your best foot forward, leaving nothing to chance, and never giving up. It means living with no regrets; it means trying and doing, "I not wishing and Wanting. It means being honest, not just to others (after all, that's easy), but to yourself. Unfortunately, it took coming to prison for me to learn these things. It is my hope that it will not take the same, or some equally traumatic experience for your eyes to be opened as mine have. - '

Author: Reed, Karter K.

Author Location: Massachusetts

Date: October 23, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 2 pages

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