Getting to the Other Side

Darkness is just as important as light in terms of harvest. In life the most uncomfortable moments have its way of bringing forth a greater version of ourselves. Some of my darkest nights have taught me that we are at our best when we are challenged. Having gone through the process of renewal, I notice such transformations effortlessly and I’m always in awe of the person brought to my attention. Why? It’s because not everyone is strong enough to endure pain, loneliness, and lack of foresight long enough to come out on the other side. Many people get lost in the darkness they created for themselves through mistakes and poor choices. However, those who survive understand there are no regrets, whatever happens along the way on your journey, is necessary to emerge victorious! So, for me it was no surprise that Keri Blankinger’s story not only caught my attention but earned my respect. 

Imagine being at the top of your game. An aspiring professional figure skater, matriculating at an Ivy League school, it’s your senior year at Cornell University, you’ve managed to work through your drug addiction and mental health issues. Then, you are caught with 6 ounces of heroin. All the promise that seemed to have been on reserve just for you suddenly fades away as you try to adjust to your new life in prison. While I don’t know all the details about Keri’s time inside I do know she dedicated her time to writing and documenting her experience. Keri’s phenomenal scribing abilities landed her a career as an investigative journalist. Keri now works at The Marshall Project, where she is the organization’s first formerly incarcerated reporter. 

One thing that stood out to me about Keri Blankinger is how blunt she was in admitting that her privilege as a white woman aided her in a successful reentry. I admire that even through her privileged gaze she was able to recognize and openly acknowledge the systemic racism riddled within the criminal justice system. However, there are success stories within the black and brown communities and the similarities that she has with them is they all utilized their time in a constructive manner that essentially gave them a purpose. They also refused to be the person their criminal record said they were. In the words of Keri,”But even so, in the sort of best-case scenarios, I think reentry is so hard, aside from all of the support services that people need and often don’t get, just the transition from being sort of in a weird time-out-like penalty box situation.”

Regardless of privilege or racial barriers, it is important to highlight such success stories to remind our beloved returning citizens that if being incarcerated didn’t teach them anything it most certainly taught them how to find a way or make a way. That skill and level of hunger and determination should remain with you and worn as a badge of honor as you reintegrate. Finding confidence and rediscovering your self worth should begin inside to prepare for the outside world. However, if you didn’t do the work then it is never too late. It takes strength and daily work but, nothing worth having comes easy. Confidence is vital to keep yourself going when you constantly meet with barriers until that one day you catch a blessing. Here are a few suggestions to help build yourself up for your second chance at life:

  1. Let go of trying to fix out of reach problems: If you keep trying to fix things that cannot be fixed, or try to control things that are out of your control, you are always going to be frustrated and feel like a failure. Work with things within your reach.
  2. Learn by reading: The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more confident you will be. Pick a subject that interests you and get library books on it. Ask relatives over the phone for book titles related to that subject so you can request them out of the library. There is so much free and valuable information out there, so take advantage of it.
  3. Help others: We are all in this together, and if you can contribute by adding value to someone else’s experience, do it. They will be forever grateful and you will feel appreciated. Little things go a long way.

Written by: Sharia Legette