When Self-Discovery Is Acceptable    by     Ruth Utnage

Fair warning, I’m about to get deep here. I have been pretty open about my change process in prison both as a trans woman and a prisoner. But a question plagued me once I realized how much I’ve actually changed, why couldn’t I do it before prison? I mean, all of it.

Here’s the thing about prison, I hate it. Everyone hates prison. The people who run it, the people who are in it, then there’s the public, you, who mostly hates it. Granted, some are glad it exists, but I think we can all agree that it’s not a great place. Given that most generally hate prison, why did I come here and this is the place, the hated place, where I not only found myself but finally felt comfortable or desperate enough to finally seek change?

I found part of the answer this weekend and I, in part, I feel embarrassed, betrayed, and joyous all at once. You see, I’ve had more epiphanies in prison than I can count and sometimes I’ve held them in, didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think anyone would believe me or I felt that I should have learned that particular ‘thing’ years ago and I’m embarrassed because I think I’m behind.

Then, I end up wanting to tell someone I love, someone who cares, someone I’ve disappointed. But it is in that word, disappointed, that my epiphany occurred. I’ve cannot say that throughout my life I felt comfortable to discover. It was only nurtured in a very specific way, limited discovery, and when a self-discovery occurred I don’t recall anyone being excited that I was learning normalcy. Now here I am, sitting in prison still trying to get that inner child nourished in that very specific way and hoping that I’ll feel better. I forget that I’m the one changing, not them. I’m the one having epiphanies, not them and part of me feels a little betrayed by the whole thing.

But, isn’t that part of maturing? Learning to cope with our emotions over time as we experience new things, as life’s complexities challenge us we learn to navigate terrain in new and creative ways, if we so choose. One of those learned things is understanding how to be our own parents, our own guides and mentors, our own cheerleaders. We need to give ourselves loving correction AND loving praise, not just one or the other. This is where I feel joy, overwhelming joy because even though I’m in this place in which hate resides and that most of the planet despises, I’ve learned to understand how learn. How to be my own parent.

Sometimes in life we need to learn how to love, how to be our own parent who instills in us affection, guidance, correction and praise. It is what it is. You might learn it at work or driving down the road singing most of the words to some song that touches a spot deep inside. Some might learn it from Mom or Dad, an Aunt, a Grandma or all of the above. It might come from a coach or professor or counselor. And it might happen through the worst situation possible where tragedy strikes daily or never at all. It might even happen in prison.

…and that’s all okay. You know? It’s okay. Us, me, you…we’re okay. We ARE learning.

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(For interviews or media inquiries please contact me directly!)

Ruth Utnage fka jeff 823469 C-510-2
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA. 98272

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Jeff Utnage