A Decade In     by   Ruth Utnage

It’s odd how over time a natural change occurs in our demeanor and temperament. I have been in prison nearly a decade and my acceptance of confinement, having a realistic view on my circumstances, has dramatically shifted since I first fell. Things like dealing with cellmates whom I do not know, being forced to live with someone I don’t know. I used to get worked up over such things but a calm and confidence happens as you deal with nearly every situation possible.

Learning to accept things as they are has been a difficult road. I see others struggling to encapsulate their environment and their experience as their own doing, but the opposite is true, it encapsulates you and provides you with a certain level of experience. There’s just no way around that truth. I find it disheartening to witness others learn to cope with this in every way other than acceptance. I’d imagine that, like myself, coping with reality was a major part of why they came to prison in the first place.

Something else that changed over a decade is who I looked at as strong and who I feared. I used to fear the overly aggressive and look up to those who were overly aggressive but had empathy for me, specifically. This is no longer the case. I now have a healthy respect for those who keep their humanity and follow their values despite the current environment. True strength is understanding reality and dealing with it head on, but that’s just one woman’s humble opinion. Who I fear is those who follow and are soft-minded (a term that one of my heros wrote about in Strength To Love, Martin Luther King Jr.), unwilling to grow or change over time.

I have been forever changed by prison. Understand this, I have had to choose that it was for the good.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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