The worst part of the holidays is watching them go. There’s a level of relief and a level of loss. Memories and connections get built around the holidays. This year, two days before I moved, my pal Christopher and I hosted “Christmas Morning”. It involved getting up early and putting cocoa, coffee, cider, cookies and pastries out for the whole block. The kind of stuff families in the community would do. We made a sock toss game (like cornhole) and everyone, I mean everyone, got involved. As it goes, the older guys hit the mark most often. But it was festive! Then of course I got the gift of moving into a space by myself.

And New Years came and went with high energy. The reality of New Years was I stayed up late, woke up early and all the while, I did homework with a group and read independently and wrote feverishly. It was productive. Its a reflection of the year I want to have. A year of learning, interacting, collaborating. 2020 is a focus, because I now have three years left. And I met with friends who see it the same way! I talked with Marshall, Ruth, Renée, and some of the other writers who all have a significant thing they have in mind for this year.

But, I admit, there is a thing that happened to me this year that it took my friend network here to help me work through. For the first time since I’ve been in prison, my friends here represent the people I want to have in life. More specific, they ARE the people I want in my life. I have a family and friends outside, but the people here are just as important. The writers you see are powerful elements in my life. And it occurred to me that some of them leave before me and it created some deep loss. Thank God for Marshall and Ruth because they got me over the hump. Marshall let me in that the holidays will get harder the closer to release I get. Its like knowing that next year, parts of your family will be gone. Its a loss I don’t do well with.

But the thing it really means is that I’ve been able to build deep, meaningful relationships with like minded people. People I place loving value in. The people I love spending this year’s holidays with are people destined to be the people you can spend holidays with soon, too. Neighbors, friends, family… I’ll miss them deeply as our paths separate, but I’ll be glad to give them up so that you can feel what I feel about them. And when I go, I’ll still love the ones I leave behind. But this holiday, in particular, signified a crucial glimpse into rehabilitation for me. Plenty of guys say things like, “Nobody came here with me, so I’m leaving alone.” No one came here with me either, but I love what I found when I got here and I will remember them all when my family and I spend the holidays together in just a few years from now. In that way, they’re all leaving with me. If I’m lucky, we might even catch up on the other side… on our terms.

by Rory Andes

Remember the HumanMe while you celebrate with loved ones!

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