Up until I got a letter from a mentor I had my post-release life all mapped out:

Go to Bellevue College for 2-3 quarters until my AA degree is transferrable, enroll at the University of Washington to take the undergrad program “Law, Societies, and Justice” and then proceed into either sociology with an emphasis on culture or into business school where I will pursue a career in HR following the same basic subject matter, culture. Then, make a ton of money, enough to buy as much freedom as is possible with a ton of money. Marry, buy a condo downtown somewhere, have lots of expensive toys, maybe have diamond piercings on my collar bone to match my Audi sports car and Yves St. Laurent’s…be as bourgeoisie as possible.

All that changed when a letter from a math mentor arrived from the Prison Mathematics Project (www.pmathp.org) that inspired me to make a big decision that has my inner Mom wringing her hands in angst. I’ve decided to switch my major to Mathematics.

I don’t know how mathematicians make money. I know that if I went my planned route, described above, I’m going to be scooped up by some company and put to work because I’m smart, loyal, and hungry as hell. But inside there is this yearning, a call to reignite a passion I left behind at the age of 7- my imagination.

When I was a small child I loved the stars. I loved the great American plains because at night I could see the Milky Way and my imagination crawled with anticipation of one day understanding how it all works. I was sharp back then, every school I attended recognized I was intelligent, that is, when I stayed long enough to get past a pesky stuttering problem. I dreamed of going to this one school that had a planetarium where I could see the stars whenever I wanted. In 2nd grade I had a teacher who recognized I had some talents educationally and she submitted me to go there and and I was all set, but then my Mom had to move and it crushed me.

Besides that move life was not so good and the combination of everything broke my little spirit and I remember the night I chose to excommunicate my intelligence as an enemy. Nobody liked a smart boy who acted like a girl. So I cancelled my smarts and any ounce of femininity I could find.

32 years, thousands of hours of therapy, over a decade in prison, a trail of broken dreams and having faced some serious childhood demons I got this letter by a mentor explaining how they had everything all figured out. How they still had this small yearning, a call, to recapture something from their childhood- a story very similar to mine. Then, they did it. They travelled halfway across the globe into foreign countries with foreign customs and people and languages to recapture that dream. Now they’re living it and as I read I felt a twinge of jealousy, and yearning.

Since I’ve been in prison I’ve discovered so much about myself, enough that people who’ve never experienced prison are a little jealous they didn’t come here (yeah, hear it all the time). I am nearly 40 and transgendered and have overcome many obstacles in life, biggest of all? Myself. I’m going to get out of my own way and allow myself to dream once more, to imagine the wonders the Universe holds.

I’ll major in Mathematics and minor in Physics or vice versa and I don’t have a clue how I’ll make money or where I’ll work or if I’ll even be smart enough to survive in either course of study. But I’m sure as hell going to have fun doing it.

With Love
Ruth