It’s been over 10 years
3779 days
5,441,760 minutes
326,505,600 seconds- since I’ve seen freedom.

28.205128 percent of my life thus far has been locked up. By the time anyone reads this, all these numbers will have risen and in 69 days I get out.

3 chunks of 23 days, 2 prime numbers. Or we can put it 23 x 3, which, if I take the products 2 x 3 and 3 x 3 and place the two numbers side by side I get 6 and 9 or 69. That number has suddenly become more interesting to me. In fact, math in general has become much more interesting lately.

The idea of releasing is not so stressful, it’s the process and the emotional turmoil that I must face to do it. I have said since I’ve been in prison that prison is a womb or a tomb, you can come here and learn to live again or you can come and finish dying, but you better choose because left up to this place, it will always choose the latter on your behalf, always. Then when I think about choosing to think of it as a womb that means when I leave I have been birthed, new. Which means right now I am in a womb that is violently contracting pushing me towards the light of day. There’s a reason humans don’t remember their own births, it’s traumatic.

I’ve had my life all figured out until recently. I was going to get out, spend 2 quarters at Bellevue College, get my transfer degree completed. Transfer to the University of Washington, enroll in the Law, Societies, and Justice Bachelor degree program. Spend that 18 months grinding hard as many classes as I can fit, decide if I want to pursue Sociology or Business. Meet some cool mentors along the way, work 2 jobs to pay off my legal debts, about $25,000-$30,000. Invest everything after that and build my wealth. Live in a penthouse somewhere in Seattle, maybe that cool little studio at the peak of Smith Tower? I’ve had it all figured out.

Math has been by Achilles Heel, my weak point. I love playing with numbers, I just wasn’t good at it. Despite that, I love math. Mathematics isn’t a spectators game though, it’s integrative and immersive. Like a friend it takes time to build a relationship with.

I have come to understand that mathematics is kind of like a mysterious foreign land, whoever goes there and returns never returns the same. We are forever altered by its culture. As I have faced stress in the past few years and my life feels out of control I have turned to mathematics as my private soother. Quietly I navigate the pages of a math book, usually something simple, like equations with variables on both sides or simplifying polynomials. Then I’d get stuck on something, like a proof or a dreaded coin problem and walk away thinking “this is for smart people, I’ll go back to my studies” and crack open a book on something else like sociology, neurobiology, or human resources.

However, when I am stressed and needing comfort it is not those subjects I return to, it’s mathematics. In the recent weeks I’ve contemplated some of the darkest options through tears and shaking nerves just trying to figure out how to face this last push. My body is tired, my nerves are frayed, my relationships are strained and I haven’t been real sure I was going to make it to my release date. My last ditch effort was to revisit my old friend, mathematics. I spend hours each day with it, learning the language, practicing every problem, burning through scratch paper like gasoline on a fire.

Now word problems aren’t a big deal, I can do coin problems, age problems, story problems, perimeters and I’m even beginning to see a little proofing in my future (just a glimmer though!). Over the past few weeks I’ve become attached to the sense of stability and self-control mathematics is introducing to me. It’s not just teaching me how to calculate a proper tip, it’s teaching me how to take control of my life. I need that now more than ever.

Lately, I can tell you math has become a legitimate life saver. Now, I’d like to make it my collegiate major. I don’t know how to make money with math or how to pay off my legal debts, but I can tell you this, I know I’ll be happy. I need that more.

For anyone who has taken the time out to read this or to help anyone reach their goals. Thank you.

Please visit my friends at (Prison Mathematics Project)

With Love
Ruth Utnage