I think what’s lost on people is that ‘guilty’ isn’t the only life changing judgement given to an incarcerated person. It’s not only the added judgement of those whom you don’t know that also is so difficult to tread through, but it is the judgement of those closest to you that really changes your life. Either for the better or for the worse, and often the worse sadly, because those are the opinions and affirmations we look to the most. And so, with that added space of unfamiliarity and judgement, incarceration becomes an added community and family of like struggle, adversity and pain. Because this side of the fence understands the hardships, the hidden scars, the denied emotions and the blocked traumas..simply because it’s all about survival. So we celebrate birthdays, holidays, familial reunions, new found or continued love and outdates! It’s tough to see those you form such a bond with leave, it’s weird to say as a man that you care about other men and have built deep storied intimate bonds, confiding in them your worst, while having those confidences relayed in this concrete jungle of testosterone and longing. I’m happy when I see those I grew to have a love and respect for leave, but it takes something out of you every time that you don’t know how to explain let alone refill. You don’t know how to talk about it, so we just go on, feeling that pang of loss and comfort leaving us once again. Just recently, a person left that has made such an intangible impact on my life in a short span of time and it’s hurt in a way I can’t describe. I have known of this person most of my bid but because of who they were, I never interacted with them until lately, which seemed almost a fateful encounter. I know it feels like I lost out on so much, and I only wonder how much more could I have gained from them had I not kept distance from them because of those prejudices, stereotypes and judgements that rule this side of the fence also. Effect, impact..are intangibles, they can’t be measured and come around boundlessly. Titles and identifications that create divides like gay, trans, different gangs, different colors, convicts etc shouldn’t be the decider of the core of a person and the possible influence they can have on you for the better. Let me speak in plain terms..I have lesbian aunts and cousins, a transgender brother and yet I question my manhood when it comes to speaking to those I’d title as such that aren’t family. I’ve always said titles don’t matter, it’s what’s beneath that shows the person, well someone of that ilk also challenged my hypocrisy and put my words to the test. Where am I going with this? I made a gay friend, no, I made a guy friend that even now I feel self conscious about but I hope to be his friend for years to come, because he not only taught me so much, but beneath it all he may be one of the greatest spirits I’ve ever met..save of course my best friend Katie! Nobody beating that, let’s get real folks! She brought the world YoungR.U.S.S. WayOfLife and Proseofacon! Hopefully I can continue earning his friendship ridding myself of my personal phobias, because he even kept his word once he got free, checked out my page and showed his support and he could be just focusing on freedom that he just acquired 72hrs prior. Me, being who I used to be holding one on one dialogues with him feeling like I had the eyes of the whole prison on me within the unit was maybe more mentally a struggle than any fight, war, riot, or hole stint i’ve experienced..that says a lot about shallow perceptions and how they rule us. I felt like I needed to come up with a reason if anyone ever asked, and he got it and respected it without taking offense, but in those moments I felt bad and I envied him, because I thought I had finally gained my freedom of self without care of opinion but I really hadn’t, but he does and THAT in itself was a lesson and so motivating empowering and revealing. A friend revered, hugged him one day and I was like I wish I could do that. I give it to some others comfortably, that same friend shared sentiments with me after his departure, I never knew they were also that platonically close, I was blind. I eventually shared a hug. Not all lessons come in words, most come in acts, and he embodied compassion, faith, understanding, respect and freedom of identity. I guess I still have awhile to go to find myself or to be comfortable with how I feel. The eyes of the world may see and judge me while in here and once out, because even some closest to me only see what they are lazy enough to see. In some eyes we will also be everything but who we are, but in our own eyes, we need to be confident in who we know that we have become and striving to be, no matter what people say or think, and the rest will take care of itself. I’m still bettering myself everyday, join me, I like to act as if I am ready to be free and have it all figured out but I keep finding things to work on, I’m just like you, an unfinished masterpiece. I can be a better father, friend, son, brother, and person, but im trending All The Way Up #facts Thank you Nikko!