Lauren began her story by taking responsibility for her circumstances, but I knew right away, unfortunately, that Lauren was not and should not have been responsible for the start she was awarded. She says, “I made horrible choices in life. I was raised by a single mother who had alcoholism and drug problems, so she never really cared what I did, or where I was. So, I started running the streets at about 14.”
We all know the direction this story is likely to take, and it does. Lauren says, “It was so much easier to sell drugs than it was to go to school.” Of course, for some, education is daunting, but an argument must be made that learning is an expensive endeavor, be it cash money to a university or time served to a prison system… either way, the lessons are real.
Selling weed turned into more lucrative sales in crack cocaine. While selling crack, she did PCP and drank alcohol. She felt “invincible” as she entered the justice system with a cocky attitude; she’d never been in trouble before. This story is rife with wisdom for those with eyes and ears to see and hear. The Feds caught up with her and sentenced her to 120 months. Lauren related this story as if this was the first time she was in trouble. However, I’d say it was the first time she was caught. She was in trouble long before then.
Ten years will wake you up. Or it won’t.
Lauren took advantage of every skills training and experience that would give her a leg to stand on when released. She learned culinary arts, she learned to knit, and she took college courses. Lauren even learned to operate a forklift.
Meanwhile her two small children lived with Lauren’s mother. Incarceration kills a family. Lauren put it this way, “Reintegration into society is nothing compared to reintegrating into my children’s lives.” Simple interactions such as prison-made bookmarks created deep connections with her kids. Appreciation infused Lauren’s voice while telling her story.
What prison meant for Lauren (and me), was the chance to step away from a world of heaviest responsibility. Prison was a chance to relax and worry about no one, but her. No children, no bills, no phone calls. Just time to look inside for something better. She said, “I still miss the experiences in prison. It almost makes me feel ashamed for missing it. In prison, I was taken away from all the drama and allowed to become the person I am right now.”
Lauren says, “Before I went to prison, I was an animal. I was very selfish, but now I am a better mother and a better human being.”
As a single mom and unemployed felon, Lauren knows that hard work is the path to redemption. Physical labor, night shifts, teen aged girls, and all
the problems the world pushes on each of us, Lauren has faced it all. But shouldering the burdens has rewards. Today, Lauren has earned a management position, bought her first home and her oldest daughter is now attending college.
“Use your time to learn who you are.”