June 3, 2012 - 10:12 AM
Tonight is the last time I'll be at the Oregon State Penitentiary, at least for the foreseeable future. We have a Think Tank meeting tonight, with the group of inside guys that is helping to train new Inside-Out instructors and has taken an enormous leadership role within the prison. Alex and I have been part of the Think Tank for over a year now, and I was there to see its early formation as a focus group, then an emerging set of leaders, and now a permanent and powerful force for education and change within the prison and the broader community. I know many of these guys from previous classes: some have been fellow students and others I've known as a co-facilitator in their classes. All are people who have had a profound impact on my life, and whose friendship I value deeply.
And tonight I say goodbye.
The Inside-Out rules mandate that I not be in contact with any of the inside folks except as part of the program. So all these years I've gotten to keep going back, to hold meetings and events and classes and to do this work that has now positioned us as colleagues in our efforts at education. But that's all been through the program. Now that I'm moving and my involvement with Inside-Out is going to be at a distance and to a much smaller degree, I will not be in touch with these people. I'll hear about the projects they undertake and the work they do as a group, but I will no longer be able to hear of and know them as individuals.
It breaks my heart.
I'm not really sure how I'll get through this today, or in the next few days. I have been extraordinarily blessed to have this time and these opportunities, and I'll be taking the lessons I've learned through Inside-Out forward with me for the rest of my life. No doubt in my mind about that. But leaving is hard, even when you have a chance to do it right and to say your proper goodbyes.
I wish I'd kept better account of all of our classes, meetings, activities, etc. over the past years I've been involved at OSP. I've spent hundreds of hours there, and gone through those barred gates so many times I can't remember. We've shared stories and celebrations and heartache, and have watched a few people come and go from the group over those years. Five years ago today I was a freshman, nineteen years old, and preparing for the closing ceremony of my first Inside-Out class, getting ready to say goodbye to those folks forever. Now I'm preparing myself again, with some of the same people in mind. More than almost anyone else, these guys have been present for the span of my college years. They don't know me as I am outside the walls, living my normal life. But they have known me there and seen how I've changed. And I've seen the same from them.
So tonight is goodbye. I don't know if this blog has made much sense-I'm a jumble of different thoughts and emotions about things right now. I guess this is a really important marker for me too: a real ending for these college years.
Deep breath. And now I'm taking my leave.