“Get a routine”
It is the very first thing inmates will tell you to do when you first check into prison. Routines are common in most of our lives. A parent may drop their kids off at school, go to work, pick their kids up, prepare dinner, go to bed, and repeat all over again the next morning. Generally we have things to look forward to that we anticipate perhaps prepare for. Many times these events are memorable and while we may not remember our routine days, we do remember these special moments. In an inmates life, we also have a routine life but its for one sole purpose: to burn time. Weekdays and weekends all blend together. There are no memorable events that we get to look forward to. It’s just routine life living in the present.
When inmates begin to mold to their surroundings they become what is called institutionalized. Johanna Crane defines “institutionalization as a chronic biopyschosocial state brought on by incarceration and characterized by anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and a disabling combination of social withdrawal and/or aggression.” There was a series on Netflix called The Haunting of Bly Manor. It was a show about a house that was possessed by a demonic spirit that consumed those that lived there. You became part of the house and joined the souls that disappeared into this eternal abyss. In a way, this is what happens in prison. The walls of the housing unit begin to consume you. You live within a daily routine where it is not just mindlessly passing time but you also begin to think and act like other inmates. You’re mentally drifting into a negative connotation; a mindset of spite and paranoia. Crabs in a bucket syndrome as I had described in a previous post. While the justice system is meant to rehabilitate, it is common for an ex-con to walk out in worse mental shape than how they walked in. Unfortunately for some institutionalization is also a means of survival.
So how does one beat being consumed by these walls? FOCUS. Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, defines focus with an acronym: Follow One Course Until Successful. Define what that course is. Define what success means to you. Layout the foundation and follow through. And don’t stop until you are at the end of your sentence. A way to visualize this would be to imagine you are crossing a bridge, with the bridge representing the challenge you are facing. The bridge slopes upward to a sharp peak and the moves in a downward trajectory where you reach the end of the road and begin on a new journey. This is a simple analogy to how we face hardships. You may have an uphill battle ahead of you but know that it will come to an end. And when it does, you will enter a new phase of your life as a stronger sharper individual. So maintain your FOCUS. Stay challenged. And don’t let those four walls consume you.