I was sentenced to 7 years in Federal prison 2 years ago, and was given 8 weeks to self surrender in Dublin, California. It was devastating! In fact, devastating doesn’t begin to describe the way I felt sitting in a prison cell the day after my husband dropped me off. It took me 4 days to get the courage to walk around the unit and find a computer to email Chad. I sat in my cell, looked out the window, and thought: “I can’t do this, I can’t be away from my family for 7 years, I don’t even know if I can get through the next 24 hours!” My roommate could see that I was more than a little distraught, and kept saying: “Listen to me, you have to get out of this room; you have to go for a walk around the track; you have to do something or you will lose your mind!” I looked at her with tears streaming down my cheeks and said: “Go away! Just go away! I have nothing here, I want to be alone.” I can’t adequately describe the pain I felt. I didn’t know how I would survive without the ones I loved? There was too much time in front of me, and it seemed hopeless! All the good in my life was gone, and I was cut off from the world as I knew it. When I left the unit to eat I saw a sea of women wearing khaki clothing; women I thought I had nothing in common with; women I didn’t want to know!
After about a week I decided to go for a walk around the track, and remember saying: “You will make the best of this Portia; failure is not an option! Keep walking!” I didn’t know what was in front of me, and my suffering seemed to deep to survive? The only thing that kept me going the first few months was the promise I made to my family, and community that I would leave prison amazing. How grateful I am for that promise! When I finally ventured out of my room into the unit I found a place to sit next to a black woman named Bubbles. I chose to sit next to Bubbles because the table she was at was by a window, and I could look out the window and cry where no one else could see me. Every now and then Bubbles would look over and say: “Your okay buddy? Just keep breathing, everything is going to be okay, just take a deep breath.” Some days all I could do was get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. My first job in prison was as a line server in the kitchen. I worked under a woman who referred to inmates as degenerates, who’s only form of communication was screaming. After a month in the kitchen I decided it would be advantageous for me to get a new job, and thus started my journey working in education. What a blessing that was! I worked for a wonderful women, and was given the opportunity to grow and develop my skills as a teacher and here I found my passion!
In my former life I placed a great deal of stock in accomplishments like owning a house, or building a business. In prison those accomplishments weren’t available. Having my options limited has been a blessing though, I’ve learned how valuable other accomplishments are. I’ve learned that being willing to suffer with dignity, and find purpose in your suffering is a great accomplishment! Because my options were limited I learned to look inward to change my life, rather than trying to change my circumstances. Now I know it’s not the situation I’m in, but the way I see the situation I’m in that matters. I empower the things I focus on, that’s why it’s so important to focus on myself and my future. I try to look at whatever happens to me as positive, and know if I respond right it will all be for my good. For example: “Having everything from my former life burned to the ground could actually work in my favor. Now it’s easier to start over and plan out a better future using the wisdom I’ve gained from these experiences. Thus, everything I go through can be a benefit to me:) I believe my greatest accomplishments are in front of me. I stood at the altar with nothing left to lose, and found out everything important was already inside of me. Now I hope to be worthy of the pain and suffering I have been through, and believe something amazing will rise from the ashes. We have the power to decide how to respond to the challenges we face, and that decision will shape our destiny. The things we learn through our suffering can be invaluable, and all things can be for our good! Thanks for following along:)