To be challenged about the sincerity of your shift in thinking — replacing negative old ways with the new way of positive thinking — is deeply emotional. My past ways versus how I deal with situations today seem to be in question, as if I’m not allowed to change.
Life is hard once you start living for yourself and not for others. Reason being, you have to face everything you have suppressed over time, realizing you were living a false lifestyle.
My time of living for others began as a child. I grew up in a family where we became gang members at a young age and I was no different. This small world of the gang lifestyle was all I knew. It was all about living their dreams, not mine. Living in this environment kept me from realizing I could have my own dreams. You only see one way of being, “the gang way of living.”
You create a character — mine was called “Rip Rider” — and become that individual that mirrors what you see. You talk like them. Walk like them. Use words like them. Then you begin to think like them.
As an adult I’ve since opened my eyes and my mind to see the world as it is now and how big it is. Once I let go of the character Rip Rider and I let go of suppressing my true self, Dante, I allowed real issues I cared about to emerge and experience my feelings in a true way.
As I’m going through this transition, I am questioned and receive feedback like, “Are you sure you’re ready? It’s a lot to deal with,” and so on. I have a conflict with my old way of thinking and how I would have responded in being questioned about the sincerity of my new paradigm shift. I guess when one has lived the life of a gang member one can only expect this kind of response.
I now understand how someone may hide their true feelings for someone they love or care for out of fear of being judged. Being doubted is hard to deal with. But I feel good to be successful in living my new way of thinking and out in front of the world. Maybe it’s just me, but I hope one can understand me.
My new paradigm shift is just that I no longer believe in violence for any reason or the gang lifestyle as a true way to live. Forgiveness and peace is the only way for progress in everyone’s life. Ego must be put to the side in order to live happy, side by side, with each other. This way of being is one I believe in and push forward every day. This is not hard to do if one is sincere in their heart.
Life is about the choices we make along the way. One must understand that we have a choice in every situation put in front of us; from relationships to jobs to the way we live our lives every day. So I pray that from now on we all pay attention to the choices we are making at every moment.
As a man in prison serving a life sentence I understand fully about making choices. That’s why I say, one bad choice made to keep a friendship, or to get money, or as part of being in a relationship, it can affect your whole future. Knowing this now, I’m making different, better choices that are in alignment with my true self and my own positive paradigm.
About Insight, Out
Insight, Out is a blog series by Dante Owens, an inmate at the Sterling Correctional Facility, with editorial and publishing assistance by Kim Owens. Insight, Out conveys Dante’s personal stories and experiences of his life inside prison in an effort to share them with the world outside. This editorial journey will also provide insights into changes being made and restorative residents programs taking place, some of which are led by Dante, within the Colorado’s correctional system that strive for rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. Dante Owens’ writings and opinions are his own and do not reflect or represent that of anyone other than himself.