A Road Less Traveled

I have a friend who is serving time in jail. He’s in the middle of serving a three year sentence at a correctional facility in upstate New York. He was involved in an unfortunate situation that had horrible consequences for everybody who was involved. It was one of those blink of the eye moments that change lives forever and poses a ton more questions than answers as to that funny thing we call life.

Tonight I sat down to write a quick letter to my friend (instead I’m writing this blog post which I will send to him). I do this every few months – it is no big deal and takes me all of 20 minutes. I usually jot down a few notes about some good books (even sent him a few), tell him some worthless gossip about our common friends, throw out a few thoughts, and take a guess or two as to what he is up too. My friend doesn’t write back to me so the conversation is a bit one-sided but he does send out mass letters every few months that are pretty entertaining and usually gives me a shout out in the letters or when speaking with his family on the phone – which is cool with me and enough to keep me writing.

I wasn’t really all that close with him before he began serving his time. His brother is in my close (yet very large) group of friends and I guess we became friends through association. We had hung out a bunch in large groups, had some decent conversations, and shared an amazing trip to Vegas a few years back. He was entertaining to be around but his personality was a bit over the top for my liking and sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes I thought it would be worth getting to know him a bit better if he toned it down and made it a bit easier for me.

The funny thing is I find myself thinking of, and admiring, my friend quite often these days. He will be released on November 28th of this year and every day that passes is one day left. Surviving jail may or may not be an accomplishment (depending on who you) ask but I’m going to mark it down as one. It’s not very often that somebody from our background and at such a young age spends significant time locked up in a serious-security prison for an accident. In fact it’s so unique that the premise would be a hit for one of those MTV style reality shows. Except this is his reality and there is no show.

I admire him because he is stepping up to the nasty curve that life threw his way. He’s figuring out how to get by and is learning about stuff that the rest of us will never know exists. I’m not sure if this experience will make him stronger, and I have no idea if the scars of this dark incident will ever heal but I’m pretty sure he is going to try.

I’m not sure what the future holds for him. I’ll keep on writing. I might send him the fascinating article “Outrageous Justice” from ESPN.com – maybe it will resonate with him, maybe it won’t. In a few months, as a few thoughts mount up I’ll send him another note and a few months after that I’ll hopefully be hanging out with him in person. I’m not sure what I’ll say. I’ll try to discuss what works for me in life because the idea of me giving him advice or having any idea on what is best for him after his experiences seems pretty disparaging. Yup, his life is so unique he just might have to figure it all out on his own.

I am sure of one thing though and that is that I will listen. In part out of curiosity, in part out of courtesy and in part out of appreciation. I’m interested to hear his views of the world we live in and the world he lived in. After college, I moved to the other side of the country by myself in part to see how other people lived. It was different and I learned a ton. But spending a few years on the beach in worry-free San Diego isn’t quite the intense life altering experience that he is going through.

My friend has a ton of support from those who are very close to him, and in a weird way, even that seems pretty difficult. I don’t really think he’ll need my support, and I’m not going to pretend like I understand, but I’m definitely going to try and listen. Hope to hear from you soon, buddy.

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