The man I'm referring to is me, and though there isn't one answer or reason for my consistent optimism - I don't know how I do it, I just do - on most days, including today, I have a genuine, positive attitude and expectation to be living another day, even in a place that I despise with a passion, probably because I realize I'm one day closer to getting out of here and moving on with my life.
The last time I checked (a few minutes ago), I reside in a prison and not a hotel, so the aforementioned inconveniences that I encounter on a daily, hourly basis come as no surprise to me. I learned early on in my incarceration that if I have low expectations for the Texas prison system, I will e disappointed a lot less. This approach helps me to sleep better at night on my lumpy, plastic mattress and my makeshift pillow that is a cotton bag of clothes (smile). The fact that my negative reality, prison, is meant to inconvenience and punish me, and the majority of the prison population is composed of negative men, makes it even harder for me, or anyone doing time, to maintain a positive attitude.
I believe my wrongful prison journey is for a divine reason; I believe prison is like a big campus university where I become anything I want to be with my time; I believe in resisting convict cultural norms and not becoming a product of my negative environment; I believe some of the greatest dreams/ideas are discovered during the hardest of times; I believe one man can make a major difference; I believe in persistence; I believe in isolating myself from negative people who will only bring me down with them; and I believe God has a calling and purpose for my life.
My belief system and the principles I live by allow me to have a rare positive attitude in prison. Most men in prison who do a lengthy, multiple decade stretch behind bars become increasingly bitter and hateful inside towards the system and life in general. Some call it, being mad at the world. I met a guy on Ramsey Unit, Marlon Branch, who has been locked up like 34 consecutive years. Do you know how old he was when he got locked up? 15-years-old. Where is the justice in this? By giving this example, it's easier to see why some men aren't optimistic in prison because of how they've been treated by the system.
When I first started this 40 year wilderness sentence nearly two decades ago, I was only 17 and I didn't think I could do it. I thought my life was over with. I was on the nation's worst prison at the time. This was back in 1996, so it was called the Terrell Unit (now it's called the Polunsky Unit). Most of the guys my age were eagerly joining prison gangs. Then I saw older guys taking a cocktail of psych meds because they had lost their minds over the course of doing time. I didn't want to end up like either. I didn't want to become a product - or a victim - of my negative environment.
I took one day at a time. I set goals. I went to church. I educated myself. I read and escaped mentally away from prison. I separated myself from negative people and influences. I grew and became a man in prison, mentally and physically. The ride hasn't been perfect, but I have persevered through it all and I still have my smile and sanity. But there is something still missing - my exoneration. I'm optimistic that I will receive justice one day soon, and I won't quit, wont stop until I get it.
Let's Keep up the Fight, Shawn Ali