As I sit in this very cold kitchen with a steaming coffee and consider my last blog of 2017, I don’t know where to start. This isn’t a blog about prison or about life after. The words for those blogs come easy to me. While I reflect on my journey over the past year I feel immense pride. This pride isn’t selfish or personal. Granted, I have achieved a lot this year down to my own hard work and perseverance, with that being said, none of it would have been possible without many people who have believed in me, support me and help me along the way, and for that I want to express my gratitude.
Here I should name names. But I won’t! I don’t have time to seek permission to name individuals and I would like to keep this as a collective.
Through-out the year I have been supported by organisations and individuals. I have received emails from families of serving prisoners and feedback from my blogs has come in thick and fast from academics, people working in the Criminal Justice sector, Child Protection workers and many former prisoners. My writing has been criticised, challenged and praised. All is ok because ultimately, nobody has lived my life so I don’t expect everybody to understand, agree or even like what I have to say.
Ill say it anyway.
When I left my full time job and swapped it for a part time role elsewhere it was a massive risk. It provided me with time to volunteer with various organisations, using my skills and experiences to help others. My summer was spent doing various mentor training courses and applying for University. We are now in December and I had the pleasure of winning an award for Volunteer of the year and to date, my assignments from University have come back with a B and a B-. Not bad for a girl who left education at 16.
My course leader at University is amazing. From the day I met her she has been a great help. No problem is too big or too small. I feel at ease within my group to talk openly about my experiences and I am able to do so. I can already notice changes in my behaviour, my thinking and my general well-being brought on from my university experience so far. It really is the best thing I was brave enough to do. Its challenging, hard, enjoyable and the best opportunity I received this year. I hope the three years goes very slowly so I can enjoy it and work at it for as long as possible.
A special mention to my mentor, who undoubtedly is another amazing woman. Her facetime calls when I am in a state of sheer stress, sat at the table with my laptop, coffee and an assignment to bang out, provide me with reassurance that I am ok, doing well and she is an unquestionable source of support guidance and advice, if and when I need it. This woman has so much faith in my ability and a brilliant way of making me question and understand my own life and how to move on from my past. For another person to want success for me and help me achieve it, is new to me. Its so lovely and I cant thank her enough for everything she has done and continues to do for me. Actually, I was thinking about texting her after the completion of this blog, then my phoned beeped and she had text me. The law of attraction is some powerful force.
When I first started my blogs, I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. All I knew was that I had an insight into a system that so many people do not understand, do not care about and do not challenge. Little did I know, I would meet and be supported by so many people who do understand, who do care and who do challenge. What is so brilliant is that I have seen these people come from all walks of life. Its heart warming to see compassion, empathy and people going above and beyond their professional role, to help and support many people caught in a cycle and a system where they are written off.
Many of the people who have and who are supported my journey I have never even met. Emails, texts, letters through the post that get sent to me, with kinds words, motivation and humanity are just the nicest things to receive. Words from strangers, wishing me well and rooting for my success.
For all of you who read this, who have taken the time to contact me, help me with work, comment on my blogs, offer me opportunities to write or talk, offered me paid work, advice, support, a listening ear, a chance to help change a failing system, I owe you a lot. A simple thank you, I know most of you will say I don’t need to give anyway, but I am thankful.
I am thankful that you listen to my story, share my story and help me ultimately help others with a story. I am thankful that I get to see passion, dedication and resilience, day to day. Thankful to still be able to dream, to work hard, to live and now enjoy life.
This will be my last blog of 2017 and I begin my new job in the start of the new year. 2018 is looking like it will be even more crazy than this one, but I am ready to battle through it, as I have done for 27 years. Stopping isn’t an option when you have a mini me watching your every move.
Thanks to my daughter, who teaches me discipline every single day. Doing what you know needs to be done, even when you may not feel like doing it. My childhood was far from the norm and then I went to prison and damaged my own child’s chances. For that, every day I promise her I will get up and work so damn hard. Ill have sleepless nights of worry, early mornings of work and never quit, so she can see her mum is not one to quit on. While I worry about Christmas because this year I am not in full time employment, and worry about life as I am busy doing uni work and loads more, she tells me not to worry because I am doing this for her and other people and that it is important that I do well. I will be with my daughter on Christmas day, and she will open a present. Regardless of what we have or don’t have, we are together and happy and that is more than enough for me.
Mum, I know I don’t need to do anything to make you proud. You love me unconditionally, and I offer you the same. To see you happy makes me happy. There are times I haven’t understood our lives and that made for a troublesome few years. Look at your daughters now. We couldn’t do it without you.
This year, I have cried, laughed, I’ve been hurt, disappointed, elated, there are too many describing words I could use so I won’t bore you, it’s been a rollercoaster. Its been amazing, thank you to everyone who has been there along the way. Enjoy Christmas and lets spare a thought for the many who are separated from loved ones at this time of year.
See you in 2018.