W. P. is 27 years old and has been locked up for 7 years. He wrote me over a year ago, and when I moved to Missouri, I went to visit him. He’s big, has clearly spent many hours working out at the gym, and walks with a don’t-mess-with-me swagger, which I think he uses for protection in the dangerous prison environment. But when he spoke with Kalen and me in the visiting room, he was gentle. Shy at first, he opened up as we talked more. He likes to write. Here’s the first of what I hope will be more vignettes.
Several years ago I wanted to be a rebellious, on-the-edge type of guy. When hanging out with others I would drink the most alcohol and take the biggest dosage of drugs. Basically I tried to be the TV image of the American bad ass. I wore dark clothing, drove souped-up cars, and was the leader (most feared) among my many shady friends. I passed up many great opportunities (college, management position in Australia, and loving relationships) to live this way.
Then later, after getting locked up in prison, I wanted an average life. Regular job, wife and kids, and all the responsibilities that come with it. But now I don’t yearn for such things. Because I realize that when I get them I’ll just crave something else. And that nothing can ultimately make me happy—just give me moments of pleasure.
Now that I have quit searching for happiness, I find that I am happy all the time. And when I feel angry or frustrated, I know they are just momentary feelings. So I ignore them, and they soon go away.
I guess the message behind this story is that, you don’t need to search to find happiness. You just need to get rid of the things that blind you to it.