Voices From the Inside; Youth Prison Writings


SF-prison-meAs the occasional series of essays, poems and artwork by young people incarcerated in Illinois winds to a close, youth write about a future outside of prison walls. “Looking In, Looking Out: Reflections of Youth Changing Their Lives” was compiled by the John Howard Association of Illinois . This week an essay by G.F., 14, entitled “Life Walks Ahead of You.”

Life walks ahead of you

In the beginning of life somehow it walks behind you, because at birth you think too
fast with no control! You just run through life. When you start thinking more slowly
and learn how to say the words you want to say, that's when you get to the middle age.
That's ages five to eight. That is when you have learned some of the words that your
family says around you. Some bad, some good, but you don't know that. You just say it.
From age nine to thirteen, you start following the people you have around you. People
in your family or some of your friends might be smoking or drinking and you follow
what you have seen. Or you might see some bad things on television and want to do
the same things because they look fun to you.

Some kids do things they hear on the radio that they listen to because they see other
people listening to it. You brother may listen to Lil Wayne, Gucci Man or Plies. You
find yourself doing the same, just to fit in.

At that stage, life starts to get ahead of you.

You start doing things that other people want you to do, not what you know is right.
At age fourteen to sixteen, you're thinking, “I'm grown. Ain't nobody goin' tell me
nothing!” or, “I don't need nobody. I can do everything myself.” That's when you start
having sex and you start looking at people in unique ways. You start seeing more
in yourself, you can make your own decisions, you are in control. You start going
to parties, hanging with older people and maybe even trying to sell drugs. You are
trying to keep a “lil dolla” in your pocket to impress girls or the older guys. You aren't
thinking about your future–you are letting your life walk ahead of you.

This is when you should start thinking, “My past was dirty but my future could be
clean,” meaning that you can't change the past but you can prevent the same thing
from happening the future. Your chances for success are ninety-nine percent, but that
one percent is your problem.


G.F., 14

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