What does freedom feel like?

I am a prisoner, currently on life parole. I have served almost 32 years of a life sentence so far. Since my initial arrest at 17, I’ve spent 26 years locked in one cage or another throughout my living nightmare in our self-defeating correctional system.

After several revoked paroles and over a year and a half in the community, I still easily get lost if I’m only a few blocks from home or work. I wonder if several bouts of solitary confinement has skewed my perception. In unnaturally small carceral spaces, it’s common for prisoners’ eyesight to degrade due to the lack of stimulation that comes with larger distances and depths. It begs the question: which other senses does confinement diminish? To what degree? Do they come back?

Riding a bicycle gives me the sensation of freedom. I think the active demand on my attention engages energy that would otherwise feed the anxiety and depression associated with my PTSD. Cycling has become a mindfulness practice for me.

I took this picture while biking back to the halfway house after a workday. I used a filter to illustrate the distorted perspective that I’ve developed from living in prison. In the distance, the bright and warm setting sun reflects hope and love, and in the foreground it meets the cold, black-and-blue confinement of concrete and steel – mostly behind me but still in the periphery, pushing hope and love just ahead and out of reach. I ride on the memory of my family’s love, and with faith that someday I’ll reach something like it again. But for now, it’s too hard to see that far away.

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