Thanksgiving this year was a pot luck success. My contribution was a slow-cooked barbecue pork and a chocolate mocha cheesecake. In keeping with tradition, we went around the table and each of us shared the things we were thankful for. My list contained many of the same standard things as everyone else…family, friends, etc. But I am also thankful for the opportunities that I have been given. This includes not only the opportunity to correct the miscarriage of justice that placed me here, but also the opportunity to make a positive impact on others over the last eleven years of my incarceration, and to become an inspiration to the other women around me. I do not have a choice about being here, but I have not spent the years idly. In addition to pursuing my Ph.D. in education, I have also encouraged my own students to challenge themselves and to rise to challenges placed in their paths. I find it appropriate that teaching math has become my primary tool to accomplish this. I love the logic involved in math…the proofs…it’s like solving a puzzle. I always tell my students that the great thing about math is that it is the one constant and consistent thing you can depend on when the rest of the universe is in chaos.
This is an excellent analogy. I look back at times during this nightmare, periods of solitary confinement, when I was so deep in dark despair and hopelessness that I would spend days and weeks on end laying on a cold cot in some forgotten place, staring at a blank brick or cinderblock wall, not even seeing it, having given up on my physical self and gone somewhere else, or nowhere at all…losing track of light and darkness and any sense of time passing. I am not a religious fanatic. That’s not at all what this is about. But once you have come through a darkness that you are never the same. These things have altered something fundamental in me, at a depth which can feel but have difficulty explaining.
It was during these times that I learned something very important: You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have. The new year ahead holds many unknowns for me, but if I focus on those constants I know that I can rely on…my family, my amazing friends, the beating of my heart and each individual breath, then I can draw strength from these things…the strength to embrace the light, and to continue moving forward into the unknown.