Guess what, I’m now a felon that has a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology!
It’s been a long five years (had to take a self-care break after family losses to maintain my mental health), but I made it! It felt like an eternity and it pushed me to create at least 100,000 words worth of essays and slide presentations that took hours of precious time out of an already strained schedule. But I made it – and that makes every minute spent completely worth it.
What’s even better, is that now I know that I am living proof that our pasts don’t have to stop us from becoming better people. What’s even crazier, is that the background you have can even help you depending on the career you choose to study for.
In my case, I wanted to apply my experiences as a convicted felon to a program that will help other felons (and non-felons too!). Life can be incredibly difficult in so many ways, and I know what it’s like to not know what to do or where to turn. I remember looking for someone to share their experiences and guidance – but not having it available. Now that I’ve managed to get my life back on some sort of track (messy as it might be, its what I have and what I LOVE), I want every felon to know that it isn’t the end of their normal life to have a conviction. You can move forward and you can be successful. You just have to want it, and be willing to figure out how to get it the right way! Pinpoint a goal and just GO for it one step at a time – until you’re looking back and thinking ‘Holy crap, I did it!’
Now, reaching that point isn’t easy, and it takes a bit of creative thinking in many cases. I have a theft record, so I had to work around what I knew I couldn’t work in. Even if it was something I was interested in. I have had to avoid corporate retail positions, because it’s often a waste of my time and printed resumes (as well as that apparently precious and expensive printer ink and paper) often because corporate or state policy simply doesn’t allow a felon with theft to work for them (state seems to be picky about the lottery too, so no gas stations either for theft records around here – without special certificates to alleviate the effects of the record). So, I had to find something that I COULD work in, that I also actually LIKED.
So, I made a list of the stuff in life that I liked. This included books, games, music, psychology, sociology, and a few other random topics. Then I had to figure out how I could become a part of those things and contribute to them – regardless of my past. While I like to play games, I wasn’t interested in learning the tedious work that goes into creating them – so that was something I crossed out. Same with music, I love to enjoy it but don’t have the patience to fully apply myself on any particular instrument. When it comes to writing – I obviously enjoy that – but I wanted to do something more ‘official’ feeling while I began to put ideas together for what to write about. So, I kept going through the list, examining different aspects and if I would be a good fit somewhere in that industry. I wanted my goal to mean something to me – so I would be better motivated to finish it. (And it seems to be working!)
I chose psychology partly because I love the intricacy of the human mind and how our emotions drive us to behave in different situations. I also love helping people with their problems and have been the go-to for my friends – both online and in real life – for advice and guidance. Psychology is just tied into so many aspects of life and it never ceases to amaze me – so I went for it with everything I had.
About two years in, I finally remembered that I might have an issue with actually getting hired into the therapy offices or various mental health care centers – even if the college hadn’t denied me from the courses. I had applied to a local care center after earning the Associate’s level, had an absolutely perfect interview, and was still turned down when I followed up. It was discouraging to say the least. Then I realized that with my background and my growing expertise in psychology and life coaching, I could actually create my own coaching career built on my experiences. Plus I get to write about stuff that matters to me – I mean – as a writer, that’s sort of huge.
I also realized that there isn’t anything in my area that is directed to helping felons get back on their feet (the halfway houses around here don’t offer coaching, counseling, or any other actual support other than housing), and I recognized that there is a need for more support services for struggling individuals.
All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve been through. My felony might have made me stumble, but it can’t keep me down in the dirt. If I can pick myself up, time and time again, holding my head high and continuing to move forward in life no matter what insane curveballs come my way, I know you can too.
If you need guidance finding your passion and need someone to hold you accountable (it helps to have someone rooting for you and keeping you on task, it really does), I’d love to help you. I offer books, workbooks, and more. Check out my books here, or find the exclusive print edition from Microcosm. I also have a ton of posts about resumes, interviews, extra work, and the five things felons need to know. Don’t forget to share!
Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)