Finding Direction is Difficult

Hey Readers!

Things are starting to slow down again finally and settle back into a pace that I can manage (at least without losing my mind). I’m glad to be back to writing and only dealing with filling vending machines instead of hordes of people every day. Thanks to this sudden change in direction, it brought to mind just how difficult it is for us – anyone really (felony label or not)- to find a direction in life.

You know, we all start out as kids thinking that we’ll be a fireman,… a teacher,… an equestrian trainer, … a doctor…so on and so forth. As things progress, we begin to find that we might have multiple interests, or maybe very few interests (that might happen to barred now). Now, as I recall, the great American Dream dictated that we settled on something out of high school, right? Went straight to college. Rolled the dice on the perfect partner and perfect lifestyle – voila. Something like that anyway.

Eh.

Looking back, that whole thing is nonsense. Now, while felons, in particular, have huge disruptions in finding employment overall, people, in general, don’t really seem to fit into one category, one set of simple rules, or anything even close to that box that everyone talks about…. ever. We are diverse in everything we do, everything we like, and everything we have experienced. This makes things complicated sometimes. We aren’t going to be able to stay on a single direction for forever. Change is the stuff of life, and even though the changes that felons in particular are experiencing are rough indeed (regardless of the offending conviction),  – it doesn’t have to be an end to ‘having a direction in life’.

I think that it’s okay for life to be diverse and challenging – even if it gives me headaches (dropping back to part-time work and depending on freelancing/self-marketing hurts a bit more than I remember). I know I just have to remember that if I want everything to come from the work I do, I need to put everything into it. Then again, that is far easier to say than to do.

I can’t say much for you guys, but I know I have a ton of interests. This makes post-felony life a bit easier for me honestly because it means I adapt really well.
For instance, I love crafting and creating in just about every way possible. You’d get lost if you tried to find your way through all of the drawers and totes of my craft stuff, let alone attempted the navigation of the file drawer under my desk.
Add in my love of DIY automotive repair (comes in handy for those times where I really don’t want to interact with people – and I can whack parts that aren’t cooperating with my wrench -which I can’t do with non-cooperating people), a knack for writing, and a talent with witchy things, well – I tend to have my bases covered one way or another. I’m telling you, the whole ‘Where there is a will – there is a way‘ thing if fully felt and really, truly lived out in mind and action – has proven to be extremely useful. Thank you to my lovely Momma for that (she’s doing fine, in case you were wondering).

I suppose the lesson here is that while you might think life is supposed to be a straight line, things are going to get crooked in one way or another at some point. There is a multitude of experiences that will turn your life into a giant rollercoaster that feels vaguely akin to a personal hell. While this might be unavoidable, or might last longer than you would expect – things can get better.

Allow yourself to try new things, you never know what interests you might unveil!

One personal example of this is when I first found my love of automotive work. I found rat rod magazines in my house as a kid and fell in love with the designs and articles. I began learning the terminology and basic theory of how cars worked and how to work on them. While my dad was older and of a generation that didn’t believe much in women working on cars (he never let me help him), I still found ways to intern as a teen at small shops until I learned enough to move forward and become hire-able. About 15 years later, I thought I was tired of the auto industry (it’ll never be done – fellow techs know that pain, lol) and went into psychology and back to another childhood love of writing.

Now, I offer help online to felons that need encouragement and direction in their lives, as well as continually write (blogs, books, and random freelance things). These are the things I love, and I hope that my focus and drive will inspire other felons to find a path that leads them to their own new flavor of freedom.

So, keep flexible, stay open-minded, find something that interests you and see if you can make it work for you. If you can’t find it in you to find a direction without some additional direction (ha, I’m sometimes funny), hit me up on Fiverr and look up my Gigs for help. Maybe you want personal coaching on how to overcome your felony – I offer that as well as a few other fun things, so click that link and check it out (you’re helping out a fellow felon with every purchase!)

That’s all for today guys! Gotta run to the next job!
Love and Peace – Aza

Advertisements

Smashwords Profile

Hey Readers!

I’ve updated my profile page at Smashwords – one of my online publishing sources. Just click the link there, and you can check it out. Maybe take a look around the site and see what all the awesome indie authors out there have to offer.
There’s a lot of interesting things always being uploaded every day!

Pushing Personal Boundaries

Hey Readers!

Seemingly unrelated topic today!
I agreed to go to a local event with a friend last month. It’s a Thrive after 5 event, and I’ve been convinced to go up and speak about my experience while using Thrive. (Sorry if the mention of it kills your interest – I really do have a point with all this!)

I’m sort of losing my mind today, because it’s finally really hitting me that I’ll be out in front of a crowd, and will in all likelihood – will forget everything I want to say and simply blush myself out of existence. I’m more introverted than anything, and the idea of talking to a group of people in person is somehow more terrifying to me than anything I can imagine doing.

Even so, I’m still making myself try.

This is one of those things where I also had to ‘throw my hat over the fence’ so to speak.

To explain: I’ve posted before about using Thrive by Le-Vel, and thanks to my reluctance to use my psychology powers to make people join me – I usually have to pay for my own product. I really love it that much, it’s easy to keep using it when you don’t have to pay out of pocket – but I’ll go the extra mile just to keep this in my life. It’s that much of a game changer for me.

However, my wonderful promoter offers to help me out fairly often, and in exchange for helping me a couple months ago, she asked me if I’d help her with this event. I happily obliged, mostly focused on taking the opportunity for a break on my supplement costs – things were slow at work and this would make it easier to keep everything afloat. I had some idea that I’d be really nervous later on in this deal, but I knew future me could deal with it – right?

Well, here I am, and again, while I don’t much care for this sort of thing, I know it’ll not only help my friend, repaying her kindly for her assistance, AND it will continue making me a more rounded, and less fearful person. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find a way to enjoy the spotlight – if I’m lucky.

I’ll update later tonight and let you know how it goes. Maybe this will help me get a better grasp on how far I have to go when it comes to speaking – since it’s something I intend on doing as part of my living – I might as well dig into the practice. Wish me luck!

****Update*****

So, I was worried for nothing!

I’m not sure if it’s just my bad juju, or if the team just didn’t do enough marketing of the event because it was so far out of our normal region, but it ended up being a nice night out for just the three of us that had planned on speaking. It was a total flop. Not a single other person showed up, and we had this entire section booked for the night. How crappy is that?

And, what’s worse, is the food that we ordered was ridiculously tiny for the price. The kid’s chicken strip basket was the same price as our cheesy chicken and bacon platters, and had at least 5 more ounces of meat on it. All in all, for the 3 adults and two kids that ate – we spent over $120. (One of the kids had a 12 oz sirloin though, so… that probably didn’t help. lol)

Oh well, it was my first night out in years, and even though it was a fail, it was worth a try. I nearly had my nerves under control as we pulled up to the the event – so… that’s progress right?

I also feel that I’ll get pulled into the next one, so I know I’m not out of the woods of anxiety yet. But, I’ll keep pushing forward, and making myself do things I’m scared – why? Because it’s good for me.

What fear do you need to work on? Share below and let’s get talking!

Introspecting the Post Conviction Mentality

It’s important to remember that a conviction is something that happens to you, and that it doesn’t define you.
It’s also important to remember that one of the worst things about trying to change your life is how frustrating the whole process can be, but good things do NOT come easy – not for the majority of us anyway.
I went for years thinking that my record made me worthless in the eyes of society before realizing that I really did still have something to contribute that would be helpful and meaningful somehow.
The social perception that I wasn’t worthy of a job depressed and infuriated me in the early years during probation and even after a successful completion of my sentence, things didn’t seem to begin to turn up. Every failed interview and every let down in housing options made me feel stupid and insignificant in the eyes of society, and why should I try to cater to that – they hate me right? (sound familiar at all?)

But I know now that I am more than my past, and I know from interacting with a huge group of fellow felons online in a variety of platforms that many other felons out there are more than their past too.

Really letting that sink in can be hard, both for the felon and for the never convicted.

And it’s honestly understandable. A fellow felon just mentioned to me last week that there are many out there who are still actively being shitty (for lack of a more eloquent description), and yes, there is always that danger, but I assure you that there are many more of us that simply want to live our lives in some semblance of a secure manner.

One of the leading things I’ve found in my own research and work with this stuff, is that when we’re denied our basic rights on the outside, we find them met on the inside.

And that sucks. It makes people want to go back, simply because it meets those basic needs. However, what those sorts are forgetting, is that there are more than basic needs in life. We have needs for positive social interaction with other people that want us to grow and learn. We have desires for lovers and families (in some cases). We have a wish to do something that leaves a mark on the world. But, somehow, we get caught up on those basic needs, simply because we hear no too often, lose that job, are denied that apartment, or lose that sense of security in life. All because we made one (or more) mistakes, and even though we tried to do better, the more we had to hustle in the wrong way just to get by.

I can only say that through sheer bull headedness that I’ve managed to scrape by and fight my way to what I want in life. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of going the extra mile. If you’re in the same boat, I want you to know you’re not alone, you’re worth more than your past, and you can do whatever you really put your mind to. Hustle for the good side of things, even harder than anything you might have done in the past for that other side. Something I found that is posted on The Friendly Felon Facebook Page, is Chris Pratt’s quote, involving this sentence-

“IT will break before YOU do…”

That’s powerful right there. Meditate on that bit there, and see where you can take life.

Love and Peace

Aza

 

The Importance of Research

Welcome Readers!
Our topic today is the importance of research and continuing personal curiosity and learning. Now, I know I’ve touched on this before, and I thought it might be helpful to share some more of the personal experiences that have came up for me over the last decade to help cement the idea of how productive it really can be.

The first time I realized that my curiosity about my situation could be actually helpful to building a life back up was when I stumbled upon a list of updated laws for my state, sometime around 2014. Mostly, it was a lot of stuff that was irrelevant to the lifestyle I lived, but it included a note about an updated law directed toward the sealing of records and their various requirements. Now, when I talk about requirements for these things, I mean things like length of time since conviction and release of sentence, type of arrest/charge/conviction, and having various forms of supporting evidence of character change – these are the most common characteristics that you’ll see on these updates in my experience.

This one mentioned expanding to various types of theft, and it immediately caught my interest. I went through the process over that spring at tax time just to take a shot at it – not even believing I’d really get anywhere – I was just desperate at a shot toward something positive. I finally reached the day where I took my place in front of the judge and plead my case to get a chance at life again. He took a moment to peek at the petition in front of him in that pale, stark folder…flipped through his handy-dandy lawbook… and looked quite puzzled for a moment… before he finally explained his total befuddlement to me.
The judge hadn’t even been updated on the new law yet!

While I didn’t end up fully qualifying for the sealing procedure that day (thank you journalists who use the thesaurus without a second thought – we still cool tho – I understand the struggle), the judge was impressed by the gumption that I had shown in trying to do something about my life, and he took the time to express exactly that.

It was a really surreal moment. I hadn’t loved the idea of facing the court system again, especially because they had left such a huge and negative impression on my life. I had been terrified and pretty nauseous the entire time I had to be back in the court house at all. But that small moment, those three seconds where my work was positively acknowledged by a person from that system…. WOW.

It sparked my first interest in really digging into the resources available at our fingertips and seeing what I could do with it.

The next experience that really cemented the importance of research to improving life overall, was when I found out about the Certificate of Good Conduct in my state, found the requirement list and discovered that I was REALLY qualified for it. It would have impacts on both my housing and employment prospects, and do you want to know the best part?

Again, no one had any idea that this was a thing that was available for felons in my state!

They heard me out with a new interest sparkling in their eyes as I quoted the statute, the requirements, and how I had fulfilled them, and they promptly sent the assistant to do some additional research in their on-site law books while my case was pushed to the end of the court session so they could give this their full attention.

When my name was called again, the judge was amazed and extremely pleased by my ability to find the certificate, ensure the requirements were met and steel myself again for the petition to the court. (And I did it for free, because I had a low-income, I also qualified for waived court costs)

The most recent experience is detailed in my Raging Against the Ticket series, from April of 2017. Check it out for more details, as it’s a pretty long story with a gleeful ending!

Thank you so much for stopping by again, and don’t forget to amp up your research skills. You never know when they might save you.

Peace and love
Aza

Success Stories – Robert

I’ve located another amazing transformation story for you today!
Read on Readers!

Introduction to Robert:

Robert Gallant grew up in a troubled environment, where he became a dysfunctional alcoholic at a young age. Under his drunken exterior hid a heart of gold and a sparkling brilliance, however, his life brought him through many tragic events, caused by a series of bad choices, including three years of homelessness. After a life-altering event that led to his incarceration for an extended period of time, he turned his life around, let his heart and his brilliance shine for all to see, and never looked back. His life of destructive addictions is no more. Through a dedication to self-improvement and education he has become an accomplished public speaker, author, mentor, and leader. He is ALB and ACB Certified from Toastmaster’s International, and is pursuing an ongoing education in Christian care and counseling. He recently completed the necessary classes to become a Certified Peer Specialist, volunteers as a Life Coach at a prison re-entry center, and just recently was asked to possibly join the National Alliance to End Homelessness! He currently lives as a happily married man, with an amazing family. His goal is to help others find the same success and peace he has gained.

The Interview:

Aza -. What charges/convictions have you faced, and how did they initially impact your life?

Robert – During my life, I have faced a multitude of criminal charges. They all had one thing in common – they stemmed from my addiction to alcohol. The various charges I have faced have had different degrees of impacts upon my existence, depending on where I was in life, and what I “had going for me.” There was also one common thread that ran through the impacts – every charge made me feel worthless, ashamed, and hopeless. It didn’t matter if it was something as minor as the many “drinking in public” charges I picked up when I was homeless, or the most serious one – 2nd degree murder. This last one forced me to face myself, and who I had become. This was not me. I was a boy, and then a man, with hopes and dreams – someone who cried at those commercials that play sad songs while they show you pictures of homeless puppies. I loved life, and everything it represented. This inner reflection was the beginning of healing.

Aza –  What was the factor in your earlier life that really drove you ‘into the bottle’ so to speak?
Robert – At first, I drank just to fit in. All my “friends” were doing it and I wanted to be accepted. It didn’t dawn on me later on in life that the REAL problem was that I wanted to be accepted – by anyone who would have me. My Dad abandoned my Mom and I when I was 11 years old. When I later reflected on my life while I was incarcerated, I learned that ever since my Dad left us, I had a deep longing for acceptance – for a family. That longing led me to become something, and someone, I wasn’t. I left behind my true self to search for wholeness at the bottom of a bottle, and the many people I falsely called “friends.”

Aza –  What was the changing point in your life, what was it that catalyzed your transformation?
Robert – The thing that catalyzed my transformation cannot be pinpointed to one exact moment. I can only give credit to God. I grew up as a “good little Catholic boy,” so I always knew OF God. I didn’t truly get to know Him until I became homeless. During my time as a vagabond, I met this one homeless man who didn’t drink or do any drugs. He was always happy and content. I wanted to learn his secret, so I started hanging around him. It turned out that his joy came from God. He spent every morning alone in prayer as he read the Bible. He was literally high on the life that only comes from God. I began to change as I hung around him more. I actually stopped drinking for a few months. It was so amazing! I found joy in reading the Bible, singing hymns, and just enjoying the world that God created for us. This peace unfortunately didn’t last. I eventually started drinking again, and ended up in prison for my involvement in my friend’s death. It was at that somber time that I realized two people died for my sins – Jesus Christ, and my friend. At that moment I made a promise that their blood would not be shed in vain. I confessed to my involvement, and left myself at the mercy of the court.

Aza –  What was the first step you took toward changing your life?

Robert – Confession. I had to admit to myself that I am absolutely nothing without God. With this basic admission, came the need to learn more about God. I ordered a Bible from the chaplain’s office, and read it cover to cover multiple times. I found like-minded people and began to fellowship. I also searched for any positive program I could take part in. I got my G.E.D., joined Toastmaster’s International, and began a very deep self-study into history, science, and other amazing topics. This time of small beginnings led to bigger and better things in my life. I eventually became president of my Toastmasters club. (This is a public speaking and leadership organization) I even became the president of an extensive rehabilitation center I was housed at for the last year of my sentence. I was voted into this office by my peers, and had the responsibility to govern and lead over 150 men that were housed there! Above all, I needed to find things about me that I could love, and that nobody could take away from me. I learned that I am an amazing public speaker. I have a deep love for God. I get up every day and do my best. Nobody can take these things away from me. I am no longer defined by other people’s acceptance of me. I am defined by how God, and myself see me.

Aza –  When did you realize that you had overcome your obstacles, or what let you know that you had really made a change in your life for the better?

Robert- Earlier this year my wife and I were going through a period of turmoil. We were experiencing so many crises at one time. My wife was hospitalized after she suffered a nervous breakdown stemming from trauma she suffered as a child, we were facing homelessness and bankruptcy, and I was waiting to find out if I got approved for medication to treat a potentially fatal disease I had contracted while I was an active addict. While my wife was hospitalized, my leadership and advocacy skills were given a chance to shine – and shine they did. Due to God’s unfailing mercy and love, He blessed me with the ability to navigate this huge storm. During the thick of the “battle”, a happy thought popped into my mind. Not once during this whole ordeal did the urge to drink come into my mind. I had been truly set free from my previous life. With a huge smile on my face, I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Fast forward to now – my wife is well on the road to recovery; I got approved for my medication, and am fully cured; we are happy home-owners; and we both have jobs we enjoy. Life is great, and God is good – all the time.

To learn more about Robert, please visit his website here: https://robertgallant.wordpress.com/
To check out Robert’s books, please visit his Amazon profile here: amazon.com/author/robertgallant
It is his utmost desire that you find much hope, inspiration, and growth from these works, and those to come.

I’d like to thank Robert again for his time, honesty, and openness. I also congratulate him for coming so far from such a painful life.

We each face huge challenges in our lives, but we can rise up and meet them, no matter our backgrounds. Keep moving forward!

Love and Peace
Aza

Impact on Friends & Family

In my case, I know I had a lot to deal with when it came to friends and family in the time just before, during, and after my conviction. My parents were disappointed and terrified, wondering what they had done wrong, my friends were either enablers in the direction of being naughty or were backing away from me slowly and likely wondering if I was still sane. My siblings basically disowned me on top of it (ten years later and we still don’t talk), and even though we didn’t start out close, it still was an added misery to be ignored by the people I thought would help me get back on my feet.

My parents, being who they were, forgave me quickly if harboring some very mild distrust with me afterwards. But I didn’t mind that so much, as I knew I had let them down the most, second only to having let myself down (I had developed some pretty big plans for myself, and most of them were pretty well destroyed until I found the loopholes to get back into society).

As for the friendly enablers, I held on to a few for a little longer than I should have (at least according to my p.o.). I did eventually let them go, at least for the majority of the time. I won’t ignore them if I see them in public, but I make a point to not dedicate time to them to any extent. It does suck a bit because there are quite a few good memories, but it’s not worth the possibility of getting back into trouble and throwing everything away again.

After a bit of time, the closest of my actual friends also slowly integrated themselves back into my life. This was a life-saver, because I am incredibly awkward with new people, and my experience in society has not improved my social skills at all.

Unfortunately, I still have some difficulty making new friends, but I get by enough to not lose my mind entirely because honestly, we all need a good support system. Having a background can make it difficult though, especially if you stay in the same small town as I have.

However, there is hope, if you have the drive and determination to show that you’ve changed. My volunteer experience with a local shelter helped express to those in the humanitarian side of my community that I really was a changed person, and I have had a recent upturn in social interactions with the community.

I’ve also participated in a couple local events, selling craft items at a booth in a fall festival the town hosts, as well as walking in parades with various organizations my son has become involved with over the years.

By having a positive public presence, our image can be improved along with our own progression through our trials and after felony problems.

It’s not easy, and even after a decade, I do still get some flack about the past. It isn’t easy, but I maintain my dignity and respond with as much kindness as I can muster in those situations. Best of luck in your social endeavors felonious friends, goodness knows we all need it.

Til Next Time,

Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)