A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

When I stepped off the bus on 42nd and 8th Ave it was my first time in New York.

I had no idea of what the future held for me, but going back to prison was one I couldn't take anymore; which led to me boarding a Greyhound bus from Florida to New York.

As I walked up the steps from the lower level I realized the only thing I knew about New York was what I had seen on television and what my Mother had told me, but to actually be here was another story.

The road that led me here is another story as well.

As I reached the top step and felt the brisk New York cold, I was mesmerized by the people, the sounds, but what stood out the most were the lights; their brightness, intensity and purpose, as I began to look around and take in the entirety of where I was at, the next question I asked myself was, “What in the hell had I done by coming here?”

This was New York, big city of dreams with 8 million people, now eight million and one.

Then somehow a promising thought came to my mind, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. But just as quickly as the thought entered my mind, was just as quickly as it evaporated in light of my reality.

How am I going to make it here? I was broke, homeless and the only reason I was in New York in the first place was because I had nowhere else to go.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."

I had heard this saying throughout my life, but to be quite honest I felt such quotes never applied to me, I believed that this type of philosophy and thinking was exclusively for the privileged.

The reality of this way of thinking would only prevail in my life after graduating from a transitional housing program.

Ironically, during this same I would learn that I had been traveling on various journeys, but, unfortunately in the wrong direction. Each time I found myself incarcerated I began a journey, from the time of incarceration until my release, as I said, “in the wrong direction”.

It was in 2010, that I stumbled upon this truth, after spending over 19 years of my life in and out of prisons. And successfully graduating from The Doe Fund I understood this truth.

It was the first time in 19 years that I had completed anything of value, and that experience would have a tremendous impact on my life and future.

I am forever grateful to the wonderful people and opportunities that told me I mattered. The importance of any hope or dream begins with taking the first step in that direction.

When I decided I wanted more for my life, other than another prison sentence, opportunities began to present themselves that began a new journey that would change the trajectory of my life.

Today, I work for The Doe Fund as the PR Coordinator, I’m a graduate of New York University, where I recently earned my Masters degree. I was named the 2017 National Association of Social Workers Alex Rosen Student of The Year. And beginning this Fall I will begin teaching graduate students at New York University in Forensic Justice.

I have had the privilege of meeting individuals such as Michelle Alexander, Katie Couric, Cheryl Wills and many others.

I’ve traveled to places I could have only dreamed about.

Even as I write this I reflect back on those years I spent in prison, never really knowing what tomorrow held, and to some degree not really caring.

My lack concern for myself or my future at times seemed conditioned by society and the environments in which I lived that told me that all I could ever be was what I was, I lived by the motto “it is what it is” so there was no need to expect or strive for more.

We all have a road to travel.

What I have learned on my journey is that all roads come with their own set of challenges and outcomes, but the greatest lessons I have learned is that my destiny is not determined by my past, that my determination to succeed is only dictated by commitment to succeed, and every journey begins with a first step.

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