Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I discovered my passion for the written word in an 8-foot-by-10-foot cell. I was doing time for a concealed weapon charge in Corcoran State Prison when I stumbled upon Socrates, Aristotle and other philosophers like Plato and Rene Descartes. It was like trying a new food for the first time. I absolutely loved it and became engrossed.

I began digging through other texts about ancient world histories and became fascinated by the way every significant occurrence can in some way be traced back to those ancient thinkers. Their ideals, teachings, and even languages have evolved over centuries into the concepts, words and practices that we use today. But out of everything, what really caught my attention was how some of history’s most memorable figures became so well known because of their contributions to the world of literature. Individuals who came from nothing and had no obvious advantages became world renowned for their writing. I became inspired.

Having come from very humble beginnings myself, having no college degree, four prison charges and a drug addiction, I never envisioned living more than a mediocre life. For people like me, getting and doing good means staying off drugs, finding a minimum wage job and spending time with my kids. If you have walked similar roads, then you get where I’m coming from. We are a particular class of people who are not supposed to reach much higher. But we all have dreams. Everyone wants more out of life. I started to see my road toward more in the pen I was holding.

No longer would my colorful past be an encumbrance to my future; but a reservoir of perpetual plots, an eclectic array of riveting storylines. No longer would I wait for some unforeseen circumstance to improve my situation. Today I have attainable, realistic goals that involve actual effort, real persistence and dedication. Today I am an aspiring writer.

With over one year of sobriety and less than two months until my release from Corcoran State Prison, I am eager to get out. I want to turn the messy pile of diagrams and manuscripts that I have compiled into something neat and submissible for publishers. I’m looking forward to pursuing higher education at a Christian college.

In the meantime I stay sharp by writing about current issues and related topics. Today I see more for my future and more for my family and for individuals like me. I am an advocate for second chances. I am eager to claw my way out of this hole called state prison and give others a hand up. Writing has brought me to this place.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Brandon Lee Sr.

Brandon Lee Sr. is a writer incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in California. He is an advocate for second chances and healthy living. He is from Visalia, Calif., and graduated from LaSierra Military Academy in 2005, where he said he was voted “least likely to succeed.” Today he is a professional cook, a tattoo artist and an aspiring novelist.