Life on the Outside: Hope Guides Me
By Joshua Stromberg
Let me talk for a second about hope. We all hope for something, whether it’s for more money or a better job, or even love. Some hopes are mundane and some are profound. The hope I have that I want to talk to you about is Happiness- yes, with a capital “H”. What is it? How does one achieve it?
How do you know when you have it? How do you keep it once you find it?
All my life I’ve been chasing happiness. But what I’ve realized is that all I was really doing was finding things to take my mind off of how unhappy I really was. I replaced happiness with drugs and violence. I have never honestly been happy.
Now that’s a serious statement to make.
But it’s true. I thought I would be happy getting out of prison. I thought that changing my location would change my emotions.
Of course, I thought I was happy. Sometimes I even convince myself that what I feel is a different kind of happiness, one less intense and with less contentment.
But I am trying to be an honest man, and that means I have to be honest with myself too. I have a good job- I get to write for a newspaper that respects me and my struggles. I have an amazing family that is finally proud of me for my accomplishments. The truth is, I think I’m doing better than most people who have been recently released from prison.
So what am I missing? Am I really missing anything at all?
The answer is simple: I’m missing all the negative miscellaneous nonsense that used to fill my life. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actually miss my old way of
life, I just mean it’s no longer there filling those empty spaces in my soul.
I guess the way I look at it is that my life has become a blank slate. I have all these spaces where I’m free to become what I really want. I can add to myself whatever fits the man I want to be- positive or negative. The difference is that now I am consciously choosing the positive. What I am doing is building the foundation for future happiness- laying the ground work, as it were.
So why am I up at four a.m. contemplating my own happiness? I don’t honestly know. Maybe it’s how little free time I have to myself? Maybe it’s a girl in my life who makes me realize something is missing that should be there. But hey, it four in the morning! Maybe this is just the time for the mind to wander
around the soul.
One thing I do know is that the man I was in the past wouldn’t be writing this. The thought would never have occurred to me. So just by the very process of asking myself if I am happy, I am taking one step closer to that elusive happiness.
And that, my friends, makes me happy.
Take a moment to think about what makes you happy today. Be aware. Find the time to tell the people in your life that contribute to that emotion.
And as always, be easy.
Editor’s Note: Joshua Stromberg is a recently- released convicted felon who approached the City-Times asking to share his story. While his criminal record is public, he has served his time and is not wanted by police and has- so far- upheld the conditions of his probation. Stromberg has been brought on staff conditionally and we wish him the best of luck getting his life back together.