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Back from the future
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 07/12/2010

Risk ahead This is how it works. I am you in your future. I am contacting you at the beginning of your/our career to give you some encouraging words. Consider it an inter-dimensional aspect to your training. Through the magic of time travel (the physics boggle my mind) this letter will come to you as you begin your first day in corrections. This is a bridge to the future. Consider it a gift to my younger self and an investment toward success. I feel obliged. Without you, I would not exist as who I now am.

You really should listen to me. I know what I am talking about. And besides, if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? Here are a few points that you should consider as you walk the long and convoluted road of your career.

Corrections is not for everyone. For you it was/is/will be a good fit. However, you will see many colleagues leave the field for a variety of reasons. Some reasons will be good. For example, there will be other opportunities, retirements and even an independence that allows departure. Others departures will be tragic, consisting of breakdowns, horrible indiscretions, self-destructions and sad encounters of innocents. Some colleagues you will miss. And when others leave, you will feel a sense of relief. No two good-byes will really be the identical. Knowing that will help you cope with the variety of feelings you will have during each separation.

You’ll be amazed. People run the gamut. They can be wonderful, horrible, and all places in between. Sometimes this range is inherent in the same person - on the same day! You will find callousness, generosity, and unasked for help at key times. You will be vindicated, sabotaged, vilified, and deified. Do not be surprised how quickly these things can change. You cannot control the variety of personalities that you meet. It is up to you to control how you react to these. None of this is bitter cynicism. It is a quick reality check.

Ever distrustful are the treacherous. There is nothing wrong with caution, especially in this setting. But trust is an interesting thing. Not everyone is willing to accept words at face value. That fact is not an indictment on human nature. You just have to remember that we are all different and have different levels of trust. You will probably find that those who are not trusting have a reason for this. They may have been burned before, have witnessed back stabbings, or are not themselves trustworthy.

Sometimes a day from hell can stop on a dime. In other words, the action of a busy day can seem like you are going 100 miles a minute. But that can just stop instantly. It is like a blistering hot day that suddenly turns to dusk and the temperature drops mercifully. It may be that the events have run their course. Perhaps people on all sides simply get too tired to fight. But it is strange we often don’t recognize this until the quite time has progressed for a while. It is as though our adrenaline has to run out. Your emotions and physiology will not always be in perfect synchronicity with fast-changing events.

It gets easier. Having lived your life, I know that you will consider how hard the job can be. You will contemplate quitting many times in your first few years. But it does get easier. You don’t have to take this as just an article of faith. It is logical: The more you do something, the easier it becomes. The phrase, “this, too, shall pass” is quite applicable here. That makes the very difficult times easier to weather. At times of adversity, your training will kick in and you will handle all challenges. It may not be pretty. It certainly is not comfortable. But it is a job that you signed on to do.

Remember the words of a former colleague, “It is a good life if you don’t weaken.”

Your challenges are part of the successes of society. On occasion, you need to reflect on how your positive actions on the job. Though not immediately apparent, they will influence some small changes elsewhere. And this is important in assuring that you are not isolated from the mission statement: safety for staff, offenders, and the public.

Forget the “magic” of this letter getting to you. The how is not important. The why holds more weight. I did this for you/me/us because as your career moves along, you will need occasional moral boosts.

These are not all of the lessons that you will need. Consider these as just some of the things that you should know. Trust me: You will get through fine. It will not be easy. But, then that would be boring and, really, a squandering of your talents and dedication.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

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