|Two Good Buddies|
|By Corporal William Young|
I have a couple of good buddies. They are the type of buddies that everyone should have. They are honest and loyal and hardworking and neither one of them is a Correctional Officer. These guys aren’t just “come over once in a while and barbeque” buddies. These guys are “call them in the middle of the night and they will help you move a body” buddies. I love those guys.
Every so often my buddies and I get together for a night of light drinking and heavy discussion. We talk to each other about our fears and our families, our worries and our wants. We ponder our purpose on this planet, and we share our plans for the future. Our conversations, our connection, help me detox and detach from the world of corrections. Our time together is therapeutic for me, to say the least.
So, one night, while we were sitting around the fire pit in my drive way, one of my buddies pulls out this book entitled “The Other 8 Hours,” by Robert Pagliarini. He showed us the cover, and said that he’d like to read us a couple of pages.
Sure, why not.
The first paragraph he read introduces us to a man named Josh. It talks about how Josh gets up early every morning and eats a healthy breakfast. It talks about how Josh likes to read the newspaper, so he can keep up on current events. The book talks about his exercise habits, and how he likes to spend time with his friends in the evening.
It goes on to say how Josh is learning and growing and staying healthy by eating right and working out five times a week. He reads and he writes and he plays games and he talks to his family at least once a week. Yep, Josh has it all.
Then we meet Eric. Eric is the complete opposite of Josh. Eric gets up in the morning, slams a cup of coffee, and makes a forty-minute commute to work. A thirty-minute lunch break is the only thing that breaks up an otherwise stressful day. The book talks about Eric’s drive home, and how he zones out to the radio trying to decompress from the day’s events. The book talks about how Eric and his wife talk about going to dinner and a movie, but instead they eat McDonald’s and loaf on the couch all night.
It goes on to say that Eric is unhappy and unhealthy, and that he is saddled with a huge amount of debt. It says that Eric can tell you the score of the “big game” but that he has no knowledge of what’s happening in his own community. It ends by saying that Eric wishes he could escape it all.
And then the twist! It turns out that the first guy, the care free, eats healthy, has time for friends and family guy is an inmate. And Eric, with all of his stress and his unhealthy habits and his disappointment is an Officer in the prison that the first guy is incarcerated in.
So, why do I share this with you?
Well, I guess for the same reason that my buddy shared it with me. He knew that I would relate to Eric, and he knew that I would get the message because he saw that I was Eric. I share it with you because I see Eric in you as well.
See, like Eric we expend a lot of emotional energy on things that don’t really matter, things that we can’t control. Because we work in an environment where we have little to no control over what happens, we seek out things to get worked up about. For example, when I leave for work, when I kiss my wife goodbye, I have no idea when I’m going to be home again. It could be 8 hours, it could be 12 hours, or I could get ordered to stay a second shift in which case it’ll be over 16 hours before I return home. So because I have no control over my own schedule, because that situation is too much to deal with, I pick something small and meaningless to get worked up about, like a memo on a new policy that in reality has nothing to do with me.
Case in point, I remember losing my mind one morning because an Inmate in our behavioral segregation unit threw his breakfast tray at me. I was so worked up that I had to be relieved so I could go get a cup of coffee and calm down. It wasn’t until days later that I understood the absurdity of my reaction to the inmate throwing a tray. See, he’s supposed to throw trays. He’s in the segregation unit, right? That’s what happens in there. He’s not in that particular unit for being a model inmate. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be upset about having grits all over your pants. I’m just saying that maybe our reaction isn’t always proportionate to the event in question.
Overreacting or underreacting to situations such as this is can be an indicator that we are experiencing stress levels that are outweighing our ability to cope with those stressors. This can spill over into our home life and affect us personally as well as professionally. That’s when we say that we’re “too tired” to go to the party. That’s when we say that we don’t feel like going out tonight. That’s when we stop exercising and doing the things that bring us joy. That’s when we withdraw and isolate ourselves from the real world.
That’s when we give up.
It’d be ironic if the populations we govern, the incarcerated individuals that we supervise, may be living a healthier or more fulfilling life than we are. If all that we do is work and go home and wait to go back to work, aren’t we in the same predicament as the inmates? Aren’t we prisoners? Aren’t we wasting our life?
The trick is to triage all of the things in your life that require you to invest your precious time and emotional energy. Decide what is truly important to you and stop worrying about the rest. Your fatigue, your feeling of being “tired” may be directly related to your emotional overinvestment in things that you can’t control. Spending your “free-time” barricaded in your house sprawled out on the couch may sound appealing, but it is no way to live. You go through hell during your work week! There isn’t a soul out there that deserves to be happy more than you do. But you can’t find fulfillment, you can’t find relief, you can’t find the cure to what ails you from the confines of your sofa.
So get up, get out, and do something, and take Eric with you.
This article as been reprinted with permission from the November 2018 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".
Corporal William Young is a 13-year veteran of the Douglas County Department of Corrections in Omaha, Nebraska. Battling Corrections Fatigue himself, Officer Young is determined to assist his fellow brothers and sisters by helping them identify, manage, and reverse the damaging side effects and symptoms of working in such an environment.
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