M. K., one of the residents of the Ka Hale Ho‘ala Hou No Na Wahine program in Honolulu (see earlier post here and blog item here) was turned down for a job because of her drug-related felony conviction.  On the trip home, her mind was a battlefield between her “old self” (the addictive self or A) and her “new self” (the sober self, S).  Afterward, M. wrote an essay about the experience.  Here it is, with names changed:

Right Choices

Today I had an employment interview with ABC Insurance Company.  I had to meet a Mr. B for a loan officer position.

Mr. B and I spoke about my employment history.  I told Mr. B, “I will be honest.”  I explained that the education clerk position on my resume was due to my experience while incarcerated.  Mr. B then asked, “What was the reason for your incarceration?”

He said the reason he was asking was that his company will overlook certain types of crimes and convictions.  However, there are some types of offenses that the company stands firm on their decision not to hire.  These crimes include drug trafficking, promoting, distribution, or any language stating selling of drugs.  Mr. B also said that he knew of TJ Mahoney [Ka Hale] and what the program offers to every individual trying to reintegrate back into society. Due to my charges Mr. B stated that he was grateful that I was honest so we did not waste each others time. In other words, my crime meant I could not work for Mr. B.

Mr. B advised me on how sorry he was that he could not offer me employment. I told Mr. B that he should not be sorry as it is a part of my consequences for my choices.  Mr. B said in his eyes, he could tell by my response that I am reformed.

I was extremely disappointed and my old self was just going on and on with negative comments: such as “YOU will never get a job, YOU should just stop and get a drink! SCREW IT ALL!”  At that moment I could see the end result of what that choice would bring. And I thought about what I had just said to Mr. B (“It was my choices …”).

I heard myself say in my mind, “what about my son?  Did I not learn anything from the five years in prison?  Do I want to go back?”  It was amazing how quickly and easily I answered myself –“Hell No!”

I could have stopped and went right into a bar, being that China Town is my stomping grounds where I lived from the age of thirteen, being a runaway on the streets. So quick, the choice was right there.

I got off the bus and passed the bars and walked to process these emotions of old self to new self of mind, body and spirit. I even went on the opposite side of Aala Park and plugged my IPod in, listened to my music and just walked.  All I did was think about how grateful I am to be able to just walk, smell and see traffic.  I realized how close I had come to nearly making a choice that would once again take my FREEDOM of living life and being with my family outside of prison and my son.

I still needed more time to process my emotions and pull it together and realize all that I just went through. I may not have gotten a job today, but I still have my FREEDOM.  I will not be running from the LAW nor will I be disappointed in myself tomorrow. You know, “should’ve could’ve, but never.”   It is a decision I actually am proud of.  And I did it without anyone telling me to do so.

[July 2010, published by permission]