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Beyond Bars: Still adjusting to the speed of life outside of prison

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Apr 9, 2018

A lot of people ask me how I’m doing. I’m out of prison and gainfully employed; I have nothing to complain about. However, I think it’s a fair assessment to say I’m struggling with balance and the adjustment to a faster pace of life. I can’t seem to find the time to do many of the things I would like, and when I do find some spare time, I am not that productive.

I must be doing something wrong. There are 168 hours in a week and I spend about 120 of them awake. I’m at work for half that time like just about everyone else in the automobile industry. Even if I subtract my commute, my writing, and other obligations, I still have 30-40 hours in the week that are my own. I feel pretty good about the five or six hours I play basketball each week, and the little bit of time I get with my son is the greatest, but what am I doing with the rest? I couldn’t tell you.

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In prison, I could account for almost every hour of every day. Now it seems hours and days slip by me. I used to be able to dedicate time to one task and focus on that. There was nothing pulling me in different directions. I would sometimes even watch a movie or catch a ball game on television and still feel I used more time productively than I do now.

I don’t watch any television now, and it’s not because I’m doing a bunch of positive things. I am now one of those people who have a gym pass and don’t go. I had aspirations to be involved with the recovery community and am yet to really jump into that. Also, I eat horrible for a guy who recently went through culinary school. I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work and it’s whatever I can put in my drawer — mostly protein bars and energy drinks.

I probably spend too much time on my phone, though I hardly touch it before 7 p.m. each day. Even in that department, I struggle. I’ve had so many people reach out to me and wish me luck or tell me a story and I’ve done a terrible job keeping up.

Even though the phone gives me a bit of anxiety, I don’t mean to ignore people. It probably happens a couple times a week that I will get a message, read it, forget who sent it, and be unable to find the message. I’m going to sound like someone who grew up in a different era, but having a hard copy letter is much easier to keep track of. I may have missed writing back two people total in the four years I was in prison.

I knew I wouldn’t “struggle” to not use drugs or obey the rules of parole, but I had not anticipated this adjustment to the speed of life. I thought I would just hit the ground running and never look back, but I am finding I can’t quite keep up.

And as long as I’m being vulnerable I’ll admit something a bit more embarrassing — at times I feel lonely. I miss the highly social environment of prison and I miss my old cellie Paul.

Brian Wood, of Layton, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He served four years in the Utah State prison system before being released on parole on Jan. 2, 2018.


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