Updated: Oct 31
Unsatisfied. That would be the word I would use to describe a fifteen year career in a prison.
Work. That’s all it was. I was twenty-four years old when I started as a New York State correctional officer. I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into as I am not one to make quick, rash decisions. Still, I didn’t expect to run into what I did ten years into it. When I was in the training academy, everyone was told to have a hobby outside of work. They warned us that you will get no job satisfaction from working in a prison. They said that every day is almost like the next day. Not much changes.
They were right. At first, it was new, scary, and exciting. The job itself was pretty boring, but that didn’t really bother me.
The officers had ways to make it fun like having potlucks, raffles, and enjoying good conversations. Still, every day was the same thing. Watch over inmates and run the programs for them. Sometimes there were fights, drug overdoses and medical emergencies, but for the most part your days didn’t change. The best part for me was shift swapping. I would work my own shift and then another persons back to back for a period of two to four days. Then the person whose shift I worked for would do the same for me. During the years that I did this, combined with vacation time, I would only work half of the year. What I never thought about early on was doing something with meaning. In my mind, I had a career where I only had to work for twenty five years and then at 49 years old I could retire with a pension. I thought I would be financially set and then I could live the life that I wanted. At eight years, things in the prison were starting to change for the worse. Governmental policies altered the way that the prison and officers had to operate. As a result, the morale among the officers dropped dramatically. We were able to put in bids for different jobs and I saw a tower along the wall was open. Though jobs like that typically went for officers that had twenty to twenty-five years on the job, I put in for it. I was shocked when I received word that I had won the bid with only eight and a half years. God clearly had His hand in it. I was grateful to be out of the mess that was developing inside the prison walls. I also was thankful that I didn’t have to work around inmates anymore. I had about sixteen years to go till retirement and I was going to spend them in a tower alone. Even though I rarely read anything other than magazines, Courtney started to buy me books. I was reading more than I had ever read in my life and I was actually enjoying it. I would read fiction, non-fiction, my Bible, self improvement books, and books on real estate. Little did I know that after ten years into my career would I really start to dislike going to work. The days just repeated like in the film “Ground hogs day” with Bill Murray. I would tell myself that I just had to go to work, deal with it, and keep it up for my twenty-five years of service. As days turned into years it got harder to keep up that pace. Courtney could see it and suggested that we start to pray about it. So we did. Shortly after starting to pray together, Courtney said to me, “I think God is moving you out of your job.” Even though she was more than OK with me leaving it, I wasn’t. She is the risk-taker and I am the comfort-keeper. This went on for five years. Knowing that I wasn’t going to walk away from my stable income with a wife and two children at the time to support, Courtney encouraged me to pursue things that I would enjoy outside of this job to help me feel more satisfied and content for when I was stuck there. It was in reading the real estate books that got my mind really going. I started to re-evaluate the direction my life was going. I would constantly read and share with Courtney what I was learning. All the while, the prayers together about what to do continued. I either contemplated, half-heartedly did, or started to execute the following in order: Help Courtney build her photography business, personal training, get my Federal Firearms License to sell and work on firearms, get my real estate license to acquire investment properties, purchased a grinder, and started a knife making business. With every venture, what I concluded was that it would have been a failed effort. I simply didn’t have enough time in my day to do any of them. My priority was always to spend as much time as I could with Courtney and our boys, work on or maintain our house, and handle the typical responsibilities that come with being the man of the house. I was reading books on financial freedom wanting to acquire that. Some of the books were written by twenty something year olds which in turn made me think about how much time I wasted when I was younger. While Courtney was trying to build up her business, I was playing video games sometimes till 3 am, or worse, 8 hours in a day. Looking back it was a bad way to spend my time! It never occurred to me in my late 20’s that I should be doing something different. The things I could have accomplished, built or done in that time would be crazy. Unfortunately I can’t change the past, but I can help our three boys not make the same mistakes that I made. I went through phases of being depressed, then excited, and then depressed again.
I felt like I had made so many poor choices and was stuck with the consequences.
Yet, Courtney and I continued to pray and trusting that God had a plan.
We knew He was up to something, but we didn’t know what that was yet. And so we waited.
2/28/23 Update: The sequel to this can be found in this link: