"So, this is who I am today & who I've always been."

I am Dre

12.10.2014

Hey whats up? Whats going on? I got both of your letters sometime last week. I already responded to the 2nd & more shorter one.

It’s good to hear from you again though. I’m glad that your feeling better too. I hate being sick. I know the weather gets pretty bad in the winter for you guys, right?

[Name removed] wrote me and told me that you guys were in touch finally. I figured it would happen sooner or later. That’s one busy guy huh? He does seem really interested in ‘The One,’ and thinks that what your doing is great. He also encouraged me to continue to write to you, and keep him updated.

THAT’S MY GUY. HES ONE OF THE MOST GENUINE & CARING PEOPLE THAT I’VE EVER MET, AND I HAVE ALOT OF RESPECT FOR HIM. HES SOMEONE THAT I LOOK UP TO IN A LOT OF WAYS. ONCE I WAS CONVICTED & SENTENCED, HE DIDN’T HAVE TO EVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN BECAUSE LEGALLY, HE WASN’T MY ATTORNY ANYMORE. SO THE FACT THAT HE STILL KEEPS IN TOUCH MEANS ALOT.

And if I get a chance to go to trial again, I wouldn't trust anyone to represent me, except him.

I also love connecting with people. Its kinda harder in here, but I still go out of my way to get to know guys & try and understand all kinds of different people. I’m the same way when I’m in society; I love meeting new people, especially people that are different from me in a lot of different ways or who are from a different area than me. I’ve always been like that. Especially when I was in school and would see certain kids getting picked on because they were different. I would get to know them & see that they’re actually pretty cool & just like anybody else. It really was when I was in the streets that I didn’t want to make connections w/ people and get to know new people.

I think if I had someone there to encourage me to play ball more, and told me that I was good enough instead of telling me to get involved in other stuff or encouraging me to get into the stupid shit, I would be living a different life. The only person that used to encourage me was my dad. He bought me a small basketball rim when I was really young & used to take me out in the yard to play everyday. That’s where my love for basketball started.

I DON’T LIKE MAKING EXCUSES; THE CHOICES I MADE IN MY LIFE, I CANT GO BACK & CHANGE. I CHOSE TO LIVE THE STREET LIFE INSTEAD OF PLAYING BALL. I REALLY CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY THOUGH. I TRIED TO GIVE IT UP, BUT I COULDN’T, AND I REALLY DON’T KNOW WHY. I THINK ABOUT HOW DIFFERENT MY LIFE COULD BE IF ONLY I DECIDED TO FOCUS MY ATTENTION ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE STREETS. SOMETHING SO SIMPLE COULD’VE CHANGED THE COURSE OF MY LIFE. BUT AS SIMPLE AS IT MAY SOUND, ITS NOT REALLY SIMPLE AT ALL; IF THAT MAKES ANY SENSE.

Like I said though, I cant go back. All I can do is learn & grow. Like you said. I know I can stop kids from saying the same things I’m saying now. Theres so many kids going through the same things that I went through, and all it takes is for someone that’s been in there shoes to show them that the world is bigger than the community that they grew up in, and it is true that the streets only ends in 2 ways: Dead or doing a lot of time in prison. Its important for them to know that the situation Im in now is a reality. 

Everyone thinks it wont happen to them. Or they get caught up in the music that they listen to & think that prison life is something that its not. I think its important that kids be scared to come to prison. Because they don’t know how it really is. All the rape stories & all that ain’t true. I haven’t seen a gay guy since I’ve been here. They put them in protective custody immediately because they’ll end up getting stabbed or killed. But I think kids need to see what they could go through. They’ll never fully understand unless they go through it, but seeing it may help give them a taste of reality. I don’t want them to go through what I went through or some of these guys go through. But putting that into words is impossible, or really hard for people to actually feel it. Know what I mean?

I think the mentoring idea is great. That’s a really good idea. I had a mentor at one point & he was super cool. He would take me to do anything that I wanted. I always enjoyed hanging out with him. The only problem was that I wanted to go to [location removed] on some of the days that he would pick me up. Then I would get over it and always have fun. I actually miss him. I think he moved to Canada or another state. I cant remember. The only thing is that, being with him was only a distraction away from the streets, it eventually leaves my mind, for the most part at least & I can focus on other stuff, like sports or just doing normal stuff like going out to eat or going to the movies & stuff like that. The problem was once you put me back with no guidance, I kept getting pulled back in.

I do keep my skills up on the court. I have to especially since im in my cell so much. Playing ball is the only exercise I do. I was playing by myself one day and this guy comes up & says that he’s the best “point guard” in our building. He’s like 50 years old, if not older. So I had to play him one on one. It wasn’t close, but hes got a nice jumper & hes in decent shape. Now I play him one on one everytime we go outside. He says it’s a good work out for him. And you know I cant take it easy on him. He’s actually kinda good.

You know that a study at the University of Vanderbilt showed that, every 1 year in prison, shortens your life by 2 years, or something crazy like that. I read an article about that a few days ago.

I was pissed off thatthe first game was against my old school because, I wanted to see all of my friends that I had there. Once I moved, it was really hard to keep in touch & hold on to those friendships, especially while making new friends. 

GOING BACK THERE WAS GONNA BE MY 1ST CHANCE TO GO BACK AND I REALLY WANTED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT. I ALSO WANTED TO PLAY IN FRONT OF A GIRL THAT I HAD A CRUSH ON. I NEVER TOLD HER HOW I FELT WHILE I WAS THERE BECAUSE I WAS TOO SHY. I TOLD HER ONCE I LEFT OVER THE PHONE, BUT IT NEVER GOT ANYWHERE CAUSE WE LIVED 45 MINS APART. AND YEAH, I WAS MOTIVATED BY GIRLS GROWING UP. I THINK ALL YOUNG BOYS ARE. THAT WAS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS I LOVED GOING TO SCHOOL EVERYDAY. 

You opened my eyes to something when you said that the word “thug” has racial connotations. I never thought of that. I also didn’t know what “connotations” means lol. I’ll look it up. I look at that word in a different way now. Most of the time people refer to someone as a ‘thug,’ they’re usually talking about someone that is black or Hispanic. Or another minority. So I agree with you on that.

I THINK THAT I STILL HAVE A LOT OF LEARNING & GROWING TO DO BEFORE I KNOW WHO I AM. I KNOW THAT I’M NOT THE PERSON THAT I USED TO BE THOUGH. ONE THING THAT IM ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT EVERY SINGLE DAY IS HOW I COULD HELP SOMEONE OR MAKE SOMEONES LIFE DIFFERENT IN A GOOD WAY. I FEEL REALLY STRONG ABOUT THAT.

I see commercials where kids are starving or I see people that are homeless & not enough people are trying to help. I think about the familes in my old neighborhood & how putting a meal on the table every night becomes a fight for survival for so many families, while the government acts like they understand and they don’t. I also pay attention to the commercials of kids having diseases like cancer and I just wish I could do something man. I have a lot of respect for the athletes who make time to create bonds with the kids who are sick that look up to them. I think that’s real cool. 

So, this is who I am today & who I’ve always been. Most people just never knew because I never let anyone get close to me. Theres not much that people can say that they know about me, even my family, because I closed everyone out & was pretty cold for a while. But that’s because I was in the streets. Im not that way anymore. And what I mean by that is, I didn’t trust anyone & I didn’t really ever get emotional. I always loved my family, but I put the streets before my family way too much. 

I REALLY STARTED TO FEEL LOVE ONCE I STARTED DATING MY EX, AND ESPECIALLY ONCE MY LITTLE SISTER WAS BORN. THAT’S MY HEART RIGHT THERE. SHE’LL BE 5 THIS MONTH. I SPOKE TO HER LAST WEEK & SHE AKSED WHEN I WAS GONNA COME HOME. I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY SO I JUST SAID, “I’LL BE HOME SOON,” AND SHE GOT SO HAPPY & STARTED YELLING & SCREAMING. AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES THIS SITUATION REAL HARD SOMETIMES. BUT YEAH, IM STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHO I AM.

Some qualities that I want people to recognize in me would be: That im caring, loyal, someone that puts others before me, a smooth guy, funny, hardworking, someone that you could always count on, smart, and someone that could make a difference in their life. I could keep going, but these are some qualities that I would like to be recognized with, and also remembered by.

You know you’re the first person that I’ve ever open up to, I think. You know more about me than alot of people that I was close to out there.

I think moving away is the best thing for me. I wont leave with out my immediate family though. I can’t leave them behind. Starting over for me feels exciting just thinking about it. Moving would make that alot easier though. Im used to making fast money, so that’s one thing that I’ll have to get un-used to and actually get a job, which is kinda exciting. I’ll go to school & just work, I guess. Keep it simple until I find out what it is that I want to be. Then I’ll make some goals and try to reach them. I agree with you that you could be anything you want to be. The only dreams I ever had in life were to play ball in the NBA, or to become a Drug Dealer & make millions & give back to anyone who needed me, and even though I know that’s not who I am, seeing my family struggle the way they are; living check to check. Its real hard. But I guess now I just have to get out there and see what interests me & see whats all out there. I cant see myself committing to anything now because theres so many options that I don’t know about.

I think what you said about how its hard for some adults to watch young kids become the person that they could’ve been is right on. Even though, I don’t think the adults that I were close to ever felt like that, I do know alot of them who still are like that to this day. Its kinda crazy how that is huh?

SOME OF THE GUYS THAT I GREW UP UNDER HAVE BEEN INDICTED ON ‘RICO’ CHARGES I THINK, ALONG WITH A LONG LIST OF OTHER PEOPLE I GREW UP WITH. I KEEP THINKING THAT I WOULD’VE BEEN ONE OF THEM IF I WAS OUT, AND I’M GLAD THAT IM NOT APART OF THAT, EVEN THOUGH I HATE THAT IM LOCKED UP. 2 OF THE GUYS THAT SUPPOSEDLY KILLED MY DAD DRE WERE INDICTED TOO. Im not 100% sure though.

My sister tried to tell me everything about it and I just told her I didn’t wanna hear it. That’s not something that I need to be thinking about. Even though a couple of the guys are guys that kinda raised me & taught me how to carry myself & be a man, not including anything negative.

I AGREE THAT ANYONE CAN CHANGE AT ANY MOMENT, AND IT DOES TAKE COURAGE. THAT MAY SEEM REALLY SIMPLE, BUT ITS REALLY NOT. FOR SOME OF THEM, THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE. FOR SOME, THEY MAY NOT HAVE THE COURAGE THOUGH, AND SOME ARE JUST SCARED CAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW HOW. YOU KNOW?

I won’t need any guidance to do something different once I’m home. I know what I need to do now in order to be productive and successful. Its just all about staying focused & strong and going out and doing it. I could use some guidance & help in reaching those goals though, especially from someone like you who is smart & successful. The streets are so done in my mind. Its not even a chance that I’ll get involved in any of that again. But I know it will be hard to see my family struggle, and Im not a kid anymore. I’ll need a job soon, and a job that pays enough for me & my family to survive & not just live from check to check.

All of these things are what will be reality if I make it back out there. I had a dream not too long ago & it seemed so real & I was dealing with this exact same situation. It opened my eyes and showed me that everything isn’t as simple as I think sometimes. And once I woke up, all the stress was gone & I felt so relieved because the dream seemed so real & I really thought that I was out. I was relieved that I wasn’t in the situation that im in now, but it only last for a matter of seconds, then I realized where I was at and it all hit me pretty hard.

Yeah man, I love kids and I’d love to be a dad some day. I wouldn’t mind having like 7 kids or something like that lol. But 3 or 4 would be good if I couldn’t have 7. I would want at least 2 boys and 2 girls. I have to have a career and everything figured out already though. Do you have kids? If you don’t mind me asking.

I would love to meet Dre’s family. Its something that I think about on a regular. I would want to get tested to make sure first though, you know? If they are my family, I want to get to know them. I just wish I was out to do it. I also want to reach out to the dad that raised me. His name is [name removed], and I’ll always call him dad too. 

HE USED TO TELL ME WHEN I WAS SUPER YOUNG THAT “NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE EVER TELLS ME, HE’LL ALWAYS BE MY DAD AND ASKED ME TO PROMISE NOT TO EVER CALL ANYONE ELSE DAD.” AND HE USED TO CRY WHEN HE SAID IT. SOMETIMES I FEEL BAD WHEN I TELL PEOPLE THAT I HAVE 2 DADS. I FORGET ABOUT THAT PROMISE THAT I MADE WHEN I WAS A KID. 

But if Dre is my biological dad, I’ll call him dad also because he didn’t get a chance to be in my life because my mom wouldn’t let him & cause he was killed when I was so young. But I’ll never forget about [name removed] either. Hes a part of why I’m such a smooth guy today Lol. And even though he was in & out, when he was there, he loved me more than anyone ever could’ve. Those drugs are killing him though. Its pretty deep how the heroin has control of his life. Im gonna reach out to him soon.

Like I said in my last letter, don’t worry, I got you. I’ll make you into an All-star. I don’t think the cross-over is a good idea though. Maybe a good jump shot though Lol. You don’t really have to be any good as long as you could shoot.

The Bulls have been looking good though. D-Rose had a season high his last game. Hes looking real good. We actually got that one on t.v. I get real emotional during the games; I be yelling at the refs & all types of stuff Lol. The Raptors are killing it though. Let me find out your rooting for the Raptors on the low Lol. Nah its all good. What are you gonna do if the Bulls & Raptors meet in the Eastern Conference Championship Game, cause it’s a good chance that’s gonna happen?

I did know that Basketball was invented by a guy from Canada. I actually learned that during the college basketball season last year. There was some good Canadian players going into the NBA draft and they did a special on it. That’s pretty cool cause I always thought that basketball was invented in the U.S. I’m really starting to like Canada Lol.

Yeah, I didn’t mean physically vulnerable at all. That’s one thing you never have to worry about. I’ll always be able to protect myself. The cell house im in now is like a whole different prison compared to the cell house that I just left. Now I’m surrounded by guys that are a lot older than me but are super laid back. Im able to go to school now, but in the other building, I couldn’t. The only reason I got moved is because I kept sweating them to put me in school. 

The old cell house is horrible. They treat you like shit back there, and you don’t get anything. That’s because that building is where the violence & gang activity is really active and the only thing the prison can do to control it is to just lock the building down, and you cant leave your cell for weeks or months at a time. Literally, when I first got to this prison I was there and an officer was assaulted. Or beat up, even though he provoked it, and we were in our cell for 3 months straight. 

24 HRS A DAY. EVERy DAY. IMAGINE THAT. WITH ONE SHOWER A WEEK. YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO WASH UP IN YOUR CELL. ITS CRAZY, BUT YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. BUT THAT CELL HOUSe DON’T EVEN HAVE HEAT OR AC. IN THE SUMMER IT GETS SO HOT, AND REALLY COLD IN THE WINTER. AND THE CELL HOUSE IS PRETTY MUCH ALL WINDOWS COVERING THE WALL FROM THE ROOF TO HALF WAY DOWN THE BUILDING. SO ITS REALLY COLD & REALLY HOT IN THE WINTER & SUMMER. THE BUILDING IM IN NOW, EVERYONE IS PRETTY MUCH TRUSTED. THERE ISN’T MUCH GOIN ON. AND WE HAVE HEAT.

I think I have a good understanding of people. Im not always right about people that I think I have an understanding of who they are, but Im usually right. I have trusted a few people that I shouldn’t have a long time ago. I’ve put my trust in people thinking that they’re not like everyone else; thinking that they will be loyal to me the way that I am to them and they won’t break that trust or betray me, and it always happened. So now I really don’t trust anyone and its really really hard for someone to earn my trust. Most people wont earn it, not even some family. 

I THINK IT’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUSTING SOMEONE & DEPENDING ON SOMEONE WHEN YOU NEED THEM. I DON’T HAVE ANYONE THAT I CAN TRUST OR DEPEND ON RIGHT NOW. AND THAT’S NOT A BAD THING FOR ANYONE THAT I KNOW. ITS JUST REALLY HARD FOR ME BECAUSE THE WAY I AM & THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT LOYALTY & BEING THERE FOR PEOPLE THAT NEED ME, SO THEY KNOW THAT THEY CAN CALL ANYTIME & I’LL BE THERE NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, AND ALSO BEING A PERSON THAT THEY CAN TRUST BECAUSE I KNOW HOW IMPORTANT BUT RARE THAT IS; THESE ARE THINGS I FEEL REALLY STRONGLY ABOUT AND I TRY TO LIVE BY THESE PRINCIPLES. 

But I don’t think I could trust or depend on anyone unless they feel as strong about these principles as I do, and that’s why I don’t trust anyone. I have people that I love, but don’t trust. Its not that im taking anything away from them, I just don’t trust them, because of past experience & just based on things I learned from understanding how people are.

The environment that im in is definitely not natural. My anxiety got really bad once I got locked up though. I was good when I was out, but its been really bad since I’ve been in this prison. I remember what you said about “always being aware of whats going on around you” being a symptom of having PTSD; I am like that all the time. I was like that when I was out too; I never felt 100% safe no matter what. Even now when I think of me possibly getting out, I think about moving away, but I still don’t feel safe. I keep feeling like anything can happen at any time. Like, I’ll give you an example: I was watching a movie & this guy was taking a nap on his porch. I thought to myself like, man I could never do that; even though I would love to because it seems so peaceful. But I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that something could happen to me if Im laying here sleep on the porch. I’d just rather be aware at all times. Is that bad, and what can I do to change my way of thinking?

I think counseling may help. But there isn’t any of that here. You might be able to speak to somebody once a month, or every other month, but that’s it. Im fine though. I’ve made it this far. I really enjoy writing you & getting your letters. That helps more than you know. And I think its real cool that you’re a psychologist. That’s real interesting to me. Being able to understand how the brain works I mean.

My ex [name removed] and I didn’t last long once I got locked up. We talked on the phone everyday almost for the first year and a half of me being locked up, but she thought that eventually I would come home, and once I was convicted & the articles came out, it was over. I couldn’t even get her to drive 10 mins to come & visit me. I feel like I’ve lost my best friend and one of the few people that I was really close to. I was wrong, besides you, shes the only person that I’ve opened up to. 

I told her everything, and she was the one person that I could call when I was going through something. Our lives were so different, and that’s part of why I fell in love with her. I actually dated her for like 5 months before even meeting her in person. She reached out to me through a mutual friend of ours that I was actually trying to get with at the time. Turns out that they were best friends. So when her friend told me that she was interested in me, I knew my chances weren’t good if shes putting me off on someone else. I still didn’t pay [name removed] any attention at first. We exchanged text messages, but I really wasn’t that interested.

One day I just happen to be bored & was going through my phone & came across her number & decided to call. This was my first time talking to her. I also never ever talked to girls on the phone, because I never really got emotionally attached. It was usually just sex. But with her, it was different. She was nothing like the girls I was used to, and we never stopped talking. We talked on the phone every single day & I just fell in love with who she was & we started dating. 

I MET HER AND SHE WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL I’VE EVER MET. SHE WAS REALLY SMART & FOCUSED ON SCHOOL AND I LOVED THAT. SHE SAID THAT SHE ALSO WANTS TO BE A PSYCHOLOGIST AND THAT SHE WANTS TO HELP THE MEN & WOMEN THAT CAME HOME FROM THE WAR. THE GIRLS I WAS USED TO ONLY CARED ABOUT PARTIES & DRINKING AND SMOKING AND HAVING SEX. I DIDN’T NEED ANYONE ELSE. WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME GOING TO THE MOVIES & A LOT OF TIME AT SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA. HER MOM KEPT HER SHELTERED, SO WE COULDN’T SEE EACH OTHER AS MUCH AS I LIKED. 

Shes the only girl that was introduced to my mom at first. She met my mom while I was locked up. A lot of people didn’t like us being together cause we were so different. We were opposites of each other in alot of ways. I learned a lot about her & her family & where they came from. Shes Belizean. But yeah, I was never an emotional guy, but with her I was. She understood me better than my family. And there will always be a place in my heart for her, even though I know shes not the same girl I fell in love with.

I try to connect with other girls, but it just isn’t the same. And I know I was only 15 yrs old, but I’ve known her since I was 12 & even though im 19 now, those feelings haven’t gone away. I thought that me & her would get married & have kids when I was out. But who knows what shes out there doing now. I can only imagine man. Its all good though. If I get out I’ll be good.

The girls that keep in touch aren’t really anything to me. Most of them are friends that wish that they could’ve been in the shoes of my ex when I was out. Some of them I don’t know. They all have one thing in common though; they all try and get attention by saying that they’re getting mail or calls from me. A lot of people support me on social media, and a lot of these people I don’t even know, so the girls write & then go online & post things about s writing or talking on the phone. One min they’re here, then they’re gone. So now I don’t even respond because I don’t want to get emotionally invested in any way, when its something I never did anyways, only to have them disappear. I don’t need some random girl trying to act like she really cares when she don’t. 

I need someone I can connect with, and the only person is my ex. But I also don’t want her to go through all the stress that comes with supporting someone in my shoes. Especially since nothing is guaranteed. I just want to focus on the appeal, and try to get out & just start over and never take anything for granted. And to be honest, I’d rather have people forget about me, instead of going through all the pain of missing me & wishing I were there. I worry aout them more than myself, because I got me, I know Ima do what I gotta do to make sure Im straight. You know what I mean?

Music doesn’t influence me in that way as much as it used to. Sometimes it does a little bit, but I know that the things the artist are talking about isn’t really reality. The artist that I used to listen to though; the things they rapped about were real because they rapped about things that I actually seen or been through. The things they rap about though, I’m not really into anymore & I cant vibe to it the way I used to. I’ve really started listening to a lot of R& B lately, and a mix of everything else. Trey Songs is one of my favorite artist right now. And I like the group “Imagine Dragons” too. I still love hip hop and rap. But listening to it or seeing the videos makes me want to live the fast life again & make fast money and chase women and all of that. Im just trying to stay away from that and if I get out, just keep it simple.

Man this letter is long, Lol. My bad. I try to keep it short but I guess its not working.

I sent you a Christmas card. I didn’t really know what to say in the card, and didn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound corny; so I just kept it simple, ha. I hope you enjoy the holidays though.

I donated some food to a local homeless shelter this month. I tried to encourage others to do it too. Most, if not all said no. But a lot of guys that I don’t know donated. It was only for November & December. I spoke to the guy that helped get the idea of donating food started, and he said that in November when they brought the donations the first time; the shelter didn’t even know it was coming. They were actually pretty much out of food. They had 2 Ramen noodles left. And they didn’t know that there was more food coming this month. 

Alot of guys were making stupid comments saying that they weren’t giving anything away; but I know how it feels to be hungry. Everyone in this prison knows how that feels. Buying food is a matter of survival in here, and if you don’t have someone that’s really there for you; its really hard. I also know how it felt growing up to be hungry some times. 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT IS MCDONALDS. NOT CAUSE ITS CHEAP, BUT BECAUSE IT WAS SO RARE FOR ME GROWING UP. WE WOULD GET IT MAYBE ONCE A MONTH. SO ONCE I WAS ABLE TO MAKE MY OWN MONEY, I WENT CRAZY FOR ALL OF THE THINGS THAT I COULDN’T HAVE. ESPECIALLY MCDONALDS. I WENT ALMOST EVERY DAY AND ORDERED THE SAME THING ALMOST EVERY TIME: 4 HAMBURGERS, NO ONIONS, WITH EXTRA KETCHUP. AND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. AND THAT’S ALSO THE REASON I FELL IN LOVE WITH FAST MONEY. 

I didn’t have much growing up and I wanted to be able to buy anything I wanted, when ever I wanted. The things I did in the streets were separated from me making money. I made money & then went home or out to eat, or did something fun. When I was in the streets; that’s when all the stress & bullshit came.

My bad again for this letter being so long. I hope to hear back from you soon. And I hope you & your family enjoys the Holidays. Eat some pumpkin pie for me.

Take care. Until next time.

Dre.

P.S. I just got your 3rd letter. I’ll send a response to that one out tomorrow.