I’ve had people ask me if I’m happy to be going “home” soon and the truth is, I’m not quite sure what I feel. It varies on a daily basis. I mean I’m glad to be finally done with my so-called “debt to society,” but when I look forward to the future, my future is very bleak. I’m at a loss for what to do and while my situation is unique, I still face a lot of the same hurdles as any other ex-prisoner getting out of prison faces.

I’m thirty years old, turning 31 in May [2015] — a month and a half before my June 30th release date. With that age comes a maturity I didn’t have before. I can better understand the joys of life and I have a clearer idea about what I’m supposed to do, as far as responsibilities and such.

My first hurdle to get over is trying to figure out where in the hell I’m going to go. I’m not from Virginia; I’m from Portland, Oregon. I came out to Virginia in 2009 (after 10 years incarcerated) for a fresh start and to stay out of trouble (which didn’t work out too well did it?)

So I have to decide what would be a better choice, the great Northwest or the heart of coal mining and the alleged birthplace of country music. What my mind says and what my heart says are two different things, because of one specific factor: Camryn Ariel Muniz, my daughter who turns 5 years old, 2 weeks before I’m scheduled to discharge out of this hell hole.

I love my daughter so much, yet I don’t know her and she (I’m pretty sure) doesn’t know who I am. That’s disheartening. It’s not from a lack of trying. I write to her mother at least once a week asking her to let me be a part of her life, to let me be a father. I’ve been ignored for almost 4 years now. Unfortunately, I’m used to it.

My child’s mother tells my mom (in Portland) that she is in no way, shape or form going to stand in the way of my daughter and me, but that’s allegedly when I get out.

That’s where the problem lies: my fate is sort of in her hands. If she says it’s okay for me to actually see my daughter, then I have a reason to stay down here. If not, then I don’t see the point in staying somewhere I’m unwanted.

In the area of SW Virginia/ NE Tennessee, where I’d be living, there are very few if any types of employment for felons, nor are there a lot of assistance programs either. How can I be expected to live when I can’t find employment? Housing? Anything? They don’t even have sidewalks in the town (Blountville, TN). That’s why I say it’s a trap. I have no possessions, no money, no plan and a serious lack of hope.

Then there’s Portland. I moved to Portland at 5 years old in 1989 from Sacramento, California. I know where things are, I know the assistance programs available, there are plenty of employment opportunities for felons, there’s a mass transit system and many more things available than what staying here could offer. But, there’s one thing that weighs heavily on my heart: if I leave, go to Portland, I’m leaving my daughter behind. To me that’s the worst thing I could do.

So I’m stuck in a conundrum, should I stay or should I go? Am I a bad person if I leave my child behind? Does that make me a deadbeat dad? Is it selfish to want to put myself in a position where I can have a chance to succeed? Do I put myself in a position where I will probably backslide to survive, but have my daughter? These are the things I think about on a daily basis.

The emotional roller-coaster I ride on a daily basis is even worse: depression, feelings of anger, frustration and confusion. An understanding that even though I’m gaining my “liberty” back, I’m gonna have a worse time trying to succeed than when I’m incarcerated where I don’t have to worry about bills and the dumb things people take for granted in the free world.

So when people ask me if I’m happy to be going “home,” I usually say hell yeah, but in my mind I’m thinking “oh fuck no.” I’m gonna end up giving myself an ulcer worrying and stressing about things I should have control over but don’t.

It seems like I’m going to have to wing it, and that’s not a plan. Someone famous said, “ if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.”  Don’t know who said it but they were right. Does that apply to my situation though? I want to plan, I don’t want to fail, but how do I plan with the pieces I’m given? Everything in the world needs a plan, football games, marketing strategies, corporate take-overs, military operations, waking up and going to work. Everything, and without a plan or at least an idea of where to go, everything is subject to failure. So I ask myself rhetorically, “What if I fail?”

So much I want to do yet all of those wants are subject to a choice that I don’t want to have to make, I don’t want to make the wrong choice for me, my daughter, for anyone, for anything.

I’m the loneliest I’ve ever been in my life and I’m the most isolated I’ve ever been in my life. A sticky situation and one hell of a predicament, and as the calendar pages fall to the ground bringing me that much closer to the time when I have to make a decision one way or the other, the cosmic scales of life will be trying to point me in the right direction, hopefully to make the right choice. But only time will tell and right now, time on my hands is all I got. Maybe every thing will be easier once I vault over the first hurdle in my way? God willing I’ll get there in one piece with a plan intact and ready to go.


Matthew Muniz

WRSP # 1446597

PO Box 759

Big Stone Gap, VA 24219