Dear Annie: I bet you’re surprised right now, and I don’t blame you. I know it is not an everyday type of thing to receive mail from an inmate. I read your section of the newspaper every week and have to admit that it’s pretty interesting. I’m a 19-year-old man currently residing in this lovely facility, facing four years and eight months for robbery and possession of a controlled substance for sale, with a gang enhancement and a bail enhancement. I stress about my case often. That has nothing to do with the amount of time I’m serving, because I can do that standing up; all I’ve got to do is count my blessings and tell myself that there are people in here who aren’t ever going home. But sadly, there’s a possibility of my joining them because I’ve taken two strikes at such a young age.
I know I have to change my ways, and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything if I did, but I’ll be honest: I won’t change. I chose this lifestyle, and it’s all I know. I don’t want to change, either. I just want to know one thing: Do you think I’m wrong? I’m so confused. I think you should put this in the newspaper and show people some real stress and some real advice. I see you throwing light into dark situations with the flick of your tongue and would appreciate some help. – Confused Young Life in California
Dear Confused: You are so young, and I promise you that the world is so much bigger than it seems right now. You can still be whoever you want. And I think that deep down, a part of you does want to change, or you wouldn’t be writing me.
The most important factors will be the people you surround yourself with and the help you seek in your first year out of prison, especially during the first few weeks and months. There are a number of resources for people in your shoes in California, such as the Men of Valor Academy (510-567-1308) and the Center for Employment Opportunities (510-251-2240). Please don’t give up on yourself.
Readers: If you have been in a similar position and turned things around, I would love to hear from you.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Mrs. in Minnesota,” who is offended by her daughter’s friends calling her by her first name – even though the friends are now adults.
Here in the South, we have a custom that works well in this situation. From the time we are young, we are taught to call adults “Mr.” or “Miss” followed by their first names. For example, my children’s friends always called us “Mr. Albert” and “Mrs. Linda.” Even though my children are now in their 50s, I am still “Mrs. Linda” to their friends, as well as to any other people in our small town who are younger than I am. This is so much more personal than being called “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Smith.” A more familiar approach makes sense in small towns because we often see each other every day.
One funny example: A man in town was “Mr. Jim.” Mr. Jim had a son we called “Little Jim.” Mr. Jim is now dead, but his son is still “Little Jim” to everyone. In the local restaurant recently, a waitress was calling him to the telephone and called him ”Mr. Little Jim”!
I just finished up serving 40 years in our local government. I served as mayor for the final few years, but I was still addressed by everyone in town as “Mrs. Linda.” When people called me “Mayor Smith,” I knew they were from out of this area. – Affable in Alabama
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