Friendship is a blessing beyond measure. Stereotypes abound about prisons, and one of them is that someone who is incarcerated has no friends. I tell you that idea is not true. Friends can come from anywhere and be anybody.
Growing up, I did not have many friends. I never fit in with the “cool kids” or the “in-crowd” or whatever name the popular children may adopt. I have always been an outcast. I found friends among other outcasts, but they were few and far between.
When I found myself in the penitentiary, I was all alone. My co-defendant is one of the cool kids that liked me, but he fit in and I did not. I spent my life being shunned and fighting bullies, so sometimes I prefer my own company, but, in truth, I had no idea how to be a true friend because I was never a friend to myself. I spent the first five years of my incarceration learning how to become my own friend.
During my time spent with outcasts, I got heavily into games and puzzles. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was a group of gamers at San Quentin. When I first arrived, I was all alone again because I left my few friends behind in other institutions. When some of them arrived here, I found out they were only fair-weather friends, and they were too involved in their own issues to be friends, so I had to look elsewhere. Looking around any prison yard, people are separated by ethnicity or affiliation or both. When I found the gamers here at San Quentin, they accepted me unconditionally. Here was a real group of real friends, bonding over Dungeons and Dragons and assort snacks. I saw an opportunity to forge lasting friendships and the camaraderie we as humans seek our entire lives. We gamers have no separations or restrictions. All are welcome to come sit with us and have some fun!
A true friend is there for you no matter what happens. A real friend will stand by your side during the good and the bad times. A true friend wants the best for your life, and has genuine concern for your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being all the time, not just when it’s convenient for them. A real friend is family you chose for yourself.
Call us nerds, call us geeks, calls us outcasts, dweebs, dorks, whatever you wish, but I can tell you we gamers at San Quentin are about the closest-knit group of friends you would ever want to meet because we associate with each other without obligation, without manipulation, without restriction. Our group is not perfect. Indeed, there are many who have come and gone, some due to parole, others due to their own choices. A friend leaves you to choose your own way, but will say something if it looks like you are going down a bad path, and will stand with you no matter what.
Friendship is one of the greatest things ever. To know there are people who want to be your friend because they enjoy your company and respect you, your ideas, and your life is a great feeling indeed. May you find true friends and real friendship as well in your life. If you ever come to San Quentin, we gamers will be here, either in the gym or on the yard, and you are welcome to come hang out with us, too! Peace.