What a [Death Row Inmate] Can Teach You About Being Yourself

THIS is the last one.  This is the end of our series on “What [Villains] Can Teach You About Being Yourself”.  Totally choking up right now, of course.  It’s just been so long  a journey through the scum and misunderstood of the earth.  And so we conclude with those sentenced to depart it.

being yourselfWhat can a death row inmate teach you about being yourself?  Maybe you can guess…

…but people aren’t fans of death row inmates.


These are people whose crimes are so heinous (in this country at least) that society deems them undeserving of even living at all.

Rapes.  Murders.  The kind of horrible, evil acts you can’t imagine one suffering through, and can’t bring yourself to forgive another for committing.

Just horrible, horrible things.  Like we see happen too often unfortunately.

And so these (usually) men are sentenced to die; to lay on a table while poisons are fed slowly into their veins.

Cause they deserve it.

But before that day…

before the time and moment when their life ends, they live a life no one else could possibly understand.

And so in this article, like the previous few before it, we have to divorce ourselves from our personal opinions on the right or wrong of these villains’ actions, as well as our particular beliefs on the morality of their lives.

Cause a death row inmate…that’s a tough way to live.

Cause most people in this world have a legitimate freaking fear of death.  They live most their lives in denial that that life is only temporary, and that their time on this earth is only ever dwindling.

And so, of course, they put shit off.  They waste days scared, and lame, and less than their best selves.

And – one day – when their doctor tells them they’re dying (which isn’t really news in the literal sense) they become shocked…and horrified…and scared.

Cause suddenly they realize what they should have consciously known all along…that they are not immortal; that they are not permanent; that one day their heart won’t beat anymore, their lungs won’t draw breath anymore, their body won’t live anymore.

But that’s normal

Cause so long as our death is a distant thing, a mysterious thing, an unknown thing, our minds deem it an ignorable thing.

We convince ourselves that so long as it isn’t today – or some roughly predicted thing in the near future – dealing with our own mortality is something that can be put off yet one more day.

That way we can waste another day and not feel bad about it.  We can blow one more day playing video games, or lying around, or going from work or school straight home to watch the same crap shows for the occasional giggle, or to simply maintain a routine we don’t love all too much anyway.

We can piss away one more day being angry, and vengeful, and sad – about crap that’s gone by, and passed by, and no longer a part of ourselves or our future.  Another day being afraid of so much, and hurt by so much, and less than our better selves because of it.


I mean…fucking lame.

And all of it is fine, of course, cause we don’t know when we’re dying.

But there is one person who does know; who could tell you the eaxct day and minute and method of their death:

The Death Row Inmate

These dudes, unlike all others in this world, know the precise moment they will depart it.

They, unlike all others, can tell you the precise number of their remaining days.

They, unlike you and me, know exactly how many chances they have left to live at all.

And yet…they can’t live them.

They can’t make amends.

They can’t correct their wrongs.

They can’t go do anything that knowing such things would damn near force or compel a person to do.

They can’t go experience, or see, or learn anything that they’ve forever wanted to do, but always neglected to – cause they thought they’d live forever.

That’s a kind of suffering I can’t imagine – to want so badly to do so much, but know you won’t live to have that chance; that the world will kill you to see to it that you never have that chance.

But because of the suffering they’ve inflicted, we call it the just and right punishment.

And so, imagine that…

Imagine the fucking torture of it.

Imagine waking every day knowing the exact day and time of your death, with but those few years, months, or days till the end, and being completely unable to do anything of what you’d want to do in that time; unable at all to savor those last days, and instead confined to a 10 by 10 cell or whatever, when you’d give anything to do just one of those things that you’ve always dreamed of – before the day of your death, before you’re strapped to a table and put to sleep like the dog your crimes determined you are.

Imagine the pain of waking up every day, knowing the exact number of such mornings that are yet left for you, unable to do that day something, anything that would make it a day worthwhile, or a day worth remembering.

Imagine knowing that the experiences you have now, and the good you’ve done now (and even murderers have likely done some good in their life) are the same you’ll die with.

No more.  No do-overs.

Imagine watching the days go by, as death comes closer, but life itself is…impossible.

It’s messed up.

Of course, what they did justifies it – according to the law, and our own moral judgments.

Do they deserve it?  Is it right?

Maybe.  I dunno.  I haven’t exactly reviewed the trials and evidence of every person now sentenced to die.

But realize that despite what they’ve done, and despite your natural reaction to what they’ve done, if you lived now as they live everyday before their end, you would learn something important…

So, what can a death row inmate teach you about being yourself?

That it’s not something to be put off till X or Y future time.

That it’s not something to be put off till you have one thing or another you think you’re missing.

That it’s not something to be put off at all.

That being your best and most fucking awesome Self starts with realizing that you have few opportunities left to do it at all, and little reason not to try it at all.

Because whether you know your time of death or not, it’s coming all the same.

Cause on any given day, you have a 1 in roughly 30,000 chance of dying.  For every day you survive, those odds must surely increase.  And for every day you waste caring what others say about you, or what they think of what you do, or being weak, or being less than a leader of Your Self at least, is one less day you can be freaking awesome, and cool, and way better Bieber (pretty much the goal of all mankind).

And so…

…I hope you’ve enjoyed these 5 articles on “What [Villains] Can Teach You About Being Yourself”.  I hope you’ve seen that there’s something commendable, or admirable, or damn courageous even in those people society looks down upon, and teaches others to shun or hate.

But – mostly – I hope you’ve seen that being your best Self means standing out, means being different, means disconnecting Your Self from the lives and thoughts of others.

It means being independent.  It means being bold.  It means – at times – being alone.

And that’s fine.  That’s cool.  That’s way better than being one of them – everyone else – a sad, sorry, nobody; safe from the criticism of others, but imprisoned and stifled by the threat of that criticism.

So take what’s good from these people – all people – and leave what’s bad.

Total thanks for following these 5 articles for the past 5 weeks.  Share them, enjoy them, remember them.

And lemme know in the comments below what you think and thought of these very different kinda posts.


4 Responses to What a [Death Row Inmate] Can Teach You About Being Yourself

  1. downfromtheledge says:

    This has been a great series Adam; today’s post hit home the most for me. There were times when I was so depressed, then felt guilty on top of it for what a waste of life I was. I would sit there wishing I could trade places with a terminal cancer patient so that someone else who at least *wanted* their life and their family and their friends could go enjoy being here, and I could get out.

    I may as well have been in prison. Hell, there IS no worse prison than our own minds and what we lock ourselves into. We sit there suffering, waiting for someone to come let us out…only to find years later that the door was never even locked.

    • Adam Austyn says:

      Wow. I couldn’t agree more. And I’m thankful every day, like you I’m sure, that I realized it eventually, where so many don’t.

  2. Udo says:

    I was thinking about this a lot lately. I used to think “Oh my gosh, I have to accomplish everything RIGHT NOW because I don’t know when I’m going to go!” I’d overwhelm myself and then end up getting nothing done. Then I’d be like “Ok I need to chilll…”and lay in bed all day. Two extremes, neither helpful.

    The death row inmate does have the ability to pace themselves properly (thinking of the man who wrote a chidren’s book while he waited for the chair [or death injection, rather]). And to give it their best shot. Do the best they can with what they have.

    It gives a new perspective from which to prioritize your day, doesn’t it?

    I keep putting of a certain project because I keep having more “immediate emergencies” and it’s really driving me nuts. I’m going to start putting my project on the for-front and give it priority.

    • Adam Austyn says:

      Cool, Udo! Get started for sure. You’re right, though. I’d probably write a shit ton if I were on death row too. Either that or slowly tunneling my way out secretly at night…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *