A maximum security prison is a sobering place. The food served is awful. Recreation—fresh air—is limited. And regret easily slips through the bars of a cell. Budget restrictions often cut prison program for inmates, leaving them with few avenues to tap in to their potential. Whether someone is sentenced to a life-term or five years, there's plenty of time to think.
I know this because, for a year-and-a-half, I volunteered at a building surrounded by fences, razor wire, narrow windows, and lots of thick, pale-yellow cinderblocks. I'd visit once a week as part of a parish-outreach group and we'd spend two hours in a classroom-style space listening to the stories of men whose lives were much different and more difficult than mine.
Every Tuesday, they'd read another page or two of the autobiographies they were creating; they were storytellers in the most stark and grittiest sense. Palpably, the men who'd been incarcerated for the longest durations also had one more thing in common: they seemed to have made progress making peace with their pasts—times that were heart-wrenchingly violent for both the victims and the perpetrators.
Maybe time does that. Maybe it really does heal all wounds.
Healing, though, takes time.
I can't erase the mistakes I've made. I can't reverse the moments in my life that I've given in to fear instead of summoning courage. I can't take back stray and unthoughtful words. And actions. I can't call "do over."
I can do something: ask forgiveness wherever possible, forgive myself, learn. The burden of regret imprisons the present and puts the future on trial, and that's not how anyone's autobiography should read.