Lesson #4: “We may learn from our fall and yet we may fall again. And again. It’s not fine, but it shouldn’t keep you from making another mistake.” 

I only went behind the bars for one night in the Torkham immigration, Afghanistan, a tiny outpost bordering the country with Pakistan. A silly mistake took me to spend eight hours in the rumbling jail. Thankfully, a dear friend helped me out. He bailed me for a mistake I shouldn’t have if the Afghani immigration officer did their job well. 

But that one night in jail taught me a very important lesson: sometimes I need to make mistakes to learn that living in prison – factually and metaphorically – is not the best life there is. 

Lessons from a life in prison

Today, I met bung Rudy, a dive guide in Banda Naira who spent nineteen years in prison and said that he would choose to do what he did instead of regretting his deeds.

Most of the times, any paint job won’t do the trick; the old wall is still visibly seen.

“Living in prison is tough. It is limiting, depressing, and debilitating me as a person,” he confessed. 

It took him several years to bounce back before he started to learn to become a dive guide. Yet, he still felt that his life was never the same. For good, and bad.

He was a good guide but rarely offered good clients – I hope I was not a bad one haha. He felt his past seemed to matter more to people that they forgot how good he is in dive guiding.

There were times that he would go to other places. And he did. He worked in Raja Ampat and Komodo. However, the smell of sambal pala or ikan bakar bumbu kenari was too hard to forget. So he went back home in 2019. Calling Banda Naira, again, home.

Befriend the past

When I saw these banana stalks in front of the old Rumah Adat Ratu Naira, it suddenly reminded me how hopes could blossoms from past that you want to forgot.

Differently, he fully embraced his past. He’d make the most enjoyable trip for whoever guests he guided. He’d use his interpretation skills to create meaningful dives for his guests. And he’d openly tell guests about his past in jail.

But this time, as I heard myself, in a more positive, reflective, and meaningful way.

Bung Rudy told me that until he befriend his past, it will always be a source of worry in his future.