112 Days – Prison to President Bidens Sister


112 days ago I was sitting inside a prison cell wondering if all the work I did up to that point meant anything.

I finally feel like I can talk about it.

All the long hours studying. The tears falling from my body in angst as I rewire my entire thought process while my old self resists, begs me to stop and go back to the falsity of safety. What if I did all that work to change, legitimately change and it was all for naught? Was I going to be successful or look like a world class fool?


I spent my time so differently than others inside prison. I didn’t hibernate or learn how to be a better criminal from failed criminals. I faced my demons, so-to-speak. When most were gambling or sleeping their time away I was grinding, focusing, erasing whole portions of my former self and carefully reconstructing who I am to finally be happy. I spent my time learning to be authentic and vulnerable. Was it going to work or was it going to end in disaster? So many inside prison believed in me telling me things like “if anyone is going to make it, you are”, I must’ve heard that 10 times a day for my last 2 years.


All those anxieties swelled within me as I waited to release from prison. I put on a front like I knew exactly what I was going to do. Like I had everything figured out. But the reality was different- I was absolutely scared. I could barely walk out those doors and it seemed like everything I earned and learned along the way stayed inside that building, that prison. I have never felt more exposed and naked.

That was 112 days ago today.


Yesterday I attended an event call the Vital Voices Mentorship Walk in honor of International Women’s Day on March 7th. They partnered with Upnotch, a mentorship application aptly described as a “passion project” and, in my opinion, a program that is quite literally going to change the world. Among the guest speakers was Valerie Biden-Owens. I walked in the entrance of the Catherine Mayer Studio in downtown Seattle for the first time at 9:15 a.m. and the first thing I noticed was that everyone was beautiful. It was like walking onto the set of The Real Housewives. I am not kidding when I say everyone was beautiful, I definitely feel like I stuck out.

But everyone was nice and beautiful. I met some amazing women. Women who have overcome adversity and who are wildly successful and down to Earth. Women that when you stand in front of them you realize “this is what leadership looks like”, all around the room was confident and bright-eyed women ready to change the world.


At exactly 11:07 a.m. as this Valerie Biden-Owens was cracking jokes on the stage making the host blush and the audience laugh wholeheartedly I realized I was 20 feet away from President Biden’s Campaign Manager and sister. A woman who made United States herstory by being the first successful female campaign manager to win a presidency. It was right then I thought to myself


“112 days ago I was sitting inside prison wondering if anything I did in there mattered. Now I’m sitting in the same room, with less than 50 people, laughing with some of Seattle’s most noted and powerful women and the wildly successful sister of President Joe Biden, really?”


I don’t have every little thing figured out. I truly don’t know where I am going to be in 12 months. I will likely be in college with a consultancy start-up just budding and helping change lives with the Prison Mathematics Project. Perhaps one day I will be the one sitting in a room where someone who never thought they could make it walks in and looks at me and thinks “one day I will be like her”. I am striving to be a woman that is proud of who I am and owns her path and her struggles. A woman’s who has the kind of beauty that can only come from a kind-heart, like all the women in that studio.


Dare to imagine better for yourself and may you find the strength and boldness to pursue it.


With Love

Ruth Utnage