A few months back, I was asked by a friend about what life looks like for me in prison. This was my answer. I’m sharing this because my answer today would be much different. Events have been occurring for me, one after the other that bring me to the realization that there really are no bounds upon how beautiful life can become. Later I’ll share the update. Here was my original answer.

Life for me is similar to what you might imagine life is like for a student in mathematics who lives in the ghetto, but also that never leaves the ghetto. I try to keep my head in my studies, but it’s hard to focus with all of the “prison” floating around. It’s very loud, and people don’t respect that I’m trying to live a separate lifestyle from them. But aside from the way it sounds, my life is in a constant state of surreal. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and a bit terrible at times, but to be perfectly honest, my life was hell before I came to prison. I’ve become part of the math community, and my interactions with people like yourself, and my research group, and so many others make me realize that I have found the right company. This is the community I belong to, not prison. My head is not in prison. It’s wrapped in projects and conversations, research with amazing people. When I leave my room, I see a prison full of individuals whose most meaningful event of the month involved not having to pay for a ramen soup. That is not what life is like for me.

Imagine something for a moment. Imagine being stuck in a room for a very long time, years maybe. Imagine that despite this state of not being able to leave, you no longer had the pressure of your job, your bills, and any other obligation of society. Imagine now that you have all the math books that you want.. Then suddenly, a person reaches out to you and invites you to study, say, projective geometry with them. Neat topic. This invitation comes with all sorts of neat dialogue. In this little room, you’ve transformed the floor into a mess with SET cards, modeling advanced topics. And conversations about concepts that are tough to grasp, but with the help of a new study partner, well, it’s pretty awesome. Now include the same for Cryptography, and category theory and Topology. How bad really, is this scenario? Finally, what if in your amazing studies, people outside noticed and began giving you more support than you know how to handle? And what if you were suddenly given the opportunity to reshape your life to precisely how you want it to look? That is what life looks like for me right now. Like I said, it’s surreal. I’m living my dream behind the walls of a prison. Who’d have thought that would ever be a real thing? But I have my second (thousandth) chance, and I’m using it to prepare myself for my future in mathematics.

Visit my website at christopherhavensmath.com