You Can’t Fully Appreciate Something Until You Experience Its Opposite

Craig Stanland
6 min readJun 24, 2021

It took losing my freedom to fully understand freedom.

Freedom is complex; it’s much more than the physical parameters of prison.

A choice as small as “Do I go left, or do I go right?” is freedom. And within that freedom, we can find magic.

We have to be open to see it and receive it.

Join me on my journey of rediscovering freedom after prison in this excerpt from my new book, “Blank Canvas, How I Reinvented My Life After Prison.”



“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”


It’s been a month since my release from the halfway house and my newfound freedom is settling in. I still question whether or not I can leave my home. Will someone be looking for me? Am I breaking the law?

In an instant, fear rushes in. It’s the fear of going back, fear of not wanting to make a mistake. Fear of walking out my apartment door. It’s an awful feeling. I come back to reality. I remember I am free. I remember I can walk out of my apartment without permission.

I leave my apartment building and look around. Running shoes tied tight — one foot in front of the other. My pace is slow, my muscles tense. My Achilles heel throbs, a prison injury, making itself known with every step. I foolishly attempted to touch the bottom of the basketball net, and it had left me with a physical manifestation of a past I’d like to leave behind.

I start down 7th Avenue and take a right up the hill toward 8th. I cross over 8th and decide to head toward 9th — a spur-of-the moment decision. Arriving at what I expected to be 9th Avenue, I realized there is no 9th. It’s Prospect Park West. I’m not sure where I am. My sense of direction is notoriously bad. Faced with a choice of right or left, I choose left. In a few short blocks, I find myself at the entrance of Prospect Park.

I’m surprised that I live this close to the park. I had no idea. I am excited that my world has expanded exponentially. A reminder not to take for granted the choice to go left or right…

Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.