Jerry Owens is one of my three best friends.
Of the three, he’s probably the most mature and is one of the most inspiring individuals that I know personally.
I’ve seen Jerry at his lowest point in life, but I’ve also seen him build himself back up into a better and stronger individual. He’s a testament to the fact that no matter how far you’ve fallen, you can still pick yourself back up.
Where most people would have crumbled at the thought of leaving everything they’ve ever known behind – even more so during a very difficult period of time in their life – Jerry thrived when he picked up and moved halfway across the country to Texas. This is where he found himself.
He got a well respected job as a corrections officer.
He got his own apartment.
He made new friends (albeit not as good as me).
He made a new life.
In my eyes, calling Jerry an inspiration would be an understatement and I’m happy that he took the time to answer my “10 Questions About Happiness”.
10 Questions About Happiness
1. How do you define happiness?
J.O: My happiness stems from my friends, their success, and their overall contentment. It’s not about the material possessions you hold or the amount of money you have. It’s about the memories that give you the most feels, when you can reflect on any given event with your friends, and it makes you smile. It’s the time you can spend with someone in complete silence and still feel complete euphoria. It’s those long talks with the ones you love and being there for them through thick and thin. When my friends come to me with problems and I can help them or even just listen, it makes me happy that I can be someone they can confide in.
2. What has been your happiest moment in life so far?
J.O: The happiest moment in my life happened in October of 2016. I was with a close friend of mine at a park and we stopped on a pier to look out at the water. I remember the pure beauty of it all; the sun starting to set, the ducks swimming peacefully through the cold water, and the gentle breeze that swept our hair. I remember taking in all that beauty, turning to look at my friend, and thinking that it didn’t come close to how beautiful my friend was. I could stand in complete silence with this person and I’d still have an amazing time. I could tell that person everything and anything about myself; the ugly, the bad, the little good I’ve had, and that person wouldn’t judge me. I was comfortable, un-judged, and happy.
3. Is your idea of happiness any different than 5 years ago?
J.O: My idea of happiness has changed drastically in the last two years! I used to think that drinking and partying brought me the most happiness, and at that time in my life, it did. But I find myself happy by enjoying the little things in life. It’s the conversations that I have with my friends 1600 miles away that I cherish. Not the amount of beers I can shotgun.
4. As a corrections officer you see many individuals that have experienced the darker sides of life – what would you say their ideas of happiness are?
J.O: I believe their idea of happiness is enjoying the little things. It’s when an offender can get what he is entitled to, that it makes them the happiest. Toilet paper is limited to one roll a week, so if you use all of yours, good luck getting a CO to find you some. Not everyday do they get recreation. If staffing does not permit, they are S.O.L. They don’t always get visits from family members, but when they do, they come back elated. Offenders have very little so when they can get basic necessities, pictures of family in the mail, and visits from loved ones it makes them the happiest. They must enjoy the little things in prison or prison will ultimately destroy them.
5. The life expectancy of a corrections officer is 59 years old, compared to the national average of 79. A main reason for this is due to the stress of the job – what do you do to remain positive even while working such a mentally and physically demanding job?
J.O: One of the biggest reasons I’m able to keep my sanity is because I do not take my work home with me. I do not take the stress or the anger or the fear with me once I leave the Sally port. I leave that at the prison. Instead, I leave happy knowing I’m going home in one piece. I love my job and it’s something that I am becoming quite successful at. It’s also comforting knowing that my family in grey has my back if anything ever pops off.
6. Last year you moved from New Jersey – the place where you grew up – to Texas, a completely new state for you. How did this transition impact your happiness and well being?
J.O: It was very tough for me to leave New Jersey. I was a complete mess before leaving, drinking heavily, making terrible choices, and ultimately not caring what happened to me. I did not want to move to Texas but I needed a change. I thought I would never find happiness in Texas and I was completely wrong. Texas was the best choice I have ever made and I have never been healthier. It wasn’t easy adjusting to Texas though. I felt alone, isolated from the world, and I missed my friends. But I found a career, I accomplished and completed a spartan race, and I have my own place now. I am happy with what Texas has given me.
7. What do you think is one thing people can do to bring the most happiness into their lives?
J.O: Another avenue of finding happiness is helping out other people. I love being able to help my friends by giving advice or even just being an ear and listening. It makes me happy when I can make someone else forget about their problems for just a moment, and they can smile. If people were more open to putting others before themselves then I think happiness could be achieved for everyone.
8. What has been the lowest point in your life in regards to happiness?
J.O: It was on July 29th, 2014, when my world fell apart.
My parents were moving to Texas and my relationship of four years with the only person I have ever truly loved had ended. I never thought I’d experience happiness again. I remember feeling, but I can’t put into words or even describe the emotion and pain I was actually feeling. I just remember thinking my heart was an empty black hole and that I was worthless. The life and love that I knew for four years was leaving me and it was hard trying to bounce back from that.
I started throwing parties and drank nonstop to try and forget but that did not work. I became careless with my decisions and it had an impact on my family and friends. I finally moved to Texas, and I went through my own “rehabilitation” where I walked the pasture with my dog and enjoyed the peacefulness and quiet. I worked on myself, I set goals for myself, and I have finally accepted myself. I don’t think I’ll ever be whole again from this experience. I still get anxiety coming to New Jersey in fear (dread probably describes it better) of seeing that person. That person crushed me and it hurts when I see them, even three years later. But it has helped me grow as a person. I’m kinder, sweeter, more patient, and more open minded. If there is one thing I learned it’s that sometimes we have to see our world fall apart before we can rebuild a stronger foundation and an indestructible empire.
9. What is one piece of advice you wish you heard when you were younger?
J.O: I wish someone had told me to close my open mouth and open my closed mind. I was very naive, arrogant, and thought I knew everything. I was always judgemental and it wasn’t until that day in July where I lost everything that I finally opened up my eyes. I have grown up so much in the last two years that I don’t even recognize my younger self. Not all change is bad though, in my opinion, I have changed for the better and I’m happy.
10. Are you happy?
J.O: I can honestly say that I am happy. I am happy with my career, I’m happy that I have built a better life in Texas. Everyday I strive to become better and build a stronger Empire. I enjoy challenging tasks that life throws at me because at the end of the day, I’m going to take away something from that whether it is a life lesson, or jubilation from hurdling over that obstacle and exceeding my own expectations. Having a positive attitude is essential. Always find the good in situations and you will always come out on top. To Adam, Alex, and Sean, I love you guys so much and I am proud of all of you. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your unconditional love and support. I am always hear and here for you guys. You guys are the true definition of my happiness.
“10 Questions About Happiness” are posts that explore what happiness means to different people. These people come from all walks of life – some are successful in their respective careers while others are struggling to stay afloat, some live exciting lives while others live day-to-day. Happiness to one person may be completely different to another – the goal is to find what happiness means to different people and how we can apply it to our own lives.
Want to be interviewed? Head to the Contact Page and fill it out!