All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Prison

If you’ve actually taken the time to read carefully the really long, stream-of-consciousness “About Me” page, you know that I have actually served prison time.  479 days, to be exact (538 if you include the halfway house).  I told you I might even write about it sometime.  Well, I’m playing around with the idea of writing a book, not so much about the experience itself, but about the valuable lessons I took away from it.  For all I know this won’t be much more than therapy for me and incredibly dull for the rest of you.  In any event, I want to float a few ideas out there to see how people react to what I have to say (which, I guess, is the purpose of any blog).  Below is a rough draft of the Introduction.  I would love feedback, good or bad.  Thanks for stopping by.

Hey look!  Another “Everything I Needed To Know, I Learned…” book!  Just what you always wanted.  OK, OK, OK, I know it’s a little trite.  A lot trite.  It’s true that I didn’t learn EVERYTHING I needed to know in prison – I knew how to tie my shoes before prison — but I sure did learn a lot.  So, why am I ripping off Robert Fulghum’s shtick?

 

First, it’s just a great title.  Ever since All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, people have been trying to identify that one experience, that one epiphany, that one embarrassing moment (like in third grade when Sally rebuffed your advance by checking “No” to the classic “I like you, do you like me?  Check ‘yes’ or ‘no’” survey) that sums up a lifetime of experiences and universal lessons.  All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned…Working For IBM…From My Dog…From My Cat…Meditating On A Mountaintop In Tibet…Listening To Kurt Cobain Doing Ethel Merman Covers…While Using Duct Tape And Velcro To Remove Unwanted Facial Hair.  Everybody has something.  Robert Fulghum had kindergarten.  I have prison.

 

Not-so-clever titling aside, however, I really did learn really valuable life-lessons in the most unlikely of places.  I’ve been asked more than once “What is prison like?”  I used to answer by giving a day-in-the-life description, regaling my audience with an account of a typical day for me on the inside.  The more I reflected on my incarceration, however, I realized that the real answer is much more surprising.  Being in prison is a lot like not being in prison (aside from the separation from family and bad food).  Prisons are microcosms of society.  They have their own cultures, their own morals, their own laws, their own hierarchies, their own economies – and they’re not that different from the outside.  This upsets a lot of people who desperately crave that distinction between “us” and “them.”  Sorry.  The truth hurts.  Or, maybe the truth is encouraging.

 

In my short time on this Earth I have found that the wise man wastes no experience.  I’m not claiming wisdom because I’ve wasted a lot of experiences.  I simply refuse to waste this one.  We can learn a lot by what goes on around us.  We often miss insights, though, because of the hectic pace of our lives.  I firmly believe that the incubator that is prison allows anyone who is paying attention to really hone in on valuable lessons born from real life, undistracted by most of the fluff of day to day living.

 

I hope you find this valuable or, at the very least, mildly interesting.  If nothing else, this is an opportunity for me to put on paper all this stuff that is cluttering up my brain.  Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

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5 thoughts on “All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Prison

  1. Will this be an instructional manual–such as “How to smuggle food from the table to your bunk without anyone knowing” or “How to fashion a shiv from an innocuous bookmark”? If so, I’m in!!

    Truth be told, I’m in anyway…great concept…and one that most of us would probably rather read about than learn firsthand.

  2. I would be most interested in reading how the microcosms in prison relate to those experienced in the realm outside of prison. Given that most people only know that image of what is broadcast in the media, I am sure that, as with everything else broadcast, it is skewed for us to believe whatever will get us to buy/watch/read, etc. i have enjoyed your blog very much and,when you finish it, save me a copy…

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