Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Ninety-One Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp
As I was running the track at Taft Camp this morning, I thought about the real value I derived from these past ten months I’ve served. I never would have thought that my time as a prisoner would evolve into something I would value. Surprisingly, that is the frame of mind I’m in now, as I advance into my final three-month stretch.
Truthfully, living amidst so many men from such diverse backgrounds has brought me invaluable experiences. I’ve learned a lot about the dynamics of human relationships; I’ve learned about tolerance; I’ve learned about balance; and perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of leading a values-based life.
I never thought about such concepts while I was living at the frenetic pace of my life prior to confinement. My focus had been on the short-term, monetary rewards that my career could bring. Whether I was managing money at Bear Stearns or UBS, or putting Southern California real estate deals together, I was primarily motivated by closing the deal as quickly as possible. I wanted to reach my financial quotas in time to maximize the hours I could devote to golf.
While serving time in prison, I was introduced to people who lived with real challenges. They did not have the opportunities I took for granted, yet some lived with a sense of fulfillment that I had never known. I was around people who had decades of imprisonment behind them, some who had many years of confinement ahead of them. Despite such obstacles, the self-imposed discipline by which some lived enabled those men to build a solid core. Because of their discipline and sense of purpose, they led lives in prison that seemed richer and freer than many people I had known in the broader society.
The ten months I’ve served thus far in prison introduced me to concepts of self-mastery. It was a never-ending pursuit to live as the best person I could become, making the most of the circumstances around me. The interactions I had with other prisoners, together with the lessons I learned from the nonfiction books I read, convinced me that fulfillment could come through the pursuit of incremental goals that related directly to an overall purpose in life. I have been striving to live that adjustment of the past several months, and I’ve come to a point where I feel as if I soon will be able to share more of what I’ve learned with others.
The longer I ran around the track, the more I realized that I could empower myself by feeling gratitude for the gifts I had. Too many people in prison, and in the broader society, anchored themselves with debilitating thoughts about all that was missing from their lives. Those who thrived lived with a fundamentally different outlook. Outside forces did not govern their actions or their perceptions. In prison, I learned more about the value that came from making maximum use of resources.
The most valuable resources, I came to appreciate, were not of a materialist nature. Rather, they included such concepts as time, personal relationships, and contemplations about how the choices we make relate to the purpose we define for our lives.