Do Your Possessions Define You?
Everyone owns possessions. Some of us have more than others. Some of us want more than others. Is it important to you to have a flashy car or a lot of expensive clothes? Maybe you want a house in an upscale part of town, or a condo in Palm Beach. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the finer things in life, but if the finer things become all there is to life, then maybe that’s a problem.
I used to have a lot of possessions. Before I went to prison, I had a condo and all the furniture I needed to fill it, more than enough clothes to wear, and a nice car. I think you could probably say that I took my possessions for granted. Obviously it sounds as though accumulating things was important to me, but I don’t know if I could truly say that I had any real appreciation for what I had.
Living With the Essentials
When I went to prison, I had nothing but the essentials. I had a small metal locker that held the few clothes I had. I also had books and a journal. When you have so little, you begin to focus on what’s really important. I came to value the experience of reading while I was in prison, and began to write in my journal. In this way, I was focused more on spiritual development than I was on the accumulation of “stuff.”
Not that “stuff” didn’t have any importance. On the contrary, I came to understand just how significant the smallest things could be. I observed the people around me, and what they found important. When you have very little, you become extremely protective of your possessions. For most prisoners, the important things were letters from home or photographs.
I also came to an appreciation of little things. When you’re in prison, you have very little in the way of luxuries. So at the commissary, I’d consider every possible option. Should my credits go toward a major purchase like a Walkman? How much value would that actually add to my life? What about the peanut butter and crackers – did I really want them? What was important?
Taking the Lessons Home
Being in prison taught me about minimalism. I learned that it doesn’t mean that you have to own as little as possible. It means thinking about how you live, and how you add value to your life. I find that now I think about how I use my possessions, how I use my time, and even how I eat. I am more thoughtful about what matters in my life. I value relationships, experience, and thought more than I do tangible items. From having little in prison, I believe I learned much.