Writing In The Prison, Week 4: The Things We’ve Lost 

We’ve all lost something or someone. From old childhood toys to former friends, family members to even lost memories, we, as human beings are in a constant state of loss.

We can lament over the things we’ve lost. We can also hold out hope that we can rediscover for what we’ve lost.

This week the writing prompt for the inmates was to write a story about things we’ve lost.

But what happens if you’ve lost everything?

Many of the inmates in the correctional facility know what that’s like.

These people, whether by their own actions or the actions of others, have lost their homes, their freedom, their families.

They’ve lost their faith and their hope that things will get better. They themselves are lost, and they want to find themselves.

We all want to find ourselves. We want to know about who we’re supposed to be in this world, and what we’re going to accomplish. We want to know from the second we’re born what we’re going to have.

But what does it take to do that? Does it mean we need to lose everything to gain perspective on the world? Does dealing with loss = finding ourselves?

Does it mean that you take things  away until you’ve lost everything? Or does it mean that once you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up?

And who can experience loss? Is it only those who have something or someone to lose? Or can anyone experience the feelings of loss? I think that a loss isn’t only for the privileged, loss is for everyone. Everyone knows in some way what it’s like to lose something, to lose someone. Some people lose more than others, but that doesn’t mean that the ones who haven’t truly lost anything don’t know what it means.

I think that the things we’ve lost are a part of us and regardless of who or where we are, the feeling of loss is something we can all relate to. And if we have lost everything, the important thing to remember is that the feelings of loss are universal, you’re not alone in your loss.

Please make sure to give other pieces in this series a read, and make sure to share.

Until next time.

 

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Writing In The Prison, Week 3: Emotions

A few days ago was the three-week mark of my independent study, Writing In The Prison. This week, something that I noticed while teaching was how important emotions are conveyed through the writing that we do.

It’s not only the inmates writings’ that have emotional depth but ours as well. Every word we write, every story we tell is based on real things that have happened to us. It up to us to show the world what we want to say. What this means is that there can often be deeper emotions behind the words we write.

We’re given prompts to help us along in our stories, but everyone interprets those differently. For example, one of the prompts for this week was “write about an encounter with a bully.”  What I saw in the inmates writing was their real passion; they knew exactly they wanted to tell their story, emotions and all.

It’s because of this passion that I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the class.

Please don’t forget to like and share.

Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week 2: Empathy versus Sympathy

Yesterday was the second week of my independent study, Writing In The Prison.

And this week, something that I noticed while teaching was the emotions that were expressed, and how they were reacted to.

Several of the stories this week were deeply personal, and due to their personal nature, it also brought strong emotional reactions as well. Which is completely normal in any situation, but in this particular situation, I wasn’t completely sure how I should react.

This is where empathy versus sympathy comes into play.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Sympathy : feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Can we as humans be both empathetic and sympathetic? Or can we only experience one over the other?
In the case of the inmates, it felt as if this class serves as a unique bonding experience for them, as it is allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. But while the teachers share as well, it feels like there is still a disconnect between us. Because while we are part of the class, we still are part of the “Them”.  Even though we do not hold the same authoritative positions as the guards, we’re still volunteers in the facility. We have the freedom to leave at any time, and we technically do not have to return. We choose to come each week, for different reasons. We do not fit into a proper category because of our freedomswe are not inmates, and we are not workers.
But I know it doesn’t mean that we don’t care. In fact, I would argue in some ways, we are more compassionate, as we only get an hour to learn more about these people, and to learn more about the facility as well. And in turn, the women in the class, and the workers at the facility only get about an hour to learn more about us. Which means the limited time is allowing us to move faster, beyond the bonds of small talk, to really get to what matters.
And I think that is what makes this opportunity so special.
Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week One : “Us” vs. “Them”

This past week, I started teaching my independent study in the correctional facility.

While I was teaching, there was one major thing that I noticed. The “Us” versus “Them” mentality, particularly in relationship between the inmates and the guards.  

For example, in the middle of writing, a guard interrupted the class to check on a specific inmate, which caused some friction between the inmates and the guard. After the encounter, the inmates rallied around the one who was singled out, which served as a unique bonding experience.

They were the “Us” and the guard was “Them”. Which made me realize that outside of the prison hierarchy, we ourselves are constantly dividing outselves into “Us” versus “Them” scenarios.

You and your fellow classmates don’t like your professor? “Us” (the students) versus “Them” (the professor)

Your boss at work is rude and tough? “Us” (the workers) versus “Them” (the boss).

Hierarchies exist outside of the prison system, yet they seem to be one of the most notable examples of authority versus the population.

Might it be due to the extreme environment of working/being in a prison? 

Look back on a psychological experiment, known as the Zimbardo experiment or The Stamford Prison Experiment. In the study, the researchers studied the psychological effects of being a prisoner or a prison guard in a mock prison. Despite the fake settings, what was found was that regardless of role, the participants still divided themselves into an “Us” versus “Them”, which created extreme conflict and a severe social hierarchy. 

If a staged psychological study can produce these results, it doesn’t seem to fair well for real-world situations. Why is that?

I will keep my eye on this throughout the duration of my independent study, because perhaps there is more to the story.

Until next time. 

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed. 

10) Try to relax/take some time to take care of yourself. You won’t be able to get anything done if you’re too stressed.

This means taking a few seconds to stretch your body, read a post from your favorite blogger (wink wink), jam to your favorite song, shower if you need too. Whatever gets you out of your head, and relaxing.

9) Make sure you get some sleep. Being exhausted won’t help you at all.

Even if it means quick power naps, or a full night’s sleep, do what you can t0 make sure you’re in the best possible mindset to work.

8) Make sure you eat. If you’re hungry, nothing will get accomplished.

And don’t try to insist that “you’re too busy to eat.” Take 5 minutes, grab a bar, a fruit/vegetable, anything that can keep you nourished, and enjoy. Trust me, your body (and mind) will thank you.

7) Try to make a to-do list for what you need to accomplish.

Get out a spare notebook, a piece of paper, a whiteboard…anything you can write on and something that you won’t forget to check.

6) Accomplish the little goals, that way you won’t be distracted when you try to work on the bigger ones.

For example, take a minute to send an email or make an appointment (small goal), then work on your huge project.

5) If you need help with a task, ask for it.

Whether it’s friends, family, your work partners, your boss/professor. If you have questions or are confused, ask for help.

4) Try to avoid procrastinating.

Speaking from a lot of experience here, try not to procrastinate. It’ll only make you more stressed and overwhelmed, which isn’t what you want. Trust me.

3) If something doesn’t work out, move on.

Maybe you failed an exam, or forgot an appointment or a meeting that you were supposed to attend. Instead of focusing on what you didn’t do, try to move past it and onto the next task. The past isn’t something you can change.

2) Try to get outside if you can.

Taking a few deeps breaths of fresh air can do great things, even if you only have a minute to spare. Fresh air beats stale inside air any day.

1 ) You’re not going to always be overwhelmed.

Sure, you’re overwhelmed now, but there will come a time where all of the stress and anxiety will go away. So instead of panicking about what you have to do, keep in mind that it won’t always be this way. You can do it, I believe in you.

TRAP Laws, and Why You Should Care About Them

TRAP” (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws single out the medical practices of doctors who provide abortions and impose on them requirements that are different and more burdensome than those imposed on other medical practices. (http://www.reproductiverights.org/project/targeted-regulation-of-abortion-providers-trap)

So now that you know what they are, why does it matter? Why should you care? 

I’ll tell you why.

Because in several states across the US, most notably Texas, this type of legislation is trying to get passed, which will force clinics medical professionals who offer abortion services to have to adapt to these harsh laws, or they will be severely punished. This can result in these places closing, with those in need having nowhere else to turn. 

By having these TRAP laws put in place, having a safe place or a less expensive option for those in need will no longer be available, putting the people in different, even life-threatening situations. 

For many, clinics such as Planned Parenthood are the only medical care that some are able to receive. 

The proponents of these laws insist that they are “trying to protect women’s health.” 

But would you feel safe if the one place you could go to wasn’t able to help you because of these laws?  

I know I wouldn’t.

#‎StopTheSham‬

Writing In The Prison: First Experience

This past Thursday, I had got my first opportunity to go visit the correctional facility in which I am conducting my independent study. I won’t begin teaching until after I am back from Spring Break, but here are some of the things that I learned and noticed while on a tour of the facility.

  • Street clothes instead of uniforms

The inmates in the correctional facility are allowed to wear their regular clothes, as compared to jumpsuits. I found this particularly interesting, as it makes the facility feel less like a permanent place for the inmates, as their stay time is usually 18 months maximum. It also helps to add a sense of personal expression and identity, whereas in a larger prison, individuality is often taken away.

  • Lesser Crimes

As this is a correctional facility, not a prison, many of the inmates are there for smaller offenses, usually drug or alcohol related issues or crimes (i.e., DUI, DWI, drug possession, petty larceny) However, for some of the male prisoners, they may also have domestic offenses. If that is the case, they will not be placed with the female inmates in most programs or classes. At the present moment, there are about 200 people (excluding personnel) in the facility, with roughly 45 of them being women. I will be predominately teaching some of the female inmates during my time there.

  • More freedom than heavier security prisons

Many of the prisoners are part of a work track, meaning that they are able to leave the facility in order to attend job interviews or their outside jobs. They will also keep these jobs once they are released from the correctional facility.

There is also a variety of programs and classes that the inmates can attend, from alcohol and drug counseling, to GED preparation. The creative writing class that I am teaching with is also part of the list of programs, in which the inmates can either be placed in, or volunteer to attend.

However, there are still some restrictions. All food and items that are brought in must be checked by the guards for contraband, there are cameras in almost every hall or room (including the bathroom), visitors are required to sign in, and the guards are armed. While the inmates do have more freedoms as compared to the larger prison, the facility is still a secure place, and there are rules that must be followed.

Overall, my first time going in the correctional facility can be best explained by the facility’s program coordinator.

“When they leave here, we want them to be better off than when they first arrived here.”

And with that, I cannot wait to start teaching soon, and I can’t wait to tell you all about my experiences with the writing group, and in the facility in general. Until next time.

To Connect Or Disconnect, That Is The Question

Recently, I’ve been inspired to disconnect from electronics. For a little while at least. 

This past weekend alone, I spent over 12 hours staring at various screens,and it was draining. No matter how much I tried to relax and take a break, the screens were always there to lure me back in. 

Even now, I’m using my phone to write this very post. 

The first thing I do in the morning? Check my phone.

Going to bed? Check my phone.

Free time? Usually on my phone or computer. 

It feels like we as a society are glued to our screens, without realizing the repercussions. Instead of going to a library to look something up, we quickly type it into a search engine to avoid making any effort to try.

Human interaction? Why do we need that when we have the Internet to occupy our time?

Now I know this all sounds harsh, but when you really think about it, maybe harsh is the wake-up call we need to get away from our electronics and self-reflect. 

But before I disconnect, let me just Google ” best ways to self-reflect”. 

Prisons And Children 

As you know, I am in an independent study this semester entitled Writing In The Prisons. During this time, I will be visiting a local correction facility and teach creative nonfiction writing.

In order to prepare for this all I had to do was register my course online so  I get credit, and once I begin, I have to sign in, and potentially have my bag searched unless I leave it in the car. All I have to do is look nice and professional while I’m there.

I am also doing other volunteer work this semester with children, where I go to a local school to teach creative writing.

To prepare for this, I had to sign a volunteer sheet stating that I have never been convicted of a crime against a child, a form stating I cannot take pictures of the children, a formal background check, another form stating that I have never been convicted of child abuse, fingerprints, and I also needed to get a tuberculosis shot. There is also a strict dress code that I need to abide by. 

Do you see the difference in how I have to prepare for both of these? Because I sure do.

Why is it that I had to go through all these processes to work with children but minimal processes at best to work with inmates who are already incarcerated, and in the process of rehabilitation?

What does it say about our society as a whole when we’re willing to do everything to protect our children, but provide minimal effort to protect those who are behind bars? 

And before this gets too political, I need to clarify that I take both of these opportunities very seriously, and I look forward to working with both groups immensely. 

I just find it a bit odd that we as an overall society are less caring about those willing to change, but overprotective of future generations. Shouldn’t we care about both equally? In my case, both are receiving similar opportunities to learn creative writing. They will be taught similar concepts (although the maturity will differ), and it is supposed to be an interesting learning experience for all of us.

So why is it that when I tell people about my independent study (which I waited 2 years to take), the response I get is that it will not be safe, and that I shouldn’t go?

Yet when I tell people I am working with children, they are overwhelmingly happy for me, and  are excited to see what I am teaching them.

I am so excited and honored to have both of these opportunities, but I feel that both groups must be treated with the same respect and honesty before I can feel I am doing the best job possible, and that they are all receiving something in return.

Because in my eyes, everyone has a chance to gain something from this. Including me. 

The 5 Stages of Binge-Watching

1. Denial: For days now, you’ve been denying to others just how much you’ve been watching. You deny that there’s anything wrong with how much you’re watching.

Examples may include:

“I’ve only watched 3 or 4 episodes of Breaking Bad!”

(In reality, it’s more like 3 or 4 seasons that you’ve watched. Time is an illusion to you.)

“I can stop anytime I want!” (Who are you kidding? Netflix has stopped asking you if you want to continue, because it knows that you’re in it for the long haul)

2. Anger: You become angry about how much you have to watch. You may also become angry at others for questioning your binge-watching habits.

Examples: “How DARE Netflix ask me if I want to continue watching?! Don’t they know I’m in the middle of the 8th season?!”

“I don’t have a problem! Now shut up and let me watch Gossip Girl in peace. And pass me the chips.”

“WHY SHONDA RHIMES, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME.”

3. Bargaining: You would do anything to continue watching, or to have more episodes/seasons of your favorite show.

Ex: ” I’ll never complain about being in pain again if Derek Shepherd lives after being shot by the gunman.”

“I’ll trade my soul if it means that Jess and Rory will end up together.”

“I’ll give up junk food and exercise more if it means there’s another episode/season of Lie To Me.

4. Depression: This usually occurs after the death of a favorite character, or the series finale of your show.

“Why did (insert character) have to die? She/He/They were so good.”

“I can’t believe it’s over forever.”

Note: This stage may include making the couch your permanent grieving space, a mountain of tissues filled with your tears, as well as eating copious amount of comfort food.”

5. Acceptance: The final stage. With this stage comes the acceptance that your season/show has finally ended, and you currently have nothing to watch. You’ve gotten off of your couch, finally removed your sweats, cracked open your blinds, and are staring blearily at the sun.

And now at last, it’s time to begin again. (Which means you need to find a new show to watch. May I recommend Teen Wolf, Game of Thrones or Criminal Minds?)