Yes, today is my birthday. And as I sit here watching the new Netflix show Orange is the New Black, I am reminded by the birthday I spent in a Federal Prison Camp. Life is a trip, and if we remember the good times and the bad times with some humor, the ride is a lot more fun and compelling.
As my readers and followers know, I am now a highly sought after legal coach and crisis management strategist. But I never forget that SIX short years ago I celebrated my birthday with strangers. Strangers, yet some of the most loyal and interesting people I ever met. And yes, many of us keep in touch. Sorry DOJ.
In fact, my dorm mates decorated my cubicle, made me gifts and of course a legendary “prison cake.” I always say that prison is a great equalizer and nothing proves my point more than memories like this one.
What happens in the secret world inside is not only a tale of survival, but also one of humanity. After all, on the outside when the going gets tough, who is really there for you? How often do people, especially friends, go out of their way to make you feel special? Sadly the truth is that many of us are way to “busy” to really think about people in our lives. Even people who are important. That is one of the “gifts” of prison- time! Time to reflect and time to make the most of the little things, not trip out on them. Would I go back? Of course not.
My birthday party was filled with fabulous decorations- toilet paper streamers- gourmet dinner- a rice and cheese soufflé- and the glorious prison cake. A prison cake is a specialty that many learn to make. It is made up of bags of crushed up cookies and prepared in the community microwave. And the gifts I received ranged from the popular crocheted scarves, to specialty water smuggled from the warehouse. Ah, the little things…and the maxi pads!
Orange is the New Black is just a sneak peak inside our world, but the memories, good and bad are very intimate. I can never replace the time lost with my family and children. But the people I met inside made me realize to never take things for granted, and I try hard to live this everyday. So on this birthday never let it be said that I have forgotten any of the unique and bizarre times that have led me to the place I am today. The past is just that, and the present is a gift that I love opening everyday.
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, crisis manager and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared in the media on The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, E! News, People.com, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR Slate, Wall Street Journal, Discovery Network and others. She is a weekly featured guest on the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org