Breathe. Just breathe.

By Andrew Sheeler

So how’d you spend last Wednesday night? I spent mine in jail. I could tell some tale about my hardcore exploits that landed me in the orange outfit of a felon, but the truth is I was there along with four other justice students making an instructional film. The film, shot by several journalism students, will serve as a guide for new inmates at Fairbanks Correctional Center (FCC) on everything from receiving mail to receiving visitors.

In my three and a half hours as a felon, receiving stares from both real inmates and watchful guards, I got just a taste of what it is like to lose freedom. When I walked out of FCC, I savored my first gulp of fresh air and the sensation of having my own clothes on again. I had received a much-needed dose of perspective.

As a husband, father to two little girls, full-time student and editor of the UAF Sun Star, I have what you could call a full plate. This semester has been like a blur to me, one week fading into the next. Before I knew it, I was 10 issues into the Sun Star and staring down the looming end of the semester, with its dreaded due dates. With all the pressures placed on me by school, work and especially family, an evening in the clink did wonders to open my eyes and allow me to appreciate the little things in my life. The (slightly too) exuberant “Hi daddy!” my two-year-old shouts at me first thing in the morning as I’m still prying my eyes open. The waiting pot of coffee as I stumble downstairs. Wrestling with my five-year-old as I try to brush her hair before racing out the door for the school bus. In the hustle and bustle of my average day, these little things can seem trivial, even automatic. They are not.

When I was in jail, my every movement was scrutinized and controlled by the guards. I was denied a luxury as basic as being able to open my own door. I had no freedom. By contrast, my everyday life is full of freedoms that are so easy to take for granted. Do I drink coffee or tea in the morning? Do I go home for lunch or grab something from the Wood Center food court? In a time of year usually associated with punishing deadlines and demanding schedules, having my freedom temporarily stripped from me was strangely liberating.

Far be it from me to recommend that somebody get incarcerated so they can learn to appreciate the things that they have. Certainly, less drastic measures can be taken to achieve the same results. In this time of tumult, with finals just a few weeks away hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, now more than ever we should take some time to just breathe. It’s just the end of the semester, folks. Unless you’re graduating, I promise you there will be another. And another. And another. Pace yourself. Better yet, enjoy yourself. Hey, it could be worse. You could be in jail, right?

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