I’m tired. There, I said it! I am a tired guy who needs to take a hard look at the projects I’m engaging in, and I need to focus on the important projects, prioritizing and cutting the fat, that is. It’s as I tell Randy, “I need to figure out what is truly important…and do it. The small distractions need to be done away with and in their place the important work needs to be emphasized.” The question though is: What is the important work?
From my parent’s perspective, college is my most important endeavor. They see college as a means for me to not only stay connected to the outside world, but to grow as a young man into an informed – and liberally educated – grown man. I can agree with this. I can agree that college is very important. Hence, it is placed high on my priorities list.
This blog – the Prison Education Blog – is another priority for me. It’s a priority that I’ve not been placing in its rightful place. With college, my class, my other commitments, and so on, I feel as though I have neglected this blog too often. This is something that I am vowing to change. As such, you’ll be seeing an increase in posting frequency.
Then I have my ‘Writing and Publishing’ class. This is also a priority, albeit a smaller one. Perhaps I should say that it is a priority and important, but not as all-consuming as some of my other projects. Though, with it being so close (in terms of in my face), sometimes I forget the real work that it does. Sometimes I forget that it is not just a class, that it is an opportunity to change lives.
I have my Education Behind Bars Newsletter, a project that has been the bane of my existence for the last few months. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of putting out a free publication that will assist prison educators and prisoner-students alike, but it sure is a ton of work. I really can’t wait to see it go live. As of right now, August the 1st is the projected publication date.
And last, I have my books, Education Behind Bars (the prison education reference guide for prisoners), College For Convicts (the prison education policy book for lawmakers, prison administrators, prison educators, and the general public), and Practice Electra (my debut novel). All three are undergoing extensive work. I should be done with the first two within the next month and the novel the month after. I am seeing a publisher for all of these.
So, life is hectic and tough. I find my hours are consumed and I still have more to do than I can possibly hope to do. This leads me to have to cut other worthwhile projects. For example, I recently tabled the Prison Life Blog idea. I still have a number of blogs prepared for it, but I just can’t take it on right now. I’ve also had to pull back on the number of articles that I write. This is something that I found very fulfilling, but too time consuming to continue.
All of this has led me to reflect upon what is really important. This is something everyone should reflect upon. I imagine that most working professionals have time constraint issues. I can just see the prison educator spending 5-8 hours at work, trudging back home, and just not having the energy left over to write another page in their novel or revise that article they were working on. Hey, I hear you!
This reflection – while trying in its onset – has opened a portal for me. A portal that allows me to view what I’m doing and what is important. Somewhere along the line, the work took over and the purpose became muddled. I started my advocacy for the millions behind bars in America. I started as an innocent young man who was eager to align with a cause and promote it with all of my might. But these days, I feel as if every day is just another day at the office. To this I say good riddance.
Here’s to getting back to what matters. Here’s to finding purpose and realigning ourselves with it. And here I am before you, telling you that I am renewing my efforts to assist the lowly prisoner who desires an education and the prison educator who finds that there are no funds for textbooks or supplies.
The questions, though, are: Are you going to do the same? Are you going to take a hard look at your life, find what inspired you from the start, and put that inspiration to work? Are you going to look inward and regain the momentum you once had? Are you going to make tomorrow the day that you want it to be? These are questions that I’ve just recently been able to answer in the affirmative. And the result was a trimming of engagements, so that I could focus on what really matters. While the story of the results of this trimming is not yet written, I am hopeful that I’ll report in a few short weeks that I am no longer hassled, stressed, or worried. Rather, that I’m fulfilled.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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