Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Prison Food, Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

388,800 Minutes


As a pseudo- late '80s New Yorker, AIDS activist and friend of the gays, it should come as no surprise to any of you that Rent is one of my favorite musicals and "Seasons of Love" one of my favorite songs. These last few days in Spain, the company's words have been floating through my mind, "How do you measure a year in the life?"

Mimi and Roger say you measure in love. Kind of subjective, but plausible. The lazy days out at the finca, nights in the apartment doing homework, chatting on trains, baking cookies, discussing politics.  But honestly I am not sure I would describe this year as a season of love. For me, there was lots of alone time - sitting at the computer, running in the rain, reading. 

So, if I wasn't showering people with love, what was I doing?  How do you measure a year in the life?  Number of places visited.  Number of pages written, blogs posted. Number of classes taken. Number of TV shows watched. Number of new palabras or faces. I accomplished a lot of tasks that could be counted, including a very rough draft of my dissertation which I am extremely grateful and relieved to have completed.  

But perhaps a better way to measure this year would be to take inventory of the things I didn't do.  Zero PTA meetings. Few cell phone conversations. No staff retreats. No conference calls. No organization of closets. No driving. No visits to Target. Ultimately, what moving to Spain for these nine months did was offer me the gift of an uncluttered life. 

I appreciate that the uncluttered life could get old fast, especially if it was not undertaken voluntarily.  Incarcerated. Unemployed. Lonely. Bored. There are probably millions out there yearning for a cluttered life.  A day spent reading books in bed, no job to report to, not receiving a single phone call in two weeks. Priceless treasures or heart-breaking burden? It's all in the context.

The joy I have derived this year from staring out the window at the rain is a reflection of the privilege afforded to me by my non-incarcerated, employed and beloved status. So, in the end, perhaps it was a season of love after all.