Going to prison made a profound impact on my life. Here’s why.

But it’s not what you’re thinking!

Susan Brassfield Cogan


I was at church (Unitarian, of course) and one Sunday morning a friend of mine told me she was planning to use her brand new life coaching skills volunteering at the women’s prison. She asked me “you want a piece of that?” She knew I was a writer. She knows I love odd, strange, and outlandish experiences. She knows me only too well. “Of course!” I said.

So then I found out that I’d need to have some training first. That was fine with me. I didn’t want to make those women’s lives worse.

That was my introduction to life coaching.

A cuckoo's egg

So about six months later I had an informal 1-day life coaching course. I was utterly intrigued. I could do that. And it helps people? Huh.

So a few months after that (I had still not yet been to prison) the same friend from paragraph #1 above called out of the blue. “So my department (at the local university) has decided to train 25 employees in life coaching. There are two empty slots. You want one? It’s a $10,000 course and it’s already paid for. It would be free to you.”

Yeah, she knows how to get me. I love learning new and strange things, especially for cheap or free. “Absolutely!” I said. When I got all the paperwork for it I spent some time being deeply annoyed that it was going to take two 8-hour days per month for 5 months. It seems like nothing to me now, but then it seemed like a giant time commitment.

At this time I had been retired for a few years. I looked like (and was) an Aging Hippie. This was a college class. I have been to a large number of those in my time. I turned up in ragged jeans, flip-flops that exposed the tattoos on my feet, and a shirt made in a Bangladeshi sweatshop. Everyone else was in three-piece suits. Big gold watches. High heels and sensible straight wool skirts. I looked like the cleaning lady had wandered in.

The first day was pretty awkward. Apparently, the others had mostly been “volun-told” for the class and were resentful. And, of course, I felt like a guttersnipe. My friend took the edge off for me. She was chipper and perky and was actually going to help teach the…



Susan Brassfield Cogan

I write self-help, life coaching, and political opinion. I am a creativity and mindfulness coach https://linktr.ee/susanbcogan