On April 3, 2017, I sat down with my copy of the “Wall Street Journal,” took a sip of my morning cup of coffee and began reading a book review of retired U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven’s Make Your Bed. In another lifetime, I may have simply passed over that review, thinking it was another fool’s errand somehow sent by my mother in a continued effort to get me to make my bed. I was fifty-one years old and had never seen the logic in making my bed; after all, it was only going to be unmade later that day, so the value never resonated with me. But this was not a day from another lifetime; a lifetime when I was free. April 3, 2017 found me inside a prison in Connecticut, serving out a three-year sentence for being convicted of sexual assault in the second degree. I began my sentence on August 7, 2015 and had spent many hours since that day contemplating how I would evolve and become a better person before rejoining society. Since incarceration had begun, I had been successful in breaking my days into regimented activities (reading, letter writing and exercising) intended to keep my mind, body, and soul strong. But, making my bed had never crossed my brain, until April 3, 2017. I read the review of McRaven’s book and discovered his mindset for making one’s bed was two-fold: 1- It allowed for productivity early in the day; 2- no matter what kind of day one would have, it would always be nice to end the day in a well-made bed. Considering my previous twenty months had been spent in a world designed to induce chaos and sloth, I ruminated for but a few seconds before resolving that making my bed would further my endeavor to manufacture order and ambition, even if only on a small scale.
So, I stood up and made my bunk. I stretched the sheet and tucked the ends under the flimsy mattress; then I neatly folded the blanket and situated it at the foot of my bunk; finally, I fluffed the pillow with vim and vigor before gently placing it at the head of my bunk. I stood back and examined my work. I am sure some throw pillows and a dust ruffle would have improved the look, but I am certain that the C.O. would have denied my request for those items. All things considered; I was proud of the result.
My Bunkie, Haiti (nicknamed after his native country), looked down from his top bunk and said, “Hey G-Money; what are you doing?” I explained the chain of events that brought me to making my bunk. And then I suggested he should give it a try. He responded, ironically enough, “What’s the point? I’ll make it, and then two minutes later unmake it when I return to my bunk.” I chuckled and responded, “Well, that would mean you would have accomplished two things very early in the day.” Haiti laughed, shook his head, and said, “You crazy, G-Money, but I’ll try it.” And five minutes later, Haiti and I both had bunks that had been made. They may not have passed Clara Barton’s proper hospital corners test; and Admiral McRaven may not have been able to bounce a quarter off of the loose-fitting sheets; but there would be no denying that both of our bunks, like stockings hung by the chimney on Christmas Eve, had been completed with care.
As it turned out, I was paroled twenty-eight days later. But, for those twenty-eight days, Haiti and I made our bunks every morning. And we were reluctant to rapidly unmaking them, which prevented loafing around. And that led to greater accomplishments throughout the day.
Before I departed on the morning of my release, which was at 4:00 a.m., I made my bunk and left a note for Haiti: “Good luck, my friend. And remember to always make your bed.”
I have made my bed for 1,243 consecutive days, and there is little doubt that this ritual has aided me as I continue to reconstruct my life. This daily custom routinely reminds me that firestorms of success can be sparked by simple acts.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “there are no second acts in American lives.” I have been a longtime fan of Fitzgerald’s literature, but I beg to differ regarding his stance on “second acts.” My second act truly began on April 3, 2017 and continues to be a work in progress. Haiti was set to be released in early 2020. I like to think that my friend has also continued his second act; an act that has him beginning each day with the fruitful task of making his bed.