Learning from hard lessons

Published 11:47 pm Saturday, August 22, 2009

In life, there are consequences for every action.

No one knows that better than Amar Skinner.

At the age of 19, Skinner was convicted of malicious wounding and manslaughter after he killed a man in a gunfight. He would spend the next 10 years of his life in prison, pondering how he got where he was.

“I spent ages 19 to 30 in prison because of bad decisions I made,” Skinner said. “And there are other teenagers or kids out there right now that are going through what I’ve gone through.”

Skinner, who grew up in Suffolk, began reflecting on how his priorities, mindset and vision in life brought him to a life of crime, violence and, ultimately, imprisonment.

“Your body submits to the will of your mind,” Skinner said. “I had gotten into a lot of trouble when I was younger, because my mind was not right.”

Now, Skinner is trying to help keep others from following in his footsteps.

While he was in prison, he began writing down his thoughts and experiences.

When he was released last year, Skinner began work on turning his writings into a book for younger generations to learn from.

“When we know the benefit of doing right versus doing wrong, we are more capable of existing free and staying free versus being physically where I am as I write this text today: in prison,” Skinner wrote in the fourth chapter of his book, Improving Self Analysis for Awareness: U R responsible 4 U. “If I had learned to break these chains of enslaving forces from my mind earlier in life, I would not be here in prison today.”

Throughout the book, Skinner gives personal accounts of his experiences with drugs, guns and peer pressure.

But he doesn’t stop there.

He also gives practical exercises and question-and-answer sections throughout the book to encourage readers to think outside of their usual patterns, or as Skinner calls it — their “paralyzing ambivalence.”

“Some people will be out on the street corner for five, six, seven years saying, ‘I’m gonna do this,’ ‘I’m gonna do that,’” Skinner said “But they never do because they are paralyzed by not visualizing a way out, they are stuck by not thinking or caring about their future.”

In the more than a year that Skinner has been out of prison, he has spent his time finishing his book and working as a motivational speaker for local youth groups and churches.

Every time he goes back to look at his text, Skinner said, he feels like there is something new to learn.

“I know it’s my experiences that have made this book,” he said. “But I honestly believe there is a ghost in these pages. There’s something more there than the physical words on the page. I look back, and I learn from it.”

While writing books may make a career, Skinner said he believes his work is meant for more than just a paycheck.

“This book is designed to help people,” he said. “I really think that if this book is really applied in the home, it’s going to change your life. I’ve seen it happen. It’s happened to me.”

Skinner’s book is available for purchase on his Web site, www.amar1st.com or amazon.com or the Barnes and Noble Web page.