If you haven't yet discovered the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, you are missing out. I binge-watched all 13 episodes—that's how much I love this show. Not only is it sharply written with award-worthy performances by actors including Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, and Jason Biggs, there are a lot of life lessons to be learned. Here are a few of my personal favorites (aside from the obvious: Don't watch every episode of your new favorite show in one week).
1. Stay true to who you really are. It's okay to experience new things, as long as you don't compromise who you are in the process. The main character, Piper Chapman, is a great example of how not heeding that advice can turn a nice girl from Connecticut into a convicted member of an international drug ring.
2. Think before you speak. When Chapman first arrived in federal prison, she suffered a bad case of the open-mouth-insert-foot disease. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just say this: Words in your mouth are like toothpaste in a tube. Once they're out, they can't be sucked back in.
3. Remember, the past doesn't always stay behind you. Chapman serves time for a crime she committed a decade earlier. So before you make any big decisions, you have to consider what the consequences might be for your entire life. Not just the immediate future but forever—or at least until the statue of limitations runs out.
4. Expect the unexpected and unforeseen turns and pitfalls. We can't always choose our circumstances or surroundings, but we can choose to make the best of them by using what we have. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade—or in Chapman's case, cheesecake. Check out her recipe for "Prison Cheesecake" on THEPIPEBOMB.com, the blog she wrote during her incarceration.
5. Don't forget the importance of family. In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, the real life Chapman wrote about the importance of connecting to loved ones, both to the incarcerated women in Danbury Prison and to their families (including at least 700 children). Sadly it takes something as serious as forced separation to make us realize how much we need time with the people in our lives. In other words: Call your mother.
For more on what we can learn from this new show, check out the video below by HuffPost Live.