Thursday, October 20, 2011

3 years later...

After 3 years of fighting charges, I finally won the battle today.

About 3 years ago, my life changed. I know, it's cliché as fuck, but it happened. In order to have a truly life changing experience there generally has to be a huge mistake. Now, it doesn't always even have to be your mistake, but you just have to be impacted by it. You hear of these mistakes all the time. Drunk drivers killing other drivers or pedestrians. People falling asleep at the wheel. Idiots killing each other with guns over drugs, territory, or just because they don't like the other person. Candlelight vigils for people who were taken too early as a result of any of these or a million other mistakes. I'm not going to claim the mistake that changed my life wasn't my fault, nor am I going to claim that I acted alone or that I was the only one making mistakes that night. Everyone made mistakes, from the (ex-)girlfriend (well, almost ex, she was cheating on me.) I had at the time, to the new guy that felt it was his place to initiate a fight to defend his new claim. The police made mistakes, they failed to document all of the evidence and do proper search and seizure which would have secured me a solid defense and speedy exoneration of my "Crimes". But nothing can change that experience or make me forget how it reminded me who I really am.

It wasn't sitting on the tree stump in the front yard as the police pulled up with their lights flashing. It wasn't the cold steel cutting into my wrists as they were secured behind my back. Wasn't the struggle to pull my cell phone from my pocket, hands in cuffs, turn on speakerphone, and dial my mom to tell her what was going on. It wasn't watching my mom sitting in the back of the courtroom while I was escorted in shackled to seven men in similar circumstances. We had all shared our stories, and in situations such as these we all seemed to accept that we didn't have to be big and badass, but rather just allow ourselves to be seen as we were. Imperfect. Flawed. Vulnerable. Human. But the turning point did not happen in that courtroom.

It happened 4 hours before.

Most people have never experienced what it's like to have to endure booking at a county jail. It's not what any TV show or news report ever shows you. It's not 40 people stuck in a single holding cell, or at least it wasn't for me. The holding cells were full (most holding 3 people, while designed to hold 2.) and the overflow was given a mat and pathetic attempt at a blanket and lined up across the floors. I was told to sleep, not knowing what the person to the left or my right was in for. The booking cell block was vastly understaffed, and if there had been any fights or unexpected events there was no way that these officers could have handled the situation before it could escalate. To be honest, I think that was mostly why everything was so calm. Among the broken spirits an uneasy angst settled in over me. The cell block was packed with people that had made mistakes, and had to spend years paying for it. This was not justice. This was timeout. Except this timeout would ruin your chances of ever being viewed in the same light, even if you were found to be innocent.

I didn't sleep much. I was trapped in my own mind attempting to understand how so many could be thrown into this system over such petty things. What happened to live and let live? What happened to settling issues between grown adults instead of having a system do it for us?

The real turning point was sitting in a cell with two other people after "breakfast." The entire night I couldn't stop clinching my fists with rage due to the events from the night before. My hands hurt. But I didn't want to sooth them. I wanted to punish them for the trouble they had gotten me in. I wanted them to take the blame instead of me. I began punching the cinder-block walls. Cracked paint tore through my knuckles. I was delivering my blows until my knuckles couldn't take any more.

It was that moment when I realized that I had strayed from my path. I hadn't been proud of the way I was living for years. I didn't even recognize my own face.

There is no easy moral, no retribution, and no way to reclaim what I have lost. I will never be person that I was in my youth, or even the person I was prior to my encounter. This disappointment is the core of my changes, and this is what has helped me turn my life around in the past 3 years. I am nowhere near the man I want to be. But I'm closer.

Every day. I am closer.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Ride

Sometimes in life,  you're just along for the ride.