After serving three years in prison, I decided to go back to college. I began working towards my master’s degree in 2004. Since then, I have built my world around my relationship with my colleagues, many of whom I now count among my dearest friends. I believed I had found some measure of success, despite the horrible sins of my past. Those who were close to me knew that I was on the sex offender registry. Few ever asked me for any details, choosing instead to accept me for how they knew me today.
When the “wheels fell off” of this week, I lost everything. Of course, I lost my source of income, along with my insurance, benefits, and financial security. This has left me frightened, afraid of losing everything I own, including a place to live. I have spent 12 years since being released from prison building a decent life for myself, and it sickens me in my gut to think of losing it all.
But my financial ruin is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath that is the indescribable sorrow of being cast out of my community, of abruptly losing contact with people I have grown to know, respect, and care about. Granted, I am not irreparably separated from them. I am still a student, I am still allowed on campus, I can still reach out to them. But the paradigm has shifted in a way that I can hardly even describe. Where once I saw myself as a colleague, a respected member of their community, a trusted friend, now I feel like a fool, a phony, a charlatan who tried to fit it, only to fail miserably in the end. In an instant, I went from being an insider to an outcast. Yes, I realize this is only in my own mind, a misconstrued reality I’m constructing for myself. I’m struggling. Struggling to make sense, struggling to land on my feet, struggle to find a reason to push on.
I wake up in the morning crying on my pillow. I pace the floor, tears streaming down my face, fear permeating my soul, weighed down by a woeful sorrow so real that my body droops. I long to be with friends, family, people who know me and like me anyway, people I’m comfortable around. Instead, I withdraw, wrap myself up distraction, afraid to reach out. I’m depressing right now, I know. Who wants to be around someone so gloomy and sad?
It’s a strange sensation, watching other people’s lives swirl about in fast motion while my own life seems to be trudging on in stop-motion. It’s like watching a movie. I see all the action going on, I understand what people are doing, I hear them talking, but I’m so totally disconnected from it that it doesn’t even seem real to me. None of this seems real to me. I feel so empty inside right now. Everything I do is a motion, propelled my years of repetition, the memory of what I’m supposed to do. But none of it means anything. It’s just what I’m supposed to do.
I’ve been here before. I’m crashed hard like this more than once in my life. Intellectually, I know that the only way to the other side is through the chasm. But seriously, how many times can a person trudge through the mire before he decides he’s just too tired to do it again?