Earlier this year, I wrote about the perpetual precipice, the trauma of constantly standing at the edge of potential disaster, a situation those on the sex offender registry know all too well. It takes so little to push one over the edge of the proverbial precipice, so little to upend one’s life so completely, so little to send one reeling into the abyss. I am sad to say that this week, I experienced such an event.
Last month, I accepted a full-time permanent position at the university I have been attending and working at since 2008. I was upfront about being on the registry before I even began as a grad student in 2008, and I was honest on the application for a full time job when it asked about felony conviction. My status as an RSO was well-known to the university, well-known to the department, and well-known to those at the university that knew me well. Like most of us, I rarely shared the grisly details of my offense, and I was almost never asked. People seemed to accept me for the way I am today, rather than rejecting me for what I did in my past.
You can imagine my excitement when I received the phone call offering me the job. Decent pay, great benefits, and a chance to work at a place where my background issues were already known. It took over a month between the interview and the time I was made an offer, and I assumed that this was because it took a while to do the background check and get everything cleared. I was so thrilled to be given a chance.
My first day of employment, I was emailed two forms to sign. One was an authorization for a background check, the other stated that my employment was contingent on the successful completion of the background check. I couldn’t believe it. They waited until AFTER I quit two jobs and AFTER I already started to do a background check? And they were just NOW telling me my employment was contingent? I talked to my HR representative who assured me that since the department was already aware, it wouldn’t make any difference. The department, she told me, was the one who would make the ultimate decision.
So I relaxed a bit. Turns out, a bit too prematurely. A couple of weeks ago, I was told I needed to submit to fingerprints. Which I did. Then this week, I was summoned over to the administrative building, told I was being terminated as a result of my background check, and then walked out the door by a university security person. My co-workers watch in shock as I cleared out my desk and walked out in tears. Many in the department are shocked and angry, but there is nothing that can be done. The decision came from much higher up in the bureaucracy of the university.
Now I sit here writing this blog, lost, confused, angry, scared, bewildered, and despondent. It is the first time since 2004 that I have been unemployed. Except for a few dollars in savings, I have nothing. And I already know, since I have been involved for years with advocacy work for sex offenders, that employment opportunities for RSOs are difficult to come by.
A friend of mine once told me to take any opportunity I could, no matter how unstable it might be. He used to say, “Ride it ‘til the wheels fall off!” The problem with this approach is that when the wheels do fall off, there is often a crash so terrible that it makes you afraid to ever want to ride it again. That is where I am today. Maybe, in time, I’ll summon the courage to get back on, to try again, to take another chance. But today, I think I’ll escape into distraction, willing myself not to think about it. It hurts too much.