More than it seems, there is no more use for the ideas of stigma. But either way, stigma still exists. Either way and on either side, good or bad, judgement is a natural process. Isn’t it?
I was sitting on a cold steel bench in the back of a truck, handcuffed next to someone that sat next to me for his own reasons. He was cuffed to someone else and so on and so on.
We were like a daisy chain of crooks, all of us heading over to the courthouse to sit in the bullpens, which are really nothing more than big cages where they keep us penned before seeing the judge.
Everyone in there had a story. Everyone in the cell had a reason or an excuse. Some were emotional and some were comfortable —and that’s how you can tell who has and who hasn’t been in places like this before.
The calm ones know what’s coming their way. the unsettled, well, their uncomfortable and just waiting to find out.
We were in route after uncomfortable night in the holding cells. I was on my way to learn about my fate after trying to sleep on a hard wooden bench that came out from the wall in a small cage with a black barred gate at the front.
I had moments of sleep, which was not really sleep per se, but more, I had moments of stillness with my eyes closed and vivid dreams that woke me up. I suppose this was my subconscious mind, overthinking again, which of course makes sense.
There is an image people try and portray. Whether it is to be tough as nails, hard as steal, smart and sharp, quick-witted, cool, or calm; the one thing I learned is image is only image.
You learn pretty quickly who you really are when faced with reflection of reality. You also learn who you really aren’t.
And I knew this was bad. I knew this was about to be worse. In fairness, and more importantly; in all honesty, I was petrified, which was even more petrifying because predators can smell fear. They smell this like sharks smell blood in the water.
People lean on you. People take advantage of fear. People bully, and why? People do this to secure their place in the food chain, which is not uncommon nor is this mindset only common in prison or the county lock-up.
No, it is only more obvious here—perhaps a bit more crucial, maybe more overt, and perhaps certainly more violent in nature; however, bullying and the idea of the “Barn boss” to keep the animals in line, or the idea that might makes right, and violence creates silence, and all the ideas in my head at that time are not limited to jail cell logic. In fact, at least everything is obvious here. Not everyone can say this in the boardroom.
I have an unfortunate past but I have learned to benefit from this. I have certainly been lucky because in spite of my best efforts at times, I never had to suffer some of the consequences other people had to endure, which I am fine with and in which case, I see no appropriate reason to go back out there and do more field research to prove my seat.
I made it out alive, which is true, and one could argue that I had it easy. One could argue that I didn’t really suffer.
As a matter of fact, I listened to a man charge me with the idea that I never even had a problem to begin with.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!”
He pointed at me with all his contempt and told me I don’t know because I didn’t suffer the same way he suffered.
“You were just some little kindergartner,” he charged.
He called me “A little baby,” and said, “You were just swinging around town with a chippie, claiming to have a habit, and thinking you were tough like some kind of rock star.”
“You weren’t shit!”
He told me, “People like you make me sick. You claim like you know, but the truth is you really don’t have any idea!”
Then he charged, “If you were a real addict, you’d have never got clean because you would never be able to let go of the tail.”
Want to hear the real trip?
We ended up becoming good friends for a while and then we lost touch. I saw him again in county about a year or so later.
Sadly he passed.
It is not the actions or the behaviors that I pay attention to —it’s the meaning behind them. It’s the reasons. It’s the thought loops and the habitual patterns that create the same behaviors, —it’s the emptiness we try to fill.
Some fill it one way, some fill it another; however, this is where people relate. We relate at the core; therefore, we are not so different.
Back when I was a young adult, I was being lectured by a man telling me that I have to learn how to make an honest living. I was told to get honest and make myself ready for “Corporate America.”
I wish I could go back to find this man. I have news for him.
I’d like to tell him a few things. First and foremost, I think I’d like to tell him that I have been part of Corporate America for quite some time now.
I would like to tell him that I have worn both a white collar and a blue one. More than anything, I would like to advise that man that with nearly 30 years into my trip, I have noticed one undeniable thing. I have seen more honesty in dope dens, crack houses, and in jail cells than I have in boardrooms.
Years back there was a series of theft at my jobsite. Keep in mind; I work several jobs to pay my bills. My main job is my day job. This pays my bills and buys me the food that feeds my body.
Writing on the other hand and my coaching work, plus my work in the mental health field and the assistance I offer to homeless and those with substance abuse or alcohol abuse disorders buy me a ticket on the redemption train. This is how i repay what was given to me.
This is my apology to myself and to those I can never make amends with, which gives me a sense of internal forgiveness.
This is how I pay for my sins (including the ones I can never reveal) and furthermore, this is what gives me the food to feed my soul.
If you’ve never seen anything like a man that had no other reason to smile than to smile, simply because he was being treated like an actual human being, then I say you have never seen a true legitimate smile. In any case, however, before I digress even more, let me get back to my point.
As an operating engineer, I have keys and access to all doors in a Midtown commercial office building. I work hard and do hard labor sometimes to fix the air conditioning in corporate headquarters.
There was a series of thefts over the course of a few weeks. The fingers were pointed at the building staff, which is us, which is me, which is why I think about the small-mindedness between us and the ideas we have about who people are because of their social or professional background.
Turns out, no one on the building’s maintenance team was the crook. Turns out it was a man in a suit and tie with a big cocaine debt.
He was a gifted, smart man with a high-priced education and diplomas on his wall.
I wonder what it must have been like for him when he took his ride from the holding cell to the courthouse, disheveled in a suit and tie that cost as much as an above-average monthly mortgage.
Be careful the judgement—it’s not always accurate; it’s just a bias you’ve been taught, which would be better served if we unlearned.
There is no longer an “Us against them” or me against the world. There is only us, only me, and only you.
How would you like to go forward?