Someone talked about stigma the other day.
I shake my head when this comes up –
I remember someone telling me about my tattoos and how this brands me. I was told what this does to my appearance to which I said, at least you can see who I am.
You can’t always say this about the plain skinned or the people who hide in plain sight.
I go back to the summer of 1989. I was given a workbook and told this would help me take an honest and searching inventory of myself. This was presented to me as a mandatory exercise, to which I was given no choice. I had to accept the task.
I was told to answer intimate questions about myself. Later it was said that I would share this with another person, namely my primary counselor, to express the exact nature of my wrongs.
I had no choice.
As a means to please the mandates of the courts and to adhere to the official reasons for my stay in this facility that was both punitive and therapeutic, I agreed to the terms.
However, I never agreed to be honest nor did I plan to tell anyone about my truths – let alone admit them, out loud, to myself or to another human being and discuss the exact nature of my wrongs. This was absurd. Besides, I spent long nights trying to narcotize myself with hopes to forget the details of my so-called life.
I wonder who I appeared to be at the time.
Then again, this was a different time in my life. I was a different person who said things differently and lived differently from the way I live now.
However, did my physical description match my past?
Do I match this?
Perhaps, there are times when the people who look dangerous are dangerous. But more times than not, there are those who go along, unseen and unsuspected. There are those who outwardly appear monstrous yet, literally, these are some of the nicest people I have ever met.
I think of the person I see in the mirror.
Or wait, no.
I think about people I see or those who randomly pass as normal or everyday people. I think about the attachments to opinion or stigmas and stereotypes. Then again, I think about the inaccuracies of both.
I think about good people and madmen or the so-called crazy ones and the seemingly straight ones. My thoughts include how they dress or cover themselves. Better yet, I think about how people hide their scars and cover their truths and their secrets.
For example, I watched a person sit in a courtroom. They were dressed in a suit and tie and sat in an effort to look pretty for the judge.
A part of me wondered how this person could put a wardrobe together. They brushed their hair. I wondered how did they eat or brush their teeth and show evidence of personal hygiene yet their crimes showed how little they cared about another’s human life.
I wonder about this. Certainly, not everyone fits the physical description of who they are (or who they hide).
I even wonder about those who dress themselves in high-fashioned clothes or those who are in despair or who put others in despair; yet, on the surface, we can say that we look alike.
Perhaps we sound alike. We speak the same language. Maybe we eat the same foods. But all the while, we are people of different backgrounds and different sins.
Yet we still look the same at the surface level. So in fairness and in answer to the question; my answer is yes. I do believe in the wolves in sheeps clothing and yes, I do believe there are those who behold, they have been sent out as sheep amidst the wolves.
I can say that I have been in rooms with all types of people. I have sat with thieves and criminals and at the same time, this was in a boardroom not a jail.
I have sat with those who were beaten and wished they could be better. I have sat with those who simply could not get out of their own way. I have been in corporate locations as well as jailhouse presentations; and while the locations were different – my eyes were opened to the evidence in front of me. Evidence showed that both good and bad people come in all shapes and sizes.
I have been told that my appearance is not professional; that my choice of being tattooed is and can be off putting and a distraction of my better qualities. Then again, I remember an investigation that took place around ten years back.
I recall being questioned because my position in the company led me to have keys to every office. Since my level was far below the executive branches, the thefts had to be someone at my level.
I suppose they never thought about the person who sat up in the C-suite area- they never thought about the person with a little bit of a cocaine habit. Lo and behold, regardless of the Brooks Brothers suit, the cameras didn’t see stigma or stereotype. No, the cameras saw the crook, which was not me or anyone at my level. It was another suit and tie.
It would be a lie and it would be dishonest to say that as a person, I have not taken my shots or taken advantage of people, places and things.
It would be unfair of me to lie by omission and say that I have never looked to advance or cheated to get ahead. I have done things to either improve my circumstances or boost an improved level of instant gratification.
After all, I am human.
I come with a system of personal history of flaws and emotional content. Then again, and openly, I admit to my shortcomings. I admit to the defects of my character and to the insecure measures which in the past have led me astray from my better self.
I admit to my pride.
I admit to my irrational fears which have motivated behaviors that are below my level of worth.
I admit to my part of insecure slander; therefore, I confess that I have taken people for granted and used people to my advantage.
We are all people of mistakes and sins. And I am too.
My decision to report this is not hapless or sad or without reason; nor is this weak or self-deprecating. Instead, I choose to report this as a means of improvement.
We all have secrets, shortcomings and personal transgressions; yet, we are often too quick to judge. We point fingers to persecute one another – and we are often quick to absolve ourselves without looking in the mirror.
We hold our truths to be self-evident but we seldom realize that we are all flawed as men, women or people of any kind, race, beliefs and cultures.
At this point, I aim to detach myself from our so-called structures of social status. I want to get away from the egomaniac ideas that I, you or anyone on this Earth is born better simply because of their gene pool or wealth, looks or real estate.
Today, my plan is to effectively withdraw from my trained assumptions or the opinions and biases which have also led me astray.
My plan is to get away from “self” and the defects of my character which has equally turned against me in the past.
These remnants from my history betray the better version of me. These pieces of my history are signs from when I was dishonest to myself. This is what happens without the administration of self-care.
These are the details that show how I betrayed myself in ways of either childish retaliation or the immaturity of emotional warfare.
More to the point, this is the honest portrayal of control through trauma bonds or the hostage-like agreements that exist between the captor and their volunteered victims. This is me separating from old attachments and useless connections.
I am not here to make a confession or look for forgiveness nor seek to be absolved by anyone other than me.
At this point, I have come to the understanding that there can be no unity between myself and any other until I learn to unite with myself first.
I understand now.
I understand the need to admit to myself and to openly report the exact nature of my wrongs; to be relieved from the burdens of guilt or doubt and shame; to let myself be free, to feel, to forget or to forgive myself for what I have said or done.
Therefore, effectively now at this moment, I relieve myself from the tensions of my past and while my accountability remains – I no longer hold onto my old self nor do I hold the wrongs of my past. I am hereby dispatching the guilt or the shame. From today onward, I will allow myself the freedom of looking ahead without constantly looking over my shoulder.
Let go of the past, son.
You can’t change it.
All you can do is work on not repeating it.