Monday, July 27, 2009

Society's labels:friend or foe?

This post is a little long, but PLEASE bear with me on this one. We live in a time when people are quickly judged and labeled. Everyone does it -even if subconsciously. I am guilty myself of making snap judgements, sometimes even based solely on appearance - which is rather ironic, since as a woman who rides a Harley & has tattoos, I have been on the receiving end of those "labels" myself. It seems we can't help ourselves.
The worst label to me though, is that of felon. As I mentioned in my very first posts, I made a poor judgment call. I will not attempt to justify it, nor excuse it and while I feel the punishment did not fit the crime, I did take responsibility for my actions and I paid my "debt to society". I had never been in ANY trouble with the law prior to this incident, so you can well imagine the thought of going to prison was terrifying. I survived it and came out the other side, a survivor, changed forever, all rough edges and low self esteem. I was now a FELON. Always and from that point forward, the label of felon would shadow my every move.
To those of you who have been fortunate enough to avoid this experience, LISTEN CLOSELY:
BEING A FELON DOES NOT MAKE YOU A CRIMINAL! I will not argue the semantics of that statement because my meaning is about what the LABEL of felon does to a person.
I do not lie, steal or cheat. I am a faithful and loving wife, an excellent caregiver and I have a 4.0 GPA. Yet if I were to go to a job interview, my application would most likely be passed over because I was honest and checked the box that asks if you have ever been convicted of a felony.
Cynical, you say? Realistic, is my response. I have been there - I have experienced the shame of explaining my personal humiliation time and time again in an effort to get someone to "take a chance", to look beyond the label and SEE ME.
Right now, I am not working at my life's passion, nursing. Contrary to what you might think, I actually retained my nursing license in Texas. The hospital administrator represented me in front of the board for free because he believed in me and consequently there was no disciplinary action taken with regard to my ability to practice. The RN program did ask me to withdraw, since they were unsure if I could take the state boards.
I moved to Alabama after I got out because my mother had gotten cancer and she and my father had divorced- all while I was locked up. It wasn't a good year for me, considering before those events, I had gotten divorced myself and we filed for bankruptcy.
At any rate, I got a job with the company my parents worked, intending only to stay until my license was endorsed in Alabama. I was on probation for 2 and a half years and somehow, the days turned into months, into years and then I was too scared to try for my license.
Afraid of rejection, not wanting to relive it all over again with explanations and submissions of court records. I had never thought myself a coward after all I had survived and yet there it was: this looming question. I can admit now that part of me is scared to try because if they deny it, then I will feel the last of my once bright, shiny dreams crumble to dust. It will be the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
Now I know this post has been maudlin and not very uplifting- but THERE WAS A PURPOSE:
I am facing my fear and though it is ever present, I have submitted my application for license endorsement. I gritted my teeth through an essay explaining what happened and how I have redeemed myself, I have gotten copies of my court records and I have asked for & received personal recommendations. We shall see.
I share this intimate background and fear with you, my readers, to show 2 basic truths:
1. Courage is not being without fear, it is being afraid and doing it anyway.. AND
2. LABELS are NOT PEOPLE- ALL FELONS are not monsters or society's dregs. We are people who have made mistakes. MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE ARE PEOPLE!
I beseech you today...LOOK BEYOND THE will be amazed at what you may find.

1 comment:

  1. My heart soars to know that you are trying again.I will include this in my prayers, for I know your pain. One day I will share my story of my brush with the justice system with you, please remind me.
    I understand staring at that box and saying "do I tell the truth, or do I not check it and lie".
    Thank God that He views us in a different light.
    And He will be walking hand in hand with you through this.