Wishing for a different life
I, too, am in the same situation.
I was a civilian firefighter on military bases for 3 1-year contracts in Iraq, followed by 5 years in Saudi Arabia. I just barely made it through my last contract before being convicted of 1 count of possession “only”. Now I am waiting to finish my probation time so I can start counting down my time on the registry, even though I have had to register since the date of my conviction. (By my state’s laws, the registry countdown does not start until after probation/parole has been completed.)
I live in a metro-area. So I blend in to the masses. Just walking down the street, I am no different than anyone else. I sometimes I will wear past clothing from when I was overseas. I am thanked for my service. – I always let the person know I was only civilian, not military.
But how society talks about us (people on the registry) they don’t care what positive things people have done in the past, or even since conviction. They only will base how good a person is as to the bad they have done. (I say “society”, because individual people don’t seem to react as bad as society as a whole does.)
I have been told that being able to blend in is part of the fear. People fear that us “monsters” can blend in. Therefore, they don’t know when they, or their children, are in danger. It keeps me from wanting to venture out – to become part of any groups not associated with my legal issues, for fear they will find out down the road and reject me, just as Mr. Cain has experienced. It keeps me from thinking of trying to have a relationship. (What happens when I tell them of my conviction? What happens if the relationship doesn’t work out? Will the person use it as revenge, and spread the word?) It is safer for me just “stay hidden”, and not chance anything. This is completely different than the person I was. I used to be very out-going, and in many different groups.
There are some positives in my life. I am making good money, even for a person without any convictions. I have just moved in to a second job that knows, and is okay, with my conviction. Still, it is always in the back of my mind. – “What if (put in any of many bad stories I have read here where things were good, then turned bad for reasons because the Register’s control / fault)”? I’m not out on the street. Although, I live in a cheap hotel room where things have happened to my car, and my room door. Management says they can’t tell anything on the cameras, or the cameras were not working at the time and police say the same. (I get the feeling the police don’t want to take their time to really look in to it, so they just take management’s word for it.)
There are a few people I have told, after being very careful as to how they feel about other things, and only if I have known them for quite some time. They are always caught off guard. They would never have guessed I would be a felon. Once I tell them what i have to do on the registry, and how long I am on it, they can’t believe it either. – “You have to do all that just because you possessed some CP?? You didn’t even have contact with anyone!” This shows that most people don’t know how out of control the registry has become.
Are we heros or monsters? It depends on 1) what is known about a person, and 2) if you are asking society (small or large), or individuals.