“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”–Friedrich Nietzsche
After years of working, dreaming, planning, and hoping, I’ve finally reached the crossroads of my life. Almost twenty-five years ago I walked into the Tampa Police Academy, young and idealistic—and I’ll admit, a little scared. I’d already been through a stint in the military, so I figured I had the mettle to do it, but I only had a vague, entertainment industry colored idea of the career I was about to embark upon. Of course, the reality of a law enforcement officer is far removed from the Hollywood depictions. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, and most days aren’t any of that.
What I think about now as I look back over the past couple of decades is the people. I remember the victim on my very first call for service. I realized quickly that the path to my personal job satisfaction would be in the fields of law enforcement that afford the most intense connection with victims. I was drawn to investigative areas that most cops shy away from. My career path veered into Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Sex Crimes investigations. I got through the heartbreaking violence by focusing on those (mostly) women and children. Bringing closure and a sense of justice to them has been job satisfaction of the highest order. Then there were other days of more classic cops & robbers kind of stuff. Shots fired, hair-raising pursuits, and so much that fits into the “you can’t make this shit up” category. Kind of like what they used to say about the Peace Corps: The toughest job you’ll ever love. Yeah, I agree. Its been a great ride.
Now, as I contemplate the next chapter of my life, I think about the people I’ve met: Citizens on the street, criminals, friends, and colleagues. Some have enriched my life in truly profound ways, while others have frustrated, confounded and just plain scared the shit out of me. All of them have touched and changed me in their own ways. The anxious police recruit survived a full and meaningful career, and now I wonder what to do with myself. The question goes hand in hand with adjusting to the fact that I’m no longer in any uniform, with the natural disconnect of self. If I’m not that public servant, who am I? Being a writer helps because my experiences lend themselves to the stories and characters in my head. What I love most about writing is the community I’ve discovered, filled with wonderful, creative souls on a journey similar to mine. For years, my writing has coexisted and sometimes butted up against the cop side of me. Deadlines and crazy schedules chafed and struggled to merge in my daily life. Suddenly, that problem no longer exists, and I admit the prospect unnerves me as much as excites me. After my final shift I pondered my new future, I reminded myself that the most important thing to me has always been that connection to people. The central core of story is touching the emotions of our readers and making real connection. That’s what I love.
I smiled. I’m a storyteller. Maybe the future isn’t as foreign as I thought.
Thanks for reading. ~LM